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Wednesday 18 January 2012

Becoming a Productive Learner

Wrote this article for Productive Muslim but guess they don't want to use it so here it is:

This article addresses students, parents and teachers on how to be, or help children/students to be, productive in learning. A productive learner is a successful one. He is one who gains the most out of his learning and, rather than let it sit passively in his brain, he actively uses it.

There are six important steps to becoming a productive learner:

1.      Start the day/lesson with “Bismillah” and dua
Muslims always begin anything with “Bismillah”. This is the intention to learn for Allah. Teach and remind yourself, your child or students to say this before any lessons. Then seek Allah’s guidance with the dua “Robbi zidnii ilma” - O my Lord, increase me in knowledge (Qur’an, 20: 114).

2.      Partake a healthy diet
The right breakfast will provide the energy needed to learn. However, the wrong type of snack can provide too much stimulant and a heavy greasy lunch can make the learner lethargic. Start the day right by not missing breakfast but instead, eat a healthy one. Do the same with lunch. In between meals also require something healthy. This does not include greasy snacks and sugary snacks with or without artificial flavourings and colourings such as chips and lollies. Children who consume lollies, cakes and fizzy drinks at recess and lunch are usually the ones who are unsettled during class time.

3.      Fit in some physical activity
After a lengthy sedentary period, our body becomes numb and so does our mind. This is often why people get up to stretch their legs and why students become restless in class. A brief intermission with a physical activity can help to refocus the mind. In fact, physical activity has been linked with brain functioning and learning readiness. A short physical activity could be a few stretches and a walk around the room. For young children, they could pretend to be a seed growing into a flower, a plant blowing in the wind, a balloon floating in the air or different kinds of animals.

4.      Discuss what is learnt
The learner needs to share with others as this will lead to a discussion of what is learnt. Discussions can lead to a clarification of ideas or any misunderstandings. Mature students can share and discuss with their spouse. For younger students, however, it is the parent’s job to draw their children into a discussion since children do not usually volunteer information by themselves. Begin by having conversations and asking about their day – what they did at school, what they were engaged in or what they have learnt. Then specifically discuss the principles to ‘test’ for understanding. This questioning should in no way resemble an interrogation but rather a parent’s genuine interest in their child’s learning. For teachers, a few minutes at the end of the day to discuss with students what they have learnt during the day can help to clarify students’ thinking.

5.      Apply what is learnt
Sometimes it may be daunting to practice everything that is learnt at once. We need to make it more productive by taking small steps. We do this by prioritizing goals. For example, after attending a lecture on purification of the heart, I might choose to practice controlling my anger before I concentrate on my pride or attaining love not enmity for fellow Muslims. Once this is practiced at an acceptable level (since it is difficult to achieve a high level I would still need to work at it) I can begin to apply one of the other things I have learnt.

An example of young children putting into practice what they have learnt is reading and writing both Qur’an/Arabic and English. Once they have learnt this, they need to practice reading and writing at home every day. Some parents assume that it is enough to have children read and write at school or the madrassah so they do not provide any practice at home.

Teaching others is another way of applying knowledge. Once a proficiency of the knowledge is achieved we can then teach it to others. This will not only benefit ourselves as teaching others can consolidate learning but it will also benefit the community.

6.      Make dua
We ultimately rely on Allah so we make dua for Allah’s help as students, parents and teachers. It is not through our own intelligence alone that as students we learn or through our own masterful teaching alone that our students learn. It is by Allah’s leave that any learning takes place. Therefore, students make dua for yourselves, parents make dua for your children (for Allah especially answers the prayer of the parent) and teachers make dua for your students.

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