Why you should forget everything you learnt in school

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Teaching in a classroomDespite the best intentions of teachers and educational institutions, school actually teaches us some pretty wrong things – things we should just try to forget about and wipe from our memories…

We’re not suggesting you should forget your times tables, what tectonic plate activity is or how photosynthesis works, of course. It’s the actual experience of being at school that should be forgotten. Take what you learnt about learning and chuck it out of the window. Banish it to the pit of eternal boredom. Most Learning and Development training programmes today are created by individuals who had similar school experiences, which teach incorrect – not to mention ineffective – ways of learning. Here’s what we mean:

Forget sitting in classrooms in silence


Remember all those lessons you spent in silence, listening to the teacher drone on and jotting down notes? You probably hated these lessons more than any others. And we know why: it’s because we actually learn best when we have the opportunity to work with others, collaborate on projects, share ideas and join discussions. Learning shouldn’t be a solo affair. 20% of our knowledge comes directly from working with and observing others – read more here.

Ignore what you think you know about learning

Contrary to what almost every school in the country seems to believe – or at least believed back in the stone age when we were there! – we don’t learn by sitting passively and listening to our teachers. Sure, it can be useful to make notes so we can refer to them later, but we don’t learn in this way. Instead, we learn by applying learning content to our own prior experiences. When we come to learn new things, we assess our current knowledge and experiences and work to bridge the gap between that level and the level at which we’re being asked to work. You may have heard of the ‘zone of proximal development’ before – it’s the idea that in order to truly learn something, we need it pitched just higher than our current skills level. Too high and we become disenchanted and give up; too low and we don’t recognise the content as worth learning. But the main point to remember is that writing things down or listening to a teacher won’t tap into this special learning zone. In fact, it barely scratches the surface of learning, so don’t do it!

multiple choiceForget what you think you know about tests

In school, it’s likely you were asked to regurgitate facts and figures. Being able to recall names, dates and places was seen as ‘proof’ that you had learnt the content. Frankly, that’s balderdash! It’s far more important to be able to apply the knowledge, not just repeat it on demand. You may be able to recall Pythagoras’s theorem, but if you don’t know how to use it to find the length of the hypotenuse – or, more importantly, how this will help your working life – then the effort you put into memorising the equation is worthless.

The best kinds of tests will involve assessing how you plan to put your newfound knowledge into practice in real life. In what kind of situation will you need to work out the length of the hypotenuse? How will you apply your knowledge of closing sales when you get back into the office? What is your plan to implement changes in how you manage your team? By specifying how you’ll apply the learning to your life you’ll not only come away with a plan of attack for implementing and using the knowledge, but by relating it to your existing experiences you’ll cement it more fully in your mind.

Want to find out more about how we got classroom training all wrong? Download our free white paper below to discover how classroom training should be done!

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