Does it Matter How Long it Takes a Student to Learn?

Student studying

Learning is not a marathon. We each have our own pacing. Most individuals have academic strengths and weaknesses, and even different learning styles.

For instance, some students learn quicker when the subject area is interesting or aligns with their favorite class. For others, the timeframe for mastery is dependent upon the effectiveness of the teacher and the methods used to connect.

Another example is how some students are skilled in “cramming” and remembering a great deal of information just hours before taking an important exam, while others have to apply the slow and steady approach, and process information over an extended period of time. Each method can be effective depending upon the circumstances.

Sometimes, however, how long it takes a student to learn is of significance.

Say for instance, if a student is not able to learn, apply and pass certain classes within a designated timeframe, he will not be on track to graduate with his peers. Or if a student is not able to comprehend key concepts, he will be unsuccessful in advancing to more difficult applications in challenging subjects like algebra and math.

But, more time on task, (TOT) does not always translate into greater success. More is not necessarily better. In an article by, author Alfie Kohn contends that more time doesn’t lead to better learning, contrary to the original position held by experimental psychologists years ago. The article also shares that time is only a contributing factor, if the lack thereof created the learning deficiency to begin with.

Ultimately, what should matter, is not speed– but retention, comprehension, and application.

What do you think? Is speed important in the learning process?

Image by Luis Hernandez


Andrianes Pinantoan is InformED's editor and part of the marketing team behind Open Colleges. When not working, he can be found reading about two of his favourite subjects: education and psychology. You can find him on Google+ or @andreispsyched.

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