TUM Learning Challenge 2021

Learning something new in 2021 – that was the impetus for the TUM Learning Challenge 2021.

Whether professional skills or private interests: With the TUM Learning Challenge 2021, the TUM Institute for LifeLong Learning wanted to support participants in successfully achieving their own learning goal. Whether a foreign language, technical skills or a new sport - our learning experts from the TUM Institute for LifeLong Learning supported participants with monthly learning impulses, the so-called Learning Nuggets, to overcome hurdles and successfully shape their own learning process.

Participants could submit their personal Learning Challenge 2021 here on the Learning Festival website. As part of the Learning Community, they received helpful tips every month on how to achieve their personal learning goal.

All Learning Nuggets can be found on this page. Maybe you already have a learning goal in mind for 2022?


"I want to finally learn to get into action this year. I.e., move from thinking to action and actively make decisions."

"I want to learn this year what I enjoy in my job and how to expand on that."

"I want to learn digital marketing and online PR this year."



Lifelong learning is not only a necessity,

but a great desire many of us have: We wish to keep growing, to learn new things, and to share our views of the world with others. But sometimes this comes too short in the hustle and bustle of everyday (professional) life. With the TUM Learning Challenge, we want to encourage you to purposely make a resolution about what you want to learn in 2021. As research shows: The more concrete this learning goal, the greater the chance that you will achieve it!

Dr. Kristin Knipfer
Executive Director TUM Institute for LifeLong Learning



TUM Learning Nugget: Lessons Learned and Inspiration

Sharing is essential for learning: By sharing our experiences with others, we retain our own experiential knowledge and inspire others to learn vicariously through our experiences.

Lessons Learned and Inspiration

“Progress lives from the exchange of knowledge.” — Albert Einstein.                

Lessons learned is the systematic collection and evaluation of experiences. By sharing positive and negative experiences (or the insights gained from them), we on the one hand retain experiential knowledge and can adapt our future behavior in a targeted manner, and on the other hand also help others to improve their actions through a kind of vicarious learning, e.g. by avoiding the same mistakes and gaining new perspectives!

Learning Nugget: How to inspire others with my lessons learned

The first step is to reflect on your experiences: Think about what you originally set out to do, what you achieved from it, and how you succeeded. But it is also important to consider what you did not achieve and what expected or unexpected obstacles you encountered along the way. In doing so, consciously look at both sides - because you can learn from both perspectives.

The next step is to share your insights and make them available to others, e.g. in the form of concrete advice. You act as a role model here, which makes social learning possible. Think about what would have helped you. According to Albert Bandura, the founder of cognitive-social learning theory, a description of the action is also enough to make learning possible.

  • Become aware of successes & solutions: What went well? What did I achieve? What was my own contribution?
  • Name difficulties & challenges: What did not go well? What was the reason? And what would I like to change?
  • Externalize insights: What can others learn from my experience? How should they proceed to reach their goal?

Science Nugget: Why physical exercise helps for learning

Research shows that that sharing knowledge in the sense of collaborative learning in organizations enables the unlocking of tacit knowledge, helps individual reflection by questioning one's own understanding and interpretations of an experience, promotes the exchange of individual experiences as well as the shared sense-making for the common work practice. Hence, collaborative reflection acts as a catalyst for individual reflection and facilitates the sharing of knowledge and the construction of new knowledge at the group level. In research with teams, correlations between knowledge sharing and performance emerge.

Inspire others…

... by taking part in our survey and sharing your valuable lessons learned from your personal Learning Challenge 2021!

Dr. Sonja Kugler, TUM Institute for LifeLong Learning

TUM Learning Nugget: Learning and Feedback

Along with self-reflection, feedback is an effective tool for life long learning. Feedback helps us to overcome our “blind spots”.                                       

Learning and Feedback

In our Learning Nuggets in May and in August, we highlighted the power of self-reflection for learning. However, this comes with a challenge: “Everyone is the most blind to themselves.” In other words: We often cannot be objective in assessing where we are in the learning process and how we can improve further.

By actively asking for feedback, we can overcome our “blind spots” and become aware of aspects that we would (prefer to) overlook. Thus, along with self-reflection, feedback is an effective mechanism for lifelong learning!

