Redefining real-life learning

Although transfer of learning is the ultimate aim of education, every one is aware that it is a daunting task to accomplish. Educators utilize various approaches, strategies and contents to convince learners about the need to use what they learn at school in real-life.

However, most students do not engage in thinking about application of knowledge because they know that their success or failure in learning is not necessarily measured by their willingness and ability to apply what they learn. Rather, the greatest payoff is in the ability of students to reproduce what they learned from the textbook and teacher.

In the end, students simply go through the motion of schooling for the sake of it, without a greater involvement and personal identification with what education really means to them.


For example, it is common for a teacher-trainer to get e-mails from his/her former students asking for help in providing ideas on audio-visual materials, teaching methods, disciplining students, etc. These are the same students who have had the opportunity to work directly with the teacher-trainer, but took it for granted. They choose to learn (superficially) to pass tests. They are satisfied as long as they could graduate with a degree that they wrongly believe would make them fit for work.

It is only when they actually start working as a teacher that they realize and regret about all the missed opportunities to truly prepare themselves to face the challenges and demands of work. While it is still not too late, it does cause a lot of inconvenience, and in worst-case scenario, costs them their jobs.

A former student recently sent an e-mail asking me to coach him to teach the course, General Psychology. This is the first time he has been asked to teach the subject to a group of undergraduate students. He expressed hesitance and a lack of confidence to deliver the subject as it was not his major at college. However, he admitted taking a few psychology courses as electives. He did not pay much attention to what was happening while in class, and took the subject lightly.

This demonstrates a lack of awareness of how things operate in real-life. While the student possesses a great desire to succeed in the future, he/she did not realize that mastering subjects like psychology goes a long way to develop one’s own personality as well as increases the opportunities to diversify what he/she could offer an organization.

Painting a better picture

Students need to become fully aware of what it means to prepare themselves for the world of work. It is not enough for them to have a partial understanding of what awaits them. They need to know the whole picture, in its truest form and shape.

As educators, we are responsible to provide for this fundamental learning need. Without such an understanding, a great number of students will continue to take their learning experiences for granted and would engage in superficial learning to merely pass tests.

Call for action

For long, schools have been comfortable providing simulated real-life environments to students. But for effective application of knowledge, students must be allowed to learn in non-simulated settings.

In other words, students should learn at work place, with the help of working-mentors. These mentors would be able show them how concepts, knowledge and skills learned at school apply to various tasks at work place.

Just like one cannot be expected to learn how to swim without getting into a pool and trying it out first hand, no lesson could be effectively understood unless its application across real-life settings and situations are experienced by the learner himself.

Further reading

Such is the working model of a radically reformed education system advocated by the Big Picture schools in the United States. For more information about the Big Picture schools, visit

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