Why ‘REAL’ Learning?



Use the REAL acronym to reflect about your learning (or to help your children, learners, or clients to reflect) because REAL Learning is more than ‘study tips & study hacks’.

REAL Learning is a systematic and comprehensive metacognitive process.

REAL Learning should have certain characteristics, e.g.:

It must be Reflective
It is vital to be metacognitive and to think about your thinking and learning while you are learning. Monitoring yourself and your own learning will enable you to make adaptations to your learning process to achieve your goals.

It must be Realistic
If is important to set yourself a realistic performance goal (e.g. percentage you are working for) and learning goal (e.g. to be more self-regulated) whenever you are learning. Make your goals ‘SMART’ (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely).  Put in deliberate effort and practice to achieve your goals.

It must be Effective
It is essential to use a systematic metacognitive learning process and effective metacognitive strategies for REAL Learning to take place.

It must be Enjoyable
The better you become with learning, the more you will enjoy the process of learning! But there are also lots of ways to make your learning fun, e.g. by using effective memory strategies (mnemonics) or using a study buddy, etc.

It must be Active
Reading without thinking is not learning. Copying work mindlessly is not learning. REAL Learning involves a deliberate and systematic process and include questioning, thinking, understanding, doing, etc.  It is important to ‘ask, answer and discuss’ continuously and to use all your senses and your whole brain while you are learning.

It must be Achievable
If a goal is realistic, it should be achievable but there are many factors that can affect the achievement of a goal. It might be totally within your potential to achieve a good percentage, but if you are not organized, or not focused or not managing your time, you might not achieve your academic or life aspirations or goals.

It must be Long-lasting
What you put into your memory, you must be able to get out – not only in a test or exam but also at a later stage.  Learning just to pass a test or to obtain a good mark, is only part of the outcomes of learning.  Knowledge is power and applying your knowledge or learning skills in other situations in the future is more important than just passing a test or getting a good mark.

It must be Lifelong
Thinking skills and ‘learning how to learn’ skills are superpowers. We should all strive to develop these skills and become lifelong learners so that we can cope in an everchanging world.



I named my 6 Step Metacognitive Learning Process a ‘REAL Learning Process’ more than two decades ago. My inspiration for the REAL acronym literally came from the children that I saw in my practice.

Have you heard comments like this:

“I really tried my best!”
“I really worked hard!”
“I really knew the work!”


Then the marks come and then it’s not showing the “Really.”

We should all strive for REAL Learning & empower our own children, the learners in our classes or our clients with the skills for REAL Thinking & Learning.

Estelle Brettenny