Learning to Learn: A Basic Skill in Education

Learning to learn is one of the basic skills in education. In the following article, we'll tell you all about it.
Learning to Learn: A Basic Skill in Education

Last update: 17 December, 2020

Currently, the main objective of the educational system is to make students acquire the necessary skills for personal and integral development as citizens. In this article, we’ll talk about a basic educational skill, that of learning to learn. This implies the ability to initiate, organize, manage, and persist in learning throughout life.

“Learning how to learn is the most important skill in life.”

– Roderick Thorp –

Basic skills in education

The educational centers have the responsibility to attend to and develop both the academic and personal skills of the students. According to Jacques Delors, it’s necessary that children learn to:

  • Know: To learn to understand the world, combining a broad culture with the possibility of studying certain  subjects in depth
  • Do: Learn to put into practice the knowledge acquired to influence their own environment
  • Live together: Develop a positive coexistence, participating, collaborating, and cooperating with others.
  • Be: To acquire the capacity for autonomy, judgment, and personal responsibility. In other words, to develop in a global and integral way.
Elementary students raising their hands.

So much so, that the current educational curriculum integrates useful skills for:

  • Solving problems using specific knowledge about a particular discipline
  • Solving those problems that have to do with daily life situations

To achieve this, children must acquire a series of key skills that must have the same weight and importance in the teaching-learning process. These are:

  • Competence in linguistic communication
  • Mathematical competence
  • Basic competence in science and technology
  • Digital competence
  • Social and civic competences
  • Sense of initiative and entrepreneurial spirit
  • Cultural awareness and expressions

Learning to learn

Thus, we can say that the key or basic competences are the combination of knowledge, skills, and attitudes appropriate to a given social context. They’re those that all people need for their:

  • Personal fulfillment and development
  • Active participation as a citizen
  • Social inclusion

Within these, in this article, we’re going to focus on explaining what the competence of learning to learn consists of.

“The secret of education is to teach people in such a way that they don’t realize that they’re learning until it’s too late.”

– Harold E. Edgerton –

Learning to learn: a basic competence in education

Today, students are expected to be autonomous and independent in the teaching-learning process. In order for this to occur, children have to acquire the competence to learn how to learn. According to Mª Reyes Carretero and Marta Fuentes, this implies

“Possessing the skills to guide one’s own learning and being able to learn in an increasingly effective and autonomous manner in accordance with one’s own objectives and needs.”

– Mª Reyes Carretero and Marta Fuentes –

Therefore, to develop such competence, it’s necessary to:

  • Be aware of the processes that make it possible to learn in an effective way according to the demands of each situation.
  • Have a taste for learning.
  • Be motivated to learn throughout life.
  • Show curiosity and interest in learning.
  • Be consistent in the tasks.
  • Know how to organize and plan the tasks to be performed.
  • Accept mistakes and assume failures as part of the learning process.
  • Have the ability to self-evaluate.
  • Cooperate and collaborate with others.
  • Know how to get precise help and access to knowledge.
  • Have metacognitive skills.

All this is acquired over the years. However, it’s important to begin to develop the skill of learning to learn from early childhood education. In other words, from the first years of life.

“Learning to learn is the most important skill in education, and it must be explained from the first courses.”

– John Seymour –

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  • Carretero, M., y Fuentes, M. (2010). La competencia de aprender a aprender. Madrid: Aula de Innovación Educativa.
  • Delors, J. (1994). Informe a la UNESCO de la Comisión Internacional sobre la Educación para el Siglo XXI “Los cuatro pilares de la educación” en: La educación encierra un tesoro. El Correo de la UNESCO.