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Module 4. Social foundations of effective learning

Is creating good conditions for effective learning related to constructive solutions concerning everyday school life? It appears so.

Education experts argue that learning is not an individual cognitive act, but a complex psychological and social process. Let’s see what the three pillars of effective learning are.


Social and cultural background

How and how much we learn in life very much depends on our social and cultural background: our family, the number of books we had at home, our parents’ education and ability to inspire us to acquire knowledge. The wider social environment is also important: our school, community, the people from our class and their willingness to learn, the type of teachers we have (whether thy are passionate about their job or not).


Life goals

The mere processing of information depends on the goals students have in life, their own ideas and view concerning the school, their self-esteem, and the learning strategies applied (even if not consciously). The knowledge-building process is based on earlier cognitive structures, which means that acquiring new information and building interrelated, complementary systems out of it will be a lot more difficult for people with weak cognitive bases related to information processing. People who can relate to information acquired earlier when gaining new knowledge have an advantage.


The social dimension of the learning environment

The learning environment is social in nature. Students and schools are communities with a well-defined structure, hierarchy, microculture and a particular atmosphere. They are not neutral from the point of view of education. On the contrary, they can either enhance or inhibit learning. Researchers say that young people learn faster and more efficiently in varied environments, i.e. if their peers have better, equal or weaker skills and abilities than themselves, as well as provided that they can easily interact with teachers, use various methods of problem-solving and co-decide about their general goals and ways of achieving them. Schools cannot be treated as accidental groupings in which children are forced to spend a few years of their lives. They have to function as learning communities.