Top Ten Traits of Great Learning Experiences

I just spent the last two weekends in a wonderful Artist-Educator workshop [1. Artist-Educator Foundations Course, The Royal Conservatory with the support of the Ontario Arts Council,, accessed March 6, 2014]. It was led by a number of brilliant and inspiring artist-educators. The participants were all artists and most of us had some teaching experience. At the end of the workshop, all of us were energized, enthusiastic, and eager to use our new skills and knowledge.

In reflecting on the workshop and considering successful training, I’ve come up with a list of the top ten traits of great learning experiences. I think these apply to classroom-based and online courses.

Great learning experiences:

  1. Allow flexible optionsLadder
    As adult learners, we want freedom of choice. Let learning opportunities unfold in many ways. Be flexible.
  2. Build on previous skills and experience
    We make connections when learning relates to previous knowledge and experience. Scaffolding or chunking information helps us climb up the learning ladder.
  3. Give a tangible goal
    We need to know what outcome is expected. We also need to be able to achieve that goal.
  4. Honour different learning styles
    Learning Styles or Multiple Intelligences

    Learning Styles or Multiple Intelligences

    We learn in many ways. We have different strengths in our abilities. Try to incorporate diverse ways of delivering learning effectively. [2. Theory of Multiple Intelligences, Howard Gardner,, accessed March 6, 2014.]

  5. Involve interactivity and challenges
    Get things moving! Try stuff out! It helps to be active with others and with the material. Provide regular reviews and challenging tasks.
  6. Offer honest encouragement
    Positively-framed feedback increases success. First, offer honest praise. Then, show or tell how improvements can be made. Finally, frame the feedback as a picture of achievement. [3. Positive Framing, The Complete Teach Like a Champion, Interactive Edition, Doug Lemov,, accessed March 6, 2014.]
  7. Provide structure and guidance
    A clear outline shapes the learning process. Most of us want guidance when learning something new.
  8. Push the boundaries, safely
    We need to stretch when we learn… to push beyond the limits of our current state. This can be scary. But, a little risk-taking is necessary, within the safety of trust.
  9. Support making mistakesCreativityQuote
    It’s the best way to learn. Being allowed to falter in a supportive place helps reinforce learning.
  10. Value funBirdBalloon
    Humour and play go a long way… so have fun and laugh often.

Thanks to the instructors and participants at the workshop for all the fun and great learning! 


Top Ten Traits of Great Learning Experiences — 6 Comments

  1. Thanks so much for sharing! These are so true! The Artist Educator Foundations Course was such a great learning experience. I recommend it to all who seek to better themselves as both artists and educators. I’ve grown tremendously from my two weekends and I owe it all to the caring, supportive and creative artists and individuals who demonstrated all the steps above. I will surely be referring to these to remind me to apply these to my teaching as well as my life in general. Thanks so much Catherine!

  2. It was a pleasure working with and learning from you, Shanna, and everyone else in the group. What a great experience! I highly recommend the workshop to anyone teaching in the arts.

  3. It was an amazing 2 weekends. So much learning and sharing with a fabulous group of artists. Great to see everyone stepping out of the box and trying different things. Loved being part of the group. Blessings. Patrica

  4. I agree, Pat! And we were a GREAT team… Thanks to Ciara and Michael for that 🙂

  5. Thanks so much for posting this, Catherine. I agree with everyone – it was an uplifting, inspiring, creative, bonding experience and we had SO MUCH FUN learning along the way.

  6. It sure was! And, I’ve had your group’s song, “You and I, We” happily stuck in my head since then 🙂