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What makes learning

'good or bad'?

I was asked to do a survey recently and

one of the questions made me sit back

and think. The question was what were

my best and worst learning experiences.

Simple really, but then on second

thoughts, not so.

Naturally, I wanted to ask some clarifying

questions to try and narrow the field but there

was no one to ask. Having thought about the

context of the survey, I decided it had to be

during my working life but this now covers

several decades and a vast number of

learning events. So how was I going to


By a learning experience, it could mean

almost anything from a three-week classroom

course to a conference presentation; they are

all experiences. That these can be memorable

for both good and bad reasons is a given.

Furthermore, the memory of the event might

not be anything to do with learning and could

be something else altogether. But this wasn't

getting me any closer to an answer. Did the

question want to know which learning

experience was the most or least effective for

me? That reduced my options a little but

effectiveness is usually a difficult thing to

measure and something that you don't

always do yourself.

I decided I was being far too literal (I have

been told that I do this often) and that I should

just go for those learning experiences that, in

my professional opinion, were good or bad.

But there were so many of those. A brief

'lightbulb' moment can be a great learning

experience. Do they count? Describing them

in terms of why they were good is also a

different matter altogether. All you could say

was that I learnt something once and that I

remember what I learnt but that's about it.

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