Setting Learning as a Deliberate Goal – Effectiviology - Deepstash
Setting Learning as a Deliberate Goal – Effectiviology

Setting Learning as a Deliberate Goal – Effectiviology


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Setting Learning as a Deliberate Goal – Effectiviology

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Intentional learning

Intentional learning occurs when it is the primary goal of a learner.

For example, someone who wants to learn a new language reads a book in a language and looks up new words that they encounter to improve their vocabulary.

This is contrasted with incidental learning, where the same learner just picks up words while talking with someone in the target language without attempting to learn new vocabulary.

When we understand intentional learning, we can optimise learning and teaching.


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Characteristics of intentional learning

Intentional learning involves learning that's active and autonomous. Characteristics include:

  • Motivation to learn
  • Specific learning goals
  • Attempts to improve the learning process
  • Analytical engagement with relevant material
  • Questioning things such as experiences and facts
  • Organizing new knowledge and ideas into useful systems of facts
  • Connecting new and old knowledge
  • Reflecting on whathow, and why the learner is learning
  • Adapting to new situations and needs.


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  • Incidental learning occurs during activities where learning is not a goal for the learner. For example, when someone plays a sport just for fun, but ends up improving their skills over time.
  • Intentional learning involves learning as a deliberate and primary goal.

Neither type of learning is inherently better. Each type has its own advantages and disadvantages, depending on the person and circumstances.


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  • It can be more effective, such as learning an advanced mathematical concept for an exam.
  • It can be more efficient.
  • It can be more enjoyable.

In other situations, intentional learning is less effective, efficient or enjoyable, and incidental learning is preferred.


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  • Encourage the main antecedents of intentional learning, including motivation, belief in your learning ability, and recognising your need to learn.
  • Identify your goals, such as figuring out what concepts you’re trying to learn.
  • Plan your learning.  Find out where and when you will learn and which learning strategies you will use.
  • Actively question information that you encounter.


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How to promote intentional learning in others

  • Develop the antecedents of intentional learning, such as helping people recognize the need for learning.
  • Help learners identify their learning goals.
  • Help learners plan their learning. For example, figuring out where and when they’re going to learn.
  • Encourage the use of effective learning strategies.


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