The Germ Theory of Learning is that students learn primarily by “catching” and remembering what they hear in lectures and read in books. Now, the Germ Theory works fine for learners already familiar with a subject and presented with a very limited amount of new facts, ideas, and methods.
If a student has lots to learn, the Germ Theory fails. Listening, watching and reading are not enough. It takes practice to learn math, writing, a foreign language, and other subjects. Teaching gets students started. Then most of the learning happens when they practice what they are learning to do.
Of course, teachers know that student success depends primarily on practice. They try to get their students to study—to do their homework. Still, many students are in a downward spiral. They study as much as they can stand and still don’t do well. They get discouraged. They don’t believe that they have the intelligence to learn their subjects at the A level. They also don’t know that once they get up to speed in a subject, they can continue to learn that subject faster and easier.
Is this an important issue? Yes. In April 2019, we surveyed 219 college faculty and counselors working with struggling students at 30 colleges. 205 (94%) estimated that fewer than 10% of their students are aware that active practice—-answering, solving, explaining, and applying—-is the most effective way to learn new things.
So, the challenge for us teachers and parents is to guide students to experience that these basic ideas will work for them.
Learn by Doing Reject the Germ Theory–learning primarily by listening and reading. Focus on active practice—the answering, solving, analyzing and applying that cause most learning.
Strive for A’s Fully learn each lesson by doing enough of the right practice.
Catch Up It is critical to learn or re-learn the skills and knowledge needed to begin each course and lesson.
A’s are Easier Learning today’s lesson cold will make it quicker and easier to learn and remember tomorrow’s lesson. You get smarter and feel smarter.
We find that with a little coaching to persevere, students quickly realize that they can get A’s quicker and easier than B’s or even C’s.