Learning Nugget: How to build your network of feedback providers

Feedback helps you to assess how well you can do something (performance feedback), and where and how you can improve (learning feedback). You can use the following questions to build your personal “feedback network”, i.e. identify those people who will help you achieve your learning goal:

  1. Who will give you honest and critical feedback?
  2. Who will challenge you to think and do things in a new way?
  3. Who can support you with expert knowledge and advice?
  4. Who can motivate you in moments of frustration?

This requires that you are truly interested in receiving an honest assessment and use even critical feedback constructively. The impact of feedback depends on what you do with it!

Science Nugget: Why feedback helps learning

Studies show that actively asking for feedback is related to learning progress and well-being, as feedback not only provides starting points for improvement, but can also increase self-esteem.

However, it requires that you accept feedback openly - and with an attitude that our June Learning Nugget calls “Growth Mindset”: You should be convinced that you can actually learn something, and that it is not only a question of “talent” but of constant practice, trial and error, and training. Then you can also make the most of critical feedback and derive approaches to improve your learning process!

Info-Box:  If you want to learn more about...

... the role of reflection and feedback, read this informative blog post.
... the effects of feedback for learning progress and about the relevance of the right “mindset”, read this article.

PD Dr. habil. Kristin Knipfer, TUM Institute for LifeLong Learning

TUM Learning Nugget: Learning and Time Management

Good time management is essential for your learning success. Learn how to work even more concentrated with the Pomodoro technique.

Learning and Time Management

A widespread difficulty in learning is planning too long periods of time for learning. Such long learning phases are often not used optimally and feel tiring - learners leave the learning phase exhausted and unsatisfied.

The Pomodoro Technique is a method with which you can efficiently divide your learning time and develop more joy in learning.

Learning Nugget: Using learning time efficiently

The Pomodoro technique helps you to work in a more concentrated way. It creates many small feelings of success and large tasks are no longer intimidating because they are broken down into partial steps.

The basic idea of the Pomodoro Technique is as simple as it is effective: A learning phase should be a maximum of 25 minutes long and immediately followed by a five-minute break.

  • Think about what you want to achieve in 25 minutes: formulate it in writing, e.g. as a checklist. Eliminate distractions during this time (e.g., mail program off, phone on silent, door closed).
  • Set an alarm for 25 minutes and work intently until the alarm goes off.
  • Stop studying and mark how far you have come.
  • Now give yourself a conscious recovery break of 5 minutes (e.g. breathe consciously, move, drink something).

Such a block of learning and break is called "Pomodoro" and usually you go through several such blocks in a row while learning. However, after four Pomodori at the latest, take a longer break and reward yourself.

Science Nugget: Why do routines help?

The amygdala is part of the limbic system in our brain, where it is responsible for emotional conditioning, especially negative emotions such as fear or stress. When you think of an unpleasant task (e.g., an excruciatingly long study session), the amygdala can trigger avoidance behaviour. By reducing the unpleasant task to a manageable period of time, you can trick the amygdala and diminish internal resistance. Breaks and rewards can also promote the release of dopamine, which causes the amygdala to associate learning more strongly with positive feelings. This way learning becomes more enjoyable.

Info-Box:  If you want to learn more about...

... the origin and current development of the Pomodoro technique, go to this webseite.
... the Pomodoro Technique in comparison to other time management techniques, read this article.
... how to check Pomodoro achievements, try this helpful tool.

Ellen Taraba, TUM Institute for LifeLong Learning

TUM Learning Nugget: Learning and Physical Exercise

Regular exercising supports your learning process. Learn how to increase your concentration, creativity and mental performance through regular physical activity.

Learning and Physical Exercise

Physical exercise plays a key role, especially when you're working or learning at a desk and sitting in front of a laptop for hours. While we are moving, new content can settle better in our brain and thus better anchor what we have learned. Physical exercise also helps us to be more focused and concentrated during mentally productive moments.

Learning Nugget: How to increase your mental productivity through physical exercise

According to findings by learning scientist Lisa Oppezzo from the Standford Graduate School of Education, there is a connection between exercise and creativity: In a predominantly sedentary learning or working day, walks can not only increase your concentration, but also your creativity and mental productivity. This is especially relevant for solving complex problems.

Conduct the following self-experiment: Choose a problem you want to brainstorm about and....

  1. Collect as many ideas as possible and write them down while sitting (limit your time).
  2. Take a walk during the brainstorming session. While doing this, record as many ideas as you can on your phone (limit your walking time).
  3. Reflect: when did I have more creative solutions to my problem, while sitting or during the walk?

