Miguel Panao | Professor and Author

Finding ways to improve scientific writing and academic productivity.

We change how we learn when we change how we live

We may think about renewing learning with pedagogical innovations on how we educate at any stage of our life. But, apparently, it doesn’t work.

Photo by Annie Spratt at Unsplash.com

Photo by Annie Spratt at Unsplash.com

In a recent article, I read a comment about the poor results of an expensive project seeking to evaluate a significant number of pedagogical innovations in schools. The results contained a “dirty little secret.”

”That’s the dirty secret of all of education research. It is really hard to change student achievement. We have rarely been able to do it. It’s harder than anybody thinks.” (Barbara Goodson, in The Hechinger Report)

Why is it so hard to change how students perform? As a professor, I also wondered about it more than a year ago and formulated a hypothesis. Their achievement depends more on the lives outside of school, or university than what happens inside. Then I found confirmation in the reason behind the “dirty little secret,”

”the problem is that learning is ultimately about changing human behavior and that is always difficult for adults and children. And so many other things — like nutrition, sleep, safety and relationships at home — affect learning.”

My intuition was in the right direction. Human behavior is behind the success of every human achievement, especially in learning. And any change focused on the results is doomed.

The best way to perform perennial changes in human behavior is through habits. But habits require an identity, a “why.” It all starts with finding who we want to be and why. That’s the first step. Afterward, we develop the habits related to this “why.”

For example, imagine you want to be a writer. If you’re focused on publishing a book to be a writer, you may never reach your goal or suffer more than necessary. Instead, when you identify yourself as a writer, you understand that books alone don’t make you a writer. Writing does. Thus, it is clear that you need to develop a writing habit because you are a writer, and writers write. Period. Books will come and confirm your identity, not defining it.

I think education will change when learning becomes a habit and a way to live.

About Miguel Panao

I am a Professor at the University of Coimbra in Mechanical Engineering. I am also author of books in the fields of environmental ethics and Science and Religion. From the several research projects, this site is personal and dedicated to the search for the best approaches, tools, techniques to improve scientific productivity.

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