A Letter to Learners

A Learners’ View (ALV) Is Of Choices On The Shortest And Fastest Path To Learning, The Oxygen Of Social Life.


Last Edited: January 19, 2018

Greetings, Learners.

You play a vital part in society. You make choices to do or not to do something. Details of these choices matter. They make your place in society. Teachers show you how to make choices more efficiently, so you may learn more about how your choices make your place.

Without your choices, your learning does not exist. Nor does education exist beyond imagination and belief. Without you learning to do something new for you, educators do not exist, and society remains stagnant beyond chance occurrences.

Without you making choices that others may observe, you do not learn beyond perhaps changing your imagination. Through choices that others may observe, you make your place in society. Of these things, you have no choice except to imaging or believe something else.

Even then, you will learn something when other people see you change your social activity. This appears consistent with the science of teaching and learning and their place in society as described by experimental behavioral and social scientists. Scientists have been reporting choices you probably make to learn for more than a century. Scientists have been refining these descriptions through their studies of learning.

From this view, learning is a public process, not cognition or another inferred, private, and unseen mental activity. Learning occurs when people choose something to do that connects two dots as the most accomplished people in society connect them. I use one of three names to refer to this process, depending on the context: one-step-learning (OSL), two-dot-learning (TDL), and sometimes one-choice-learning (OCL). This choice occurs in one step that other people can observe. These descriptions of learning are from a learners’ (social) view of learning.

The first dot represents what you and other learners can do now. The second dot represents a solution to one of five generic problems. You choose how you will connect these dots from what you see, hear, and in other ways sense with your body.

Making each connection solves one of those five problems. Lessons of teachers, books, speeches, news reports, and other social activities address these problems, sometimes with extravagant details.

These five questions can guide your focus as you try to figure out how to do something in life, whether in academics, families, sports, music, on tests or in another social activity. Learners in school classrooms have found them helpful guides. Educators can show you how to figure out ways to do something more efficiently.

The five generic problems are listed here as questions. Notice that they are arranged from simplest to most complex, easiest to hardest to solve and that you need to answer the previous question to answer the subsequent problem.

1. What is it? Depending how this question is asked, a correct answer can require a name for an object, its social function (use). For example, “1” is a numeral. What does it do? It is a way to say a Quantity. How do I use it? To calculate how many of something exists.

2. What is like it? /a/ stands for the first letter of the alphabet as /1/ stands for the first numeral in mathematics.

3. What is it not? /1/ is not two airplanes or two zebras.

4. What comes next, as in a sequence:1, 2, 3, x? A correct answer is /4/. And

5. What is missing in this sequence: 1, 2, x, 4? A correct answer is /3/. 

To learn to solve these problems, teachers show you how to weave together options from three strands of social life: (1) of what you sense from instruction, (2) from what you must do to learn as instructed, and (3) from the subject matter of the lesson. These strands exist at four levels, as in a stack of pancakes: sensory, problem solution, a solution acceptable to most people, and a solution valued by society. Everything you do before the one correct choice consists of trial-and-errors to select a solution that the most accomplished people in society use to solve it.

At the same time that you choose what and how you learn, you choose the obstacles in your life you say or see that you must overcome. Educators use lessons based on a curriculum to show you ways to overcome some obstacles more efficiently than just through your trial-and-errors. You must then use what you learn to choose when and how to overcome other obstacles. Scientists say you will likely generalize from specifics of lessons to principles for making similar choices to solve similar problems. They have repeated their experiments in and out of schools and laboratories with over a million learners taught by thousands of educators and social service workers in the United States and in other countries. Poets, novelists, performance artists, and others have described in their own ways versions of these parts of learning for eons.

On behalf of the scientists, educators, and learners who precede you, we wish you the best as you make choices that form your place in society. May your choices benefit yourselves, your loved ones, and others you have not met. In these ways, your learning serves in society as oxygen serves in biology.

Robert (Bob) W. Heiny, PhD