My view on learning is neither new nor unique. I use insights that have existed for quite some time. People do tell me however that I bring these seperate insights together in a unique way. I forge them into a whole that has great practical value. My view leans on three seperate but intertwining pilars. They form the base on which my ideas rest:

1. Learning is a natural, continuous and personal process

The question how best to support our pupils and students has become too much of an organizational issue instead of a psychological one. The ability to learn is deeply ingrained into our being. It forms the platform from which we act. Teachers and counselours should step as closely as possible to this natural and continuos process. Learning at school is essentially no different than the learning we do outside the classroom to attain our goals in everyday life. We cannot not-learn.

This viewpoint has several consequences. Firstly, we learn more outside school than in it. Secondly, the adolescents who enter our middle-, highschools and universities have already learned extremely much before they enter the building on the very first day. And finally, these adolescents are extremely experienced in learning! All their impending struggles and failures in education are not due to wrong learning, they are due to learning the wrong things.  A pupil that considers math to be dull, boring and useless and consequently learns “badly”(read: ineffectively), hasn’t learned wrongly. His behaviour is totally logical when we take his convictions into account. These convictions in turn aren’t “wrong” either. They have developed inside him thru a normal and well-used learning process. The boy has also been succesful with them considering the fact that he made it into our school. It would be very naïve of us to think that we can change these convictions with the turn of a hand. We (teachers, counselours, parents etc.) are just as reluctant to relinquishing our own. We have to acknowlegde that the pupils views are robust constructs instead of whimsical thoughts. They are a given. That isn’t a problem. It’s the startingpoint for our coaching.

I have elaborated on this point in several of my essays on my Blog:

Let’s play

Homo Praxis part 2

A Gifted Gait

More than the Sum of it’s Parts

Tip of the Iceberg

Ever Tried ever Failed


2. Learning is an active and meaningful process

The learning process is often viewed as a building process. I frequently make the comparison to building a house. How do you do it? What is required? This doesn’t mean that learning is a passive process in which mindlessly assembling something automatically leads to the aquisition of knowledge and skills! Convictions and emotions are an integrate part of the building as well (recall the boy who considered math to be dull, boring and useless). We always develop all four buildingcomponents during learning and use them subsequently to continue our learning. The composition of the structure and the subtle interaction between the four components “within it”, are on the one hand the result of learning and on the other hand the platform we use for further learning. We actively seek new knowledge and skills and are steered by our desires, fears and convictions from past experiences with other knowledge and skills.

Tenacious learning problems like struggling with a new procedure or the inability to grasp a certain topic, can only be understood when these struggles are placed in the historical context of the individual where his convictions and emotions are part of the makeup. In education we tend to focus on knowledge and skills and ignore the required convictions and emotions necessary to acquire them effectively. Because of this we often have a hard time understanding the learning problems of our pupils and students.

I have elaborated on this point in several of my essays on my Blog:

What is comprehension?

Nothing is more practical than a good theory

The zombie and centaur

Chaos in order

Homo Praxis

Other peoples clothes

True Scientists

Ivan the Terrible

A man goes to a Priest


3. Learning is the same for everyone

The learning process is essentially the same for all of us. This is the logical conclusion of the two former points. Everyone builds constructs that consist of knowledge, skills, convictions and feelings. The components relate to each other in the same way in everyone. The difference between good and bad learning is quite simple in my view. One person builds erroneous or incomplete knowledge, ineffective skills, unconstructive convictions and undermining emotions. While the other develops adequate knowledge, effective skills, constructive convictions and supportive emotions.

This means that someone with exam anxieties or motivational problems really isn’t all that different from someone with concentration problems or procrastination issues but neither are they all that different from students who struggle with discipline and determination. One person simply has been able to develop a more effective composition of components in that specific construct. I’ll even go one step further. I claim that there is also no essential difference in the learning process of people with “handicaps” such as those diagnosed with dyslexia, ASD and AD(H)D, compared to people diagnosed with genius IQ’s. Be warned (!); I don’t claim that AD(H)D, autism or dyslexia doesn’t exist. People have individual characteristics and differ in capacity. But these characteristics lay outside of the learning process even though they influence it. The learning process focusses on how a person tries to function under those circumstances. I claim that everyone builds specific knowledge, skills, convictions and emotions with regard to their specific situations and capabilities and that these components vary in effectiveness.

Someone can be very smart but what makes them capable are the constructive convictions and supportive emotions they have concerning their capabilities in specific (often difficult) situations. A dyslexic student who has the conviction “I’m stupid because I read slowly and make many mistakes.” doesn’t only have dyslexia but also has convictions that aggravate their situation and undermine their ability to improve. It is my experience that on the level of convictions and emotions most of the coaching profit is to be gained.

We have the tendency to view succesful people as very different from unsuccesful individuals. I see no major differences. On the contrary, I focus on the commonalities. Biologically speaking we are all nearly identical so neuro-psychologically we should be as well. The advantage of this way of think is that a big difference in succes doesn’t mean that the person who fails is a total failure and needs to change radically. It only means that the individual has accumulated erroneous or incomplete knowledge, holds on to ineffective skills and unconstructive convictions and follows undermining emotions. In this we are all the same!

I have elaborated on this point in several of my essays on my Blog:

A plea for doubt and confusion 

The “it” phenomenon

Perfectionists and other road abusers

The world according to a dyslexic

I think therefore I am….faulty


The Boys Problem

Culinary College or Student 3.0

Corporate Me and the Borg