Dr Hannah Gore on the Power of Active Learning

We catch up with Dr Hannah Gore, a multi-award-winning learning specialist with more than 20 years’ experience in the learning and development field.

The world of online learning is a forever-changing beast. Since the start of the pandemic, universities across the world have begun delivering classes virtually. However, it doesn’t end there. The ‘new normal’ and mass-spread of working from home has created changes in both working patterns, as well as outlook on life, highlighting the growing opportunities to up-skill, re-skill and to continuously develop through lifelong learning.

So, what does this shift mean for the realms of education, and how can we change with the times? At Workshop, we invited Dr Hannah Gore, a learning specialist with more than 20 years under her belt to share her insights on the importance of active learning, and how people can gain more from their educational experiences.


The Power of Active Learning

When studying any course, a major factor in whether you succeed, or fail is how you engage with the material. Active learning is what it says on the tin. Rather than simply reading about a certain topic, it’s following guides or videos and trying out new skills for yourself.

“We learn by rote and we also learn by copying,” explains Dr Gore. “So, by watching videos, or step-by-step video guides, it’s much easier for us to understand rather than reading an entire piece of text. We’re creating a visual inside our minds as we’re reading it. For example, on Leiths Essential Cooking course from Workshop, I watched the videos on knife chopping skills and I was able to know where to put my hands, how to tap my fingers, etc., when I was actually practising it myself.”

Contrary to what you may have heard, active learning is not some new-wave approach to learning. In fact, as Dr Gore explains, this method dates back millennia to our ancient ancestors. Put simply, human beings have always learnt through imitation. It’s hard-wired into our brains.

“We copy. That’s how we learn and is how we’ve learned for centuries,” says Dr Gore. “Somebody builds a fire, okay? And then somebody else copies and they build the technique. That’s how we’ve always evolved.”


The Importance of Social Learning

Of course, no man (or, indeed, woman) is an island. There’s a common misconception that studying a subject online means doing so alone. That’s not the case. Whenever you’re undertaking a course, social interaction—through message boards or even social media—can make a serious difference to your ongoing progress.

“Social learning is something I believe very strongly in and featured heavily in my doctoral thesis, because you don’t have to socially engage to learn from social learning,” explains Dr Gore. “You can actively engage by liking something, liking a comment or agreeing with that person. That is you indicating ‘Yes, I see what you’re saying. I agree.’ You don’t to comment each time to be learning.”

Equally, working with a mentor, virtual or otherwise, allows learners to supercharge their educational progress. Having a more experienced individual or expert guide the way could be an essential part of your active learning and overall experience.

“I think [having a mentor] is massively important for your confidence. [It’s about] being able to express what it is that you’ve learned in a safe space, and then also getting guidance that’s personalised to you,” says Dr Gore. “You shouldn’t just take learning as a single context.”


Active Online Learning vs. Content Online

The move from face-to-face learning to online studies has been going on since the advent of the internet. However, this has been accelerated by the COVID-19 outbreak. While many educators are making the change, Dr Gore explains that there is a massive difference between simply putting materials online and creating an interactive course that really encourages learning.

“There’s online learning. And then there’s content online,” says Dr Gore. “They’re two very different things. If you take, for example, your face-to-face workshop and put that PowerPoint online, that is a resource online, not online learning.”

Rather than merely transferring existing resources to the virtual world, educators need to think outside of the box and look for ways to engage learners in the way that Workshop has achieved. That means considering the full learner journey and shaping an experience that flows well.

“To have online learning, you have to think about the narrative and how you’re actually bringing the learners through the tone of voice that you’re using. Are you using first person or third person? Are you using plain English? Are you guiding them through? Are you checking them along the way? Are you giving them the best resource to reflect that particular piece of learning?”

Ahead of releasing any type of online course, asking the above questions is crucial. Here at Workshop, our mentors break subjects down into manageable steps to suit you. What’s more, you can track your progress as you move through each course.


A Shift in the Culture of Learning

Learning should be enjoyed, not endured. There’s beauty in being curious and taking the time to learn new things. Sadly, somewhere along the way, some people have lost this perspective. For that reason, Dr Gore suggests that there should be a change in the way we see learning and, of course, how we each approach it.

“The culture that surrounds learning needs to shift,” explains Dr Gore. “We micro-learn every single day, if I don’t know something, I google it; if I want to look at a template, I Google it; if I need an idea, I Google it. We micro-learn constantly, but do we actually associate that with learning and development? We don’t.”

“We still see learning in the traditional system that I came into 20 years’ ago, which is an annual appraisal; I put it into my objectives as a personal learning development plan,” continues Dr Gore. “I wander down a corridor and I sit in the room, I squiggle on some notes and put them in my drawer and I come back to my desk. No, that is not learning. That is a form of learning, but not learning as a whole. So, we need to embrace that by doing acts of micro-learning every single day, then we’re actually developing ourselves.”

Adopting a micro-learning approach to developing a new skill isn’t as tricky as it sounds. In basic terms, this means dedicating a little time regularly to your studies, instead of trying to learn everything at once. For instance, if you’re taking a Workshop course, you will typically schedule 2-3 sessions per week, with every session broken down into steps for you to practice. you might watch (and follow) one video each day so that you slowly but surely build your skill-set.


4 Expert Tips for New Learners

Thinking of embarking on an online course? To make sure that you get the best out of it, Dr Gore has some final words of wisdom. Let’s take a look at four simple tips to get you started.

#1 Allow Yourself to Make Mistakes

“Don’t be worried if you get it wrong the first time. We’re not all perfect. That is the point of learning – to get better,” says Dr Gore.

“It’s completely fine to get it wrong the first time, or even the fifth time. We have a problem in our education system. We’re penalised for getting things wrong. It’s not a bad thing to get something wrong, because it tells us it’s not the right way to do it. We learn from it and that’s just as important.”


#2 Practice Little and Often

“Anyone who’s looked at research on human studies of the human brain knows that for the first 10 minutes we’re great, after that, we become increasingly tired,” says Dr Gore. “Anyone who has spent an entire day in Zoom meetings knows they could record what happened in the first meeting, but they’re struggling by lunchtime.”

“Step-by-step is always best. So, pick-up, put-down and give yourself the opportunity to mess it up and to learn from that to do better another time. It doesn’t have to be the next time. It could be the sixth time. I’m still trying to get my Yorkshire puddings to rise like my nan’s and I’m 38 years old.”


#3 Figure out Your Learning Style

“It’s about testing and finding out what kind of learning you like,” says Dr Gore. “Learning comes in so many different forms these days. Some people like videos, some people like audio, some people like written step-by-step and social learning. It’s about finding where you’re most comfortable learning and getting the confidence in the first place.”


#4 Foster a Passion for Learning

“The world is rapidly changing. To think that you’re always going to be doing the exact same job is impossible now because technology has moved on,” says Dr Gore. “So, we should constantly develop and learn and upskill , being very aware of the changes in industry and being proactive about it allows us to be more secure.


The Takeaway

Whether you’re new to online learning or an old hat, there are always ways that you can improve and up your game. As Dr Gore has covered, engaging in active learning (learning by doing), learning step-by-step and learning with a social community, are three ways to give you the best shot at success. Continue your educational experience today.


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