Science Nugget: Why physical exercise helps for learning

The still fairly young research field of movement neuroscience examines the connection between brain activity and physical movement. Studies show that exercise promotes the formation of neurons in the brain and stimulates the interconnection of nerve cells. Regular, moderate physical exercise can even increase the size of the hippocampus - the area of the brain responsible for memory and learning.

So, by exercising, we not only train our bodies, but we also train our brains' adaptability and plasticity, which can lead to higher attention processes and cognitive performance abilities. Exercise should therefore be an integral part of our everyday lives – especially as a key factor for learning success.

Info-Box:  If you want to learn more about...

... the influence of physical exercise on learning, read this exciting article.
... how physical exercise shapes the brain, watch this interesting Ted Talk.
... how you can integrate exercise breaks into your sitting workday, watch the TUMgesund video series.

Anna Donato, TUM Institute for LifeLong Learning

TUM Learning Nugget: Learning and Reflection

Reflection is essential for your learning success. Learn how to analyze your learning challenge and to think of creative alternatives for your learning approach.

Learning and Reflection

By participating in the TUM Learning Challenge, you have decided to learn something new and set yourself concrete goals. You have been following the challenge for a few weeks and while we hope it is working well, we suspect there are also some moments of frustration. 

The process of reflection encourages us to examine new perspectives and seek insights about our own learning. By reflecting on difficulties in learning, we can adapt our learning strategies to try something different, which may help us to make progress again. Reflection is therefore a prerequisite and an effective mechanism for lifelong learning!

Learning Nugget: How to improve learning through reflection

A structured reflection has three central elements: Analysis, Problem Solving and Resolution. We recommend that you take a few minutes every couple of weeks to reflect on a challenge in your personal Learning Challenge:

Step 1: Analysis

  • What challenge have I experienced in learning in the last two weeks? 
  • How did I deal with this challenge and what was the result?

As a first step, be as objective as possible and try to reserve judgement. Be aware of emotions associated with this challenge: Have you been annoyed, frustrated, or felt that you wanted to give up? 

Step 2: Problem Solving

  • What should I have done differently in dealing with this challenge?
  • What could I try next time and what impact would that have?

Step 2 helps you to find new approaches for action. Think of at least three alternatives and be open to creative solutions. Focus on the aspects that you can influence!

Step 3: Resolution

  • What exactly do I intend to do in future? What would I like to do differently?
  • How exactly can this be done? When can I implement these changes?

In step 3, you should be as concrete as possible: “The next time I face a similar challenge, I will...”.

Science Nugget: Why reflection helps learning

In the learning model of the pedagogue David Kolb, two elements play a critical role in successful learning: experience and reflection. He suggests that a concrete experience demands a conscious reflection - especially in the event of difficulties. At the same time, reflection empowers you to take charge of your own learning, and this is especially important for lifelong learners!

Info-Box: If you want to learn more about...

... the role of reflection, check out this blog post.
... the effects of reflection, read this article.

PD Dr. habil. Kristin Knipfer, TUM Institute for LifeLong Learning

TUM Learning Nugget: Learning and Routines

Routines help with decision-making and can reduce stress in everyday life. Learn how you can de-stress your brain through routines and thus increase learning success.

Learning and Routines

In our hectic everyday life, it has become more and more relevant to balance our energy. Hereto, routines and habits can help. They accompany us through a flood of opportunities and decision-making that are awaiting us every day. Therefore, they also play an important role for learning.

Learning Nugget: How to identify and develop relevant routines

With this creative exercise, you can develop routines for mastering your personal Learning Challenge:

  1. Envision what you would like to learn or which personal or professional goal you would like to achieve within the next months. Be as specific as possible – use the SMART formula from our first learning nugget.
  2. Now imagine: We are six months ahead of today. You have failed! You have not achieved your goal. Explain in detail why you have failed – write it down if you like.
  3. Based on these learnings, reflect on which decisions you can make differently today and which routines will help you achieve your goal.

Tips and tricks to develop and stick with your routines:

Optimize the start, not the end goal. Make starting as easy and comfortable as possible. If your goal is to learn a new language, for example, why not have vocabulary cards ready all times or listen to a song in the preferred language every morning.

Make sure your environment fits to reach your goal.
Think about who or what can help you with your plans or what might become an obstacle?

Visualize your successes.
Even if they are only tiny steps: mark every calendar day with a cross, when you have managed to stick to a new routine. Thereby, it will become your new moment of happiness to simply not interrupt this „chain of success“.

