Meaningful Learning vs Exam Culture

In our school, we care about meaningful learning processes, related to the development of skills and not so much about knowing blocks of contents. This is why we use communicative methods, which are also suggested by the law. This, for us, and particularly for the case of our C1 course, means that learning is a process that involves using authentic materials for the development of our proficiency not only in the four skills, listening, speaking, reading and writing, but also to increase our ability to become independent and resourceful LIFELONG learners — resourceful in overcoming communication obstacles, misunderstandings, in understanding diversity and what it takes to live together, resourceful enough to know how to work in different ways for different purposes, knowledgable in the sense that you learn about discourse (textual matters), communication processes, mistakes and how to avoid them, and functional approaches to language items — meaning developing an understanding of how to use language items, which will never be about translating from Spanish into English.

Although 20th century research in numerous fields of social sciences has offered a breathtaking amount of evidence about how our brains and minds work when we learn, and in spite of the fact that education policies have included part of that understanding, we all  confront at times students’ resistance to learn to learn in joyful meaningful ways and teachers’ resistance to learn to teach and learn in more meaningful ways. Still today numerous students keep thinking that hard work equals suffering and filling in/out gaps and studying long lists of words, and never doing what is key to become a proficient user of the language, like USING THE LANGUAGE every day in all the ways communicative courses teach, which is far more than depending on having the chance to speak to a native speaker.

Typically, Exam Culture learning relates to an obsession with passing exams. Curiosity, a love of learning, an enjoyment of what learning brings to our lives, the complexities of this kind of learning, all of this is neglected. Some adults decide they cannot find the time to learn meaningfully, and choose to find the time to train in exam format, with exam formats, which goes against the ways of learning suggested by the course.

For instance, instead of finding time to work on a monologue at home based on their listening weekly or monthly work, they never find the time and then when the exam draws closer, they want to prepare speaking tests without having done enough listening throughout the year, which increases their chances of translating from Spanish (transfer mistakes), with all the harm that does to people’s English. They discard meaningful learning as relevant for their learning and choose the shortcut of revising for exams in a traditional way — a kind of work that doesn’t allow habit-building and that moves within the limits of our short-term memory.

If you are into perpetuating the education system that has traumatized generations for decades — now, when we actually have the chance to change it and truly learn to learn — then I need to inform you this is not the course for you. This course that does include training in exam format, later on, but that does much more than help people pass exams — passing exams being a logical consequence of positive learning processes. Not only that — students following this kind of course develop enough knowlege and the relevant skills to be able to keep up their learning once they have to go without teachers and courses.

This course entails hard work but a kind of working methodology that connects learning to skill development useful for the world – the private and the public. It’s not about preparing for an exam. Exam formats can be learned by doing a few exercises in that format, and that happens here in the last part of the course, in Exam Training Month and thereafter. Learning a language is much harder than learning about a kind of exercise, and as you learn the language, if you follow the course requirements, you will be training for being resourceful in exams too. Most importantly, without learning the language at the required level first, training for exams is a totally misguided activity.

So… Be ready to improve your English! That’s your aim this year. Learn the most that you can by using English in all the various ways we will show you. When we get to exam training, you will be able to apply all of the things you will have been using, and you will see how you have maximized your exam performance.

Until that learning moment comes, forget about exams and certificates and focus on learning what this course offers. It’s a great opportunity to learn to understand what meaningful learning is, and how that is achieved.

Enjoy the journey!

Meaningful learning