Go for Green Constructive Learning Part 1 | The LearnWell Projects

Leonard Geddes 28 Comments

Click to watch the full video on YouTube. 


Students spend months preparing for the exam. They take copious notes, study in groups, and log many individual study hours. Yet none of their efforts lead to the exam results they expect. They feel frustrated and defeated as they realize that very little of what they thought was important was reflected on the exam. Their inability to figure out why classes aren’t going well leads some to avoid class, others to become apathetic, and others to simply leave school. They have not yet been introduced to constructive learning.

We can solve this problem for students once and for all by training them in the Go for Green constructive learning method. This learning approach shows students how to learn the right material in the right ways.

Here’s how it works: Students must make green by blending yellow and blue. The course content and topics are represented in blue. The students’ thinking skills are represented in yellow. And the course’s learning outcomes are the resulting green. So yellow and blue make green.

In color theory, green is a secondary color that can only be created by blending yellow with blue. In academics, students must combine the course content with the correct thinking skills to produce the more consequential learning outcomes their teachers are looking for. So by combining their yellow thinking skills with the blue content that professors provide, students can create the green learning outcomes that professors are looking for.

Look for parts 2 and 3 of this Go for Green article series for more details on this method. Let’s recap before we move ahead:

  • Students are frustrated because their study efforts are not producing the results they want.
  • Students must mix the yellow (thinking skills) and blue (course content) to make the green (learning outcomes) that will be assessed.

Between the information students are given and the thinking skills they likely possess, constructing their knowledge is easier than they think.


Leave a thoughtful comment below, and I’ll send you a PDF version of this article.

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Comments 28

  1. I love your videos and this one hits home. I am preparing to start another semester of classes this week, and I will be working again with students in our deferred dismissal program and also teaching college learning strategies classes. One of the biggest ideas I try to get across to students is that their learning needs to be engaged, and that they need to follow the learning principles of elaboration, distinctiveness, personalization and recall. I like the go for green example since it is an image students might connect with. I am interested in learning more! Thanks.

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      Author

      Hi Kim,

      Thanks for sharing your experience and challenge with the community. I agree that it’s difficult for students to see how the inputs of information they get from class fit together. I have found that the Go for Green method has helped resolve some embedded confusion students have about how to learn in college. Feel free to share the full YouTube video series directly with students, as it should provide a useful epiphany among them.

      I’ll send you the full article right away!

    2. Hi Kim,

      I’m interested in learning more about the deferred dismissal program. I piloted a summer program for FY students who were on 1st suspension and looking for additional ways to improve and expand the program.

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        Hi Frank,

        I will try and connect you with Kim. You may also be interested in hearing about a program I implemented at Wesleyan College in Macon, GA. The program targeted students who were either suspended or on academic probation. According to their records, the program led to “a 35% increase (22% to 57%) in academic probationary students who moved into solid academic standing.” I will send you the article right away.

  2. Another thoughtful metacognitive approach built on the widely known “yellow and blue make green.” I will share with our PLS mentors to see if it is something they might incorporate into their sessions with learners. Thank you for your continued innovation, Learnwell Projects!

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      Author

      Hi Jeni,

      It is so good to hear from you. You know that the Denison community shares a special place in my heart.

      I sometimes wonder if this era of students will get the “yellow and blue make green” metaphor. It probably hits better with adults of a certain age. Anyways, I hope the PLS program is thriving! I’ll send you the full article right away!

  3. this aligns with Zone of Proximal Development and my work with higher ed students slipping academically. I am excited to read your information! thanks.

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  4. I love the metaphors used to represent student’s thinking, the course content and the course outcomes. At the institution that I work for, students are referred to academic advisers when the student receives notification that they are not doing well in a course. However, there is nothing given to the academic adviser that could help the adviser when they meet with the advisee. Therefore, the adviser refers the student to the faculty to discuss their academic performance. The student is sent back and forth to faculty and faculty advisers and staff advisers and therefore the student may not get the assistance they need and the student disengages from their academics.

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      Author

      Hi Harriett,

      I feel your (and your students’) pain. Unfortunately, many colleges lose the students and money they desperately need because they lack a sound process for helping students. Whenever I meet with students, I encourage learning centers to either have students bring their course syllabus, notes, and any text or materials with them to the first session. I don’t want to waste students’ time.

