Simon Flynn, Chemistry Teacher - 4 November 2019
Learning how to Learn
Simon Flynn began his assembly by pointing out to us the widely accepted but flawed belief that our potential is defined by genetics and that nothing can be done to overcome them. Using a wide array of examples from the performance of musicians in relation to practice at the Royal Berlin School of Music to the physical growth of the hippocampus when black-cab drivers work to pass ‘The Knowledge’ test, he proved that it is in actual fact effort and practice that defines a person’s ability. Even in the case of pitch perfect individuals, this skill is taught rather than innate and can be nurtured in an individual if trained properly at an age of optimal brain plasticity. Therefore, optimal performance in school comes down to the correct application of study techniques rather than innate knowledge and so everyone’s ability can be improved through correct revision methods.
He gave the very inspiring example of American journalist, Joshua Foer, who used to be like most of us, forgetting phone numbers and mislaying keys, until he decided to train his memory. He learnt the art of memory training, and only a year later, found himself in the finals of the US Memory Championships, alongside 'mental athletes' who could memorise the precise order of ten shuffled decks of cards in under an hour. He went on to win that championship! This was a very encouraging thing to learn - we can all train our brains to function more effectively and absorb and retain information more efficiently.
Mr Flynn then explained the difference between ‘naive’ (where you keep repeating the same mistakes rather than learning from them) and ‘deliberate’ (where you use certain key techniques to help you recognise and address mistakes) practice so we ourselves can set in motion a method that will help all of us perform better in the tasks we encounter both in school and beyond.
Next week all sixth form students will be receiving a booklet Learning How To Learn, which Mr Flynn has produced with a variety of tips and key strategies which will help us all become more effective ‘learners.’