Calm those seas - give yourself a flexible learning week. Image from

Flexible Learning Week : Catching Your Breath While the Sea is Calm

Thank goodness for flexible learning week.

University of Edinburgh students’ eyes will light up at the mention of the phrase. Flexible learning week is a mid-second-semester break in lectures for independent study. It’s a chance to catch up, do some further reading, or just catch your breath and recharge. And it’s very welcome.

I’ve used mine to revisit this semester’s lectures, in readiness for a linguistics assignment just around the corner. It’s allowed me to build a bit of confidence in my knowledge of the material without the panic of the next topic coming before I’ve had a chance to digest the last.

It got me thinking: couldn’t we all do with a flexible learning week now and again?

DIY Flexible Learning Week

If you have a language learning plan, chances are it’s an ongoing, cumulative thing. Effective language learning and maintenance is a regular habit, and we build it into our day-to-day. But building in pause for thought is a good mind-health strategy, as flexible learning week shows.

For those worried that it’s just a foot-off-the-pedal break in momentum, don’t see it as a rest. Instead, it’s a chance for consolidation, for reflecting on your progress so far, and maybe revisiting some of the materials you thought could do with a bit more attention. Having a week free of calendar appointments and formal, diarised learning can be completely liberating.

I’ve found that when I do this with my languages – perhaps taking a week of random dabbling – I often get a touch of the ‘returner learner’ effect, too. After all, a change is as good as a rest.

The Right Wavelength

It’s a timely reminder that we are not built like robots; our energy and drives come in waves and cycles, and a bit of punctuation in your routine can be a good pacer.

As for the next step in flexible learning at Edinburgh? Convince the powers that be to build a study week into the first term, too!

How do you build in natural breaks for reflection and consolidation? Share your thoughts in the comments!


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