      Having the proper materials on hand enables me to help them solve their problems in one session many times. Students leaves with an understanding of the macro problem and with practical steps for doing the work they are currently trying to do. They typically see an immediate shift in their thinking and learning during the session, which produces a 20-30 point jump in test scores. I hope you can help your institution resolve its issue for the students’ sake and their own financial interest.

      I’ll send you the full article right away!

  5. I find that folks of all ages have a hard time with meta-cognition and how they learn what they learn. It should be helpful to have some labels and images to get them thinking. Also, it seems like getting students to say out loud what they are aiming to learn and what they are learning is a huge help. Anything that gets this process going is a win!

  6. Using constructivist teaching strategies is the best way to interact with students in the classroom. It encourages critical thinking which helps students remember course content. I regularly search for constructivist strategies to use in my classroom.

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      Author

      Hi Tanya,

      Thanks for sharing what has worked for you. Academic work, particularly at the college level, is a constructivist experience. Students must take the various informational inputs and build the outputs that teachers ultimately assess them on. Unfortunately, too many people don’t know this. I’m glad you do. I’ll send you the full article right away.

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      Hi Mary,

      Thanks for your short but eloquent sentiment! As a rule of thumb, a good strategy simplifies work for students rather than complicates their work. I’ll send you the full article shortly.

  7. YES! This is something my students need desperately. I feel they lack the metacognition. Many students don’t know what they don’t know and have no idea how to study. I have students tell me in math class “I don’t understand why I didn’t do well on the test. I understood everything you were doing when you worked the problems in class.”
    I then ask, “Well how did you do on the homework?” and they respond, “Well I really didn’t see the need to do the homework because I understood everything you were doing when you were working the problems!”
    This thought process must change for students to be successful!!!

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      Author

      Hi Mary,

      You have hit a key nail on the head: students misjudge who is doing the labor in class. They don’t realize that when they vicariously participate in solving a problem in class, this should go into the box titled “I can do this with assistance from the teacher,” not in the “I can do this by myself” box.

      Thanks for your contribution. I will share the full article with you immediately.

  8. This is really creative, I love it! I often struggle to find ways to explain social construction of knowledge to students and I think this will be a helpful way to do that AND get them to think about their role in their learning process.

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  9. In both personal and professional contexts, I’ve seen success in learning when students connect new information and ideas to build on what they already know. The yellow + blue = green metaphor makes this concept easy to share with student audiences. I work with community college students who are starting (or restarting) their educational journeys, and provide support for those experiencing obstacles to their success. I’m curious about how your approach might help me to help them.

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      Hi Buffy,

      Thanks for your sharing your experience. I have used the Go for Green approach with college students of all ages and experiences. It has helped them use their course elements to learn better and faster. I hope you experience the same satisfaction when students see how they should do academic work. I will send you the full article. Share it and the videos with your students.

  10. This is another great way to look at learning. Thank you, Leonard and The Learnwell Projects. I work with students on the ADS and was discussing finding a way to match the black and white thinking of one of our students and the course requirements this morning. This model fits and comes at the perfect time to help this student.

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  11. It is so helpful to match up the particular learning strategies with each course’s outcomes. I have been dreaming of a “menu” of study strategies for students to choose from. Picking the right ingredients for the course is key!

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      Author

      Hi Becky,

      Thanks for your contribution. One reason I prefer metacognitive strategies is that they work across all courses and domains. For example, the Go for Green approach works in any course students will take. Having a universally-applicable, go-to method for learning is very attractive to students! Students can master one main method and use others as needed.

  12. I wonder whether our tutors and supplemental instruction leaders might find this metaphor helpful in leading students to understand that they must collaborate with the professor in order to achieve the learning outcomes. After all, all the blue in the world (content and topics supplied by the professor) won’t make green (learning outcomes) without sufficient yellow (student thinking skills). I would be interested in learning more.

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      Author

      Hi Mary,

      Thanks for your comment. You are correct: the key to this sequence is getting students to activate the proper thinking skills. Solving this problem is a game changer. When I train tutors and SI leaders, I focus heavily on ways they can develop this skill within themselves and teach their peers. I’ll send you the article shortly.

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