how people learn

People learn by doing. Numerous studies have validated that retention and mastery increase when adult learners are engaged with real world problems, when the topic is personally relevant, when there are clear connections between the subject of study and demonstrable skills and behaviors on the part of the learner, and when learners are able to reflect on both the what (the content) and the how (the process) of their learning experience. Experiential, student-centered, problem-focused, collaborative learning models provide multiple opportunities for developing the skills needed in a global, 21st-century world: they also provide a framework for addressing real problems within local communities. And, given the complex, systemic nature of sustainability-related issues, a collaborative learning approach works well to provide people with the capacity to understand systems dynamics, pinpoint their effects at the local level, and think creatively about how to design robust, place-appropriate responses.