Super Learner Secrets (Craig Lambert- Harvard Magazine article)


Saw Stephen Downes‘  short post, then followed the links to Zaid and the PDF file of Craig Lambert’s article – whew!

What strikes me is that these five secrets (according to the article) are equally important to develop in us corporate wonks in the instructional design field – like me. And I consider, after reading and thinking about the points made, how much we’re mucking up the next generation.  Are we working to nurture and develop these characteristics? Hmmmm …


David Riesman, Ford professor of the social sciences emeritus, says that “the quality I value in a student is curiosity.” This trait, he says, links with “the capacity to be grabbed by something and really want to pursue it. That is central, and not as common as one would hope.” [emphasis is mine]

Okay – so I work in the corporate training/learning world … I wonder how many people in this environment would claim that curiosity is a value to be nurtured (imagine that on a performance evaluation!). Or still, how many would even admit that they’re curious at all. Isn’t that what characterize trouble-makers? or the rock-the-boat kind?


One primary trouble with the American educational system is its concern with answers, as opposed to giving students questions …

This sound awfully like the so-called No Child Left Behind nonsense that we live through each year, with the teachers teaching to the standardized test requirements. …

But equally important is that we shouldn’t give the questions either.  How novel would it be to provide a basic framework and have learners craft their own questions and then hunt down the answers …

the capacity to admit one’s ignorance opens doors. “It’s being willing to acknowledge that you don’t know where the moon is on a given night, or how to demonstrate that the world is round … And not minding that you don’t know.”

Synthetic Learning,

Super-learners aren’t passive; they don’t simply absorb information but actively reconstitute it into meaningful patterns.

No surprise to me that this flies in the face of the No Child Left Behind nonsense. Real learning … effective learning doesn’t come from the force-feed-then-regurgitate-in-lock-step-fashion, which is the hallmark of  


successful learners believe – from experience – that there is a high, if not complete, correlation between amount of sustained effort and ultimate performance.

How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, and more practice.

When I worked in an improvisational theater company, we would call this our “hardwork,” which was the homework for that day – which was also invariably hard for us to master … which is why we had to work on it at home as well as during rehearsals at the theater.

Relishing Mistakes

comfortable with experimenting. They are not afraid to make a mistake. When they run into difficulty, they use resources …

How might we support and even nurture these characteristics?

Are they even worth supporting and nurturing? I would think they are.


About Rory

I make my home in the central part of the Garden State along with my family. When I'm not working as an Instructional Designer (focusing mostly on Web-Based learning ... and other eLearning technologies) or researching something, I'm found at home playing computer or video games. Among other things, I volunteer as a choir member and catechist for 8th graders at my parish.
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One Response to Super Learner Secrets (Craig Lambert- Harvard Magazine article)

  1. Siobhan Curious says:

    These all ring so true to me. If only we could implement them consistently in our classrooms and in our lives. I feel like listing these “secrets” on a poster for my wall.

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