Learning and sleeping
Learning is clearly central to all we do in schools – it’s what we’re here for after all – and it is not unusual for us to spend time discussing how best we learn, and how best we help our pupils to learn.
Last week I attended HMC Annual Conference of head teachers in my home town, Belfast. There were many very interesting speakers and lots of new ideas were discussed. Best among them, in my view, was Barb Oakley, Professor of Engineering at Oakland University in the US.
Professor Oakley is one of the world’s foremost researchers in learning and indeed co-created and taught the world’s most popular MOOC (massive open on-line course): Learning How to Learn: Powerful mental tools to help you master tough subjects.
Probably because of her own unusual path to learning languages and then maths and sciences, she became fascinated by how people learn and has carried out some impressive scientific research into the best way to learn – especially those things we find particularly difficult. This morning I shared just two of the tips she gave last week.
The number one problem when it comes to learning is procrastination, and unless you deal with this first you will forever waste a lot of time and struggle to learn efficiently. She also, thankfully, discovered the answer to this and I shared it in assembly this morning: it is called The Pomodoro Technique.
Practising how to focus and concentrate, using the Pomodoro Technique, will build your skills and help you to avoid procrastination.
However, it may surprise you to learn that the most important aspect of learning is adequate sleep. Without a proper amount of sleep nightly, it is very difficult to learn efficiently and effectively. Neurotoxins which build up during the day as we learn and experience things, can only be cleansed from our brains by sleep – nothing else will do. The official description of this: sleep enables the neural architecture of learning to develop. Without enough sleep we do not reinforce what we have learned, making it much harder to recall. Learn, sleep on it, review it the following day, sleep on it again: this process builds strong links in our brain which enable better retrieval of information when it is needed.
Given the importance of sleep, it is vital that we are all able to sleep for a sensible length of time (around 9 hours for a teenager), and without interruption. This means no technology in our bedrooms! No phones, iPads, computers, televisions, nothing to distract us from sleeping.
I am sure you have all heard, at some time or other, “I need my phone to wake me up in the morning”. They now have no reason to say this, because they were presented with an LEH alarm clock as they left assembly this morning!
Instead of suffering from FOMO, I think we should all suffer from FOMOOS – fear of missing out on sleep.
Heather Hanbury, Headmistress, Lady Eleanor Holles
Video: BBC London News