Most people experience an education in which they are taught the skills that are supposedly necessary for going on to succeed in life. You can ask anyone, and they will tell you that they had an ‘interesting education’. In his TED talk Sir Ken Robinson makes the point that we all have a vested interest in education – as it is this schooling that helps children’s and our futures too.


When a child is unsure of how to proceed with a task or does not know an answer they will have a guess, as they are not afraid to be wrong. But after only a little time being schooled this positive trait of creativity is educated out – mistakes are denigrated. The world of work stigmatises blunders, faux pas and punishes such mishaps instead of promoting creativity and individuality. So, one may wonder why we intentionally squander and quash young people’s minds from a young age, moulding them into unimaginative and uninspired drones of the workforce. What is it about education that dulls individuals’ minds?


Today I am going to focus on humanising the classroom/lecture theatre. Let us start with the structure of classes. You must all remember sitting down in a lesson amongst all your buddies, facing forwards (when not misbehaving) towards the teacher: the Font of all Knowledge. In these classes, much like lectures in university, the teacher waffles on about one topic or another, and expects you to have learned and memorised it by the time exams come round. But is this technique of teaching adequate? We are taught about math, science and literacy but not about how to actually learn such content. Think back, and I’m sure you can’t recall a time where you were given strategies for learning and taking notes, yet you are expected to sit exams and know how to learn. When you have an end of term test, it doesn’t matter what score you get – 40%, 70%, 95% – the class moves on to the next big thing. Even the student with 95% – what didn’t they know? As it currently stands the system does not expect mastery of each subject; it penalises you for failure and creativity in experimentation instead of encouraging mistakes that would inevitably aid your learning experience, and push you forward towards mastering each subject.


Giles et al. (2009) report that the level of recall in a lecture is based on when during the lecture information is presented; information given within the first 15 minutes of the lecture is unlikely to be recalled, however content provided from 15-30 minutes of the lecture is more readily recalled. Indeed, Kiewra et al. (1991) found that students actively assess what information they deem as important, and focus on remembering it as such; unfortunately, this means that most of the lecture is expendable, as most students will not remember all details that the lecturer churns out. A strategy for such an issue could be for the lecturer to provide a copy of their own notes to be available as a review for the students. However, why should we waste time with lectures if they are not going to be useful in the first place?


I would like to introduce you to Salman Khan, who founded the Khan Academy, and who maintains that homework should be done in class and videos and lectures should be seen outside the classroom. Khan suggests that by removing the “one size fits all” lecture to allow students to have a self-paced lecture at home; and by letting them come into school to review their work and ask questions to the teacher and actually interact with their peers about the work, it turns education into a human experience with interaction. Interacting with others about the topic and sharing ideas helps cultivate understanding in an environment that is suited to them, at their own pace.

If we really do have a vested interest in all our futures- shouldn’t we utilise aspects of Khan’s Academy, to see how our children’s learning can benefit during the mainstream education system?



  1. Your blog was really interesting to read and focused on points that I certainly agree with. I hate the idea that a child is willing to have a guess and see what happens, yet suddenly, after attending school for a year or two, becomes scared to make this guess. In effect they stop learning from their mistakes, for fear of the teacher being disappointed in their attempts. My school did make an attempt at teaching us how to learn, we attended a workshop which told us whether we learnt best through auditory stimuli, visual stimuli or kinetic stimuli, however, nothing ever came from these workshops and we were expected to revise according to what category we were put in, we weren’t told methods for how to revise these ways. During exams I have always made notes then spider diagrams and then practice questions, I have no idea whether this is the way I should be revising but having always been a middle of the road type student, anything that gets me through an exam will do. Evans (2007) conducted a study into the effectiveness of m-learning in the form of podcast revision lectures in Higher Education ( and found that podcasts are an effective tool for revision in terms of how much a student feels they can learn from them, however, podcasts need to be made available in order for students to access them and this can often be difficult to do with ethical implications and lecturers’ willingness for their sessions to be recorded.

