Learning Explained: A Schema-building Scaffolding Framework to Make Sense of Personalised Guidance and Support for Learning

Ignatius G.P Gous


The results of credible research on learning do not readily make it to the classroom; neither does it easily translate into useable strategies to guide and support learning. Solid, reputable and valid research on learning is often inaccessible to practitioners, while simplified research results are prone to become what is referred to as “Neuromyths”. To assist in the quest for personalized guidance and support for learning, the article is based on Schema Theory. A schema is a mental framework humans use to represent and organise remembered information. Schema Theory demonstrates effective learning as knowledge construction by building and expanding mental schemata, rather than merely information transmission.The article starts with the mystery in my story – an auto-ethnographical reflection on my personal journey with learning. Learning is not something abstract – it is something that develops over time, thereby creating mental schemas. That is what the narrative highlights. This is followed by discussing pitfalls to learning, namely pervasive Neuromyths. Effective learning is then brought into the picture – it can be developed, based on reputable research. Therefore, an overview of some studies on learning is given. In doing this, there is the realization that this field is so vast and so complicated, that it is easy to drown or become lost in the difficult-to-understand details. Therefore, I developed a logical scaffolding framework called The Golden Spiral of Life-long Learning, which has two major characteristics. The first characteristic is that it is emulating the learning journey, namely the way learning actually takes place. As such, even primary school children can understand and follow it. The second characteristic is that it is scalable, in the sense that it is robust enough that even specialists in the field of the scholarship of learning can use it as a scaffolding framework to organize their knowledge of the field – which in itself is a characteristic of effective learning. To show that this is the case, the framework is used to make sense of postings from two web pages devoted to promoting effective learning, namely MindShift and TeachThought.com, each with a following of more than 800 000 subscribers. The postings are based on, and refers to reputable research, but the postings have been popularised for the sake of understanding. The conclusion is that structured and guided mental schema-building is an indispensable strategy for personalised guidance and support of learning, not only by teachers, but also for students to whom this strategy should be modelled and taught.

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