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Learning to Learn
Preparing UNM’s Students for Future Academic and Career Success

“It is the sole purpose of the university professor to induce people to think.”
J.B.S. Haldane, 1924, Daedalus

“We teach students how to write, use mathematics, and think because we believe that they will use these skills when they are not in school.  We need to always remember that we are teaching toward some time in the future when we will not be present—and preparing students for unpredictable real-world ‘tests’ that we will not be giving—instead of preparing them for traditional midterm and final exams.”
D.F. Halpern and M.D. Hakel, Applying the science of learning to the university and beyond: Change, July/August 2003, p. 36-41.

Questions to ponder: What would be the impact of engaging students, at the beginning of their UNM careers, with reading/writing/discussion about what it means to learn, how they learn individually, and how instruction is (should be) aligned with effective learning?  Would expectations of college-level learning be more clear and better aligned with students’ goals?  Would students better understand why some (hopefully most) instructors expect writing and discussion, include active-learning strategies in the classroom, and frequently assess learning?  Would students place higher value on higher-level cognitive and communication skills and develop them as habits of mind?

Teaching “Learning to Learn” as part of any course design:

Goal:  Guide students to develop habits of critical thinking that transcend content areas and engage students to succeed at university-level work while also preparing them for future professional school, graduate school, and/or career as a productive, educated citizen.


“Critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action” 
- National Council for Excellence in Critical Thinking

10 Elements For Incorporating “Learning to Learn” Into a Course


  1. Set appropriate outcomes
  2. Relate outcomes to student needs
  3. Engage students with the course outcomes – all the time!

The Student Learner:

  1. Set aside time to discuss learning with students.
  2. Consider the epistemology of the novice learner

Active Learning:

  1. Provide for active, cooperative learning in class
  2. Provide for reflective learning in or out of class

The Teacher’s Role:

  1. Structure student reading
  2. Make instructions explicit – assume nothing
  3. Provide lots of formative feedback opportunities

Activities to guide instructors on how to incorporate Learning to Learn in their courses

  1. Setting Outcomes the Emphasize Learning
  2. Engaging with Outcomes to Motivate Learning
  3. Promoting Epistemological Development
  4. Diminish Conflict by Guiding Learning