    • That is something I have missed terribly this year; we haven’t been able to access any podcasts. Results of McKinney, Dyck and Luber (2008) showed that those students who viewed podcasts did considerably better than those who attended the lecture. I think it’s such a shame that some lecturers are not open to having their lectures recorded as it is such a useful way to learn and studies are now showing that podcasts may increase students grades – so why not utilise this way of learning?
      My school also made an ‘attempt’ to see in which way we learn best, and they actually had a few workshops where we tried out a few lessons with auditory, visual or kinaesthetic stimuli – the only problem is that eventually they went back to teaching us in the normal teacher-at-the-front-of-the-class manner.

  2. Hello,

    I followed your link to Giles et al (2006) and they made an interesting point regarding students seating arrangement being correlated with grades. This highlights how motivation has a large part to play when discussing mastery, interaction and learning in lectures.

    Firstly, although research does show that there are times in lectures that are more effective, motivation is a key ingredient: If willing and able to concentrate you have the potential totake information from all time periods in a lecture, Motivation in lectures is highly correlated with knowing the goals expected of you. (Colquitt & Simmering, 1998).

    Your point on making mistakes increasing our learning experience is a key one. I do not disagree, however motivation here is important too. If you tell children that you are expecting mastery, they are more likely to engage right from the beginning. In my opinion if in first year, we had been given a higher minimum pass mark than 40% less people would have aimed for this.

    I agree that encouraging more learning opportunities would allow more creativity in the classroom, however I think that creativity comes into its element once a child has mastered the content. Once a child can be fluent, they can show that they can be accurate and fast, then allowing them to show creativity with this knowledge is intrinsically reinforcing for them. In the nature of creativity by Robert Sternberg he highlights the problem of students mastering content but not being creative thinkers. Being creative as you said, needs to be a goal learning so we can be more human once we leave education. Too much creativity can lead to lessons being about the ‘journey’ rather than the goal. (Snider, 2006).

    Link to The nature of creativity:

    J. A. Colquitt, & M. J. Simmering.(1998). Conscientiousness, goal orientation, and motivation to learn during the learning process: A longitudinal study. Journal of Applied Psychology, Vol 83(4) doi: 10.1037/0021-9010.83.4.654

    Snider, V. (2006). Myths and misconceptions about teachings: What really happens in the classroom. New York, NY: Rowman & Littlefield.

  3. The research you mentioned by Giles et al really surprised me! I would have thought the opposite effect would have happened because of the serial position effect, which states that information presented first (primacy effect) and last (recency effect) are recalled more than the information presented in the middle (Deese & Kaufman, 1957; Murdock & Bennett 1962). This could be due to the way Atkinson and Shiffrin (1968) suggest information is stored in memory; the information presented first is rehearsed and stored in long term memory and the information presented last is still stored in short term memory.
    This effect would suggest that the same would happen in lectures – that the information from the beginning of the lecture is rehearsed and stored in long term memory and the information at the end of the lecture is in short term memory. I would suggest the reason this doesn’t happen (according to Giles et al’s research) is because there are more factors influencing the retention of information given in lectures. For example, according to Atkinson and Shiffrin (1968), you have to pay attention to information before you can store it in memory, so that may explain why only some parts of lectures are actually recalled – because students aren’t paying attention to the whole thing.

  4. First of all, I’d just like to say, great find on the Sir Ken Robinson video, I too used his video in my blog this week, (
    and they say great minds think alike! Also I referenced this animated version which I found more engaging-

    Anyway, back on topic, I too was surprised with the Giles et al (2006) research like the other people who commented because of what we have learnt of the primacy and recency effect. You do mention that is depends on how the research is presented, which is one of the major effects as Gasser, Boeke
    Haffeman, & Tan (2005) showed in their research into how something as little as font type can effect recall. So is measuring recall alone good enough to show a deeper understanding of the topic? I believe not, and agree when you say the lecturer “waffles on about one topic or another, and expects you to have learned and memorised it”. This shouldn’t be the way in which we learn we should encourage a deeper level of understanding of a topic. Encouragement of a deeper style of learning can be done through student-centred learning, Motschnig-Pitrik & Holzinger (2002) found that students engage in material more and spend more time on a topic area if the teacher is a facilitator rather than a passive lecturer.


    Gasser, M. Boeke, J. Haffeman, M. & Tan, R. (2005) The Influence of Font Type on Information Recall. Retrieved from-

    Motschnig-Pitrik, R and Holzinger, A. (2002). Student-Centered Teaching Meets New Media: Concept and Case Study. Educational Technology & Society, 5 (4). Retrieved from-

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