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Ways of Learning: The MUD System

The MUD system has its origins in research conducted in 1981 by Sylvia Downs and Patricia Perry concerning an experimental program to introduce young people, their teachers and trainers to the many ways of learning that are available. The researchers needed to find a classification or taxonomy of learning that was robust and yet sufficiently simple that it could be understood and used by people with little formal education to improve their own learning skills.

Accordingly, Downs and Perry developed a simple model of learning whereby students were taught to categorize what is to be learned under the headings Memorising, Understanding and Doing, which were represented by the mnemonic MUD. Through a process of discovery and reflection, students learned that depending on what it is that needs to be learned, that is facts, concepts, or physical skills, different ways of learning are appropriate: memorizing, understanding or doing respectively.

Downs found that use of the MUD system is in direct opposition to what teachers have been trained to do. Currently, the main emphasis of teaching is on product (or "outcome") and not on process. Teachers are trained to do the active learning steps such as breaking the tasks down, marking them, planning the material, and solving pupils' problems. Having the teacher do all the work, however, promotes "passive, dependent learners."

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