Science Nugget: Why do routines help?

Cognitive Psychology shows that routines and habits save brain energy. If we needed to make all our everyday decisions attentively (e.g., How do I brush my teeth today? How do I put on socks?), our brain would be overstressed and our energy completely depleted after just a few hours. Cognitive decision research in particular has recognized the power of routines and sees them as essential for daily decision making. There are reasons why we use the saying „The power of habit“.

Info-Box:  If you want to learn more about...

... how to start and stop routines, read James Clear´s success book „Atomic Habits“ or Charles Duhigg’s book „The Power of Habit“.
... the development of a new routine, listen to an inspiring podcast about personal development topics: The Happiness Lab.

Anna Donato, TUM Institute for LifeLong Learning

TUM Learning Nugget: Learning and Mindset

Our Mindset is critical for our personal development. Learn how to unfold a growth mindset, accept challenges more willingly and thus achieve higher performance.

Learning and Mindset

Personal beliefs, thought patterns and routines can be decisive for whether we engage with new challenges, how we experience them and how we deal with success or failure. Prof. Carol Dweck’s concept of “mindset” - our attitude towards challenges and lifelong learning - can thus be crucial for our personal development.

Learning Nugget: How to unfold a Growth Mindset

People with a fixed mindset often believe that their skills and talents are inherent and therefore cannot be changed. Consequently, they tend to avoid challenges and therefore do not always reach their full potential. People with a growth mindset, however, believe that their skills and talents are the starting point for their further development and that lifelong learning is essential for their professional, and personal, advancement. They take on challenges more willingly and consciously and can achieve higher levels of performance as a result.
Typically, we all show a mixture of fixed and growth mindset. However, to unfold the growth mindset, it does not mean one needs to “ban” the fixed mindset. Instead, it helps to accept and analyze it:

Become aware of your Fixed-Mindset triggers.
Triggers are different for everyone. They can be setbacks, criticism from others or even meeting someone who seems smarter or more talented. Think about what triggers put you into a fixed mindset.


Pay attention to your fixed mindset reactions.
When you face challenges, do you feel incapable or does an inner voice warn you against it? Accept these thoughts and feelings and work with them.

Transform your fixed mindset into a growth mindset.
You may hear yourself saying in challenging situations, “I don't have what it takes!”. A simple but very effective method in such situations is to end this sentence as often as possible with a “yet”.

Science Nugget: Why a Growth Mindset supports your learning

Research shows that people who are convinced of the changeability of their talent or intelligence are more willing and less fearful to expose themselves to unknown situations. They take setbacks or failures as a starting point to explore their full potential.

If we are convinced that it is, in most cases, not a question of born talent but of the process that leads to learning - such as constant practice and trying out new strategies - we can benefit from constructive feedback and foster a growth mindset.

Info-Box: If you want to learn more about...

... Growth-Mindset, read the book "Mindset" of Standford-Professor Dr. Carol S. Dweck or follow her interesting Ted Talk.
... the role of different mindsets in Leadership, read this interesting article.

Thomas Münch, TUM Institute for LifeLong Learning

TUM Learning Nugget: Learning and Experiences

Experience is the source of knowledge. Learn how to develop strategies to face similar situations more successfully in the future by reflecting and analyzing your experiences.

Learning and Experiences

Much of what we learn, we learn from experience. When playing the piano, for example, we learn how our hand can master a passage by practicing it repeatedly. We can then intuitively apply the same approach to similar passages in the future.
Experiential learning often happens “in passing” and unnoticed in everyday life. However, if you want to learn something specific - as in your TUM Learning Challenge - you can actively take control of your own experiential learning.

Learning Nugget: How to learn from experiences

By reflecting on your experiences, analyzing your reactions to a particular situation, and developing generic strategies from them, you will also be able to face similar situations more successfully in the future. To learn as much as possible from a practical experience as part of your TUM Learning Challenge, keep the following points in mind:

Make a concret experience
When you try or practice something, the connection between cause and effect should be clearly observable.

Prepare well
Be aware of what precisely you are going to learn and what strategy you are going to try.

Reflect on the experience
What was good? Where were problems? What would you do differently next time?

Accept mistakes and experiment
It probably won't work right away - the crucial thing is to analyze what you experienced and deliberately do something different the next time you try it.

Get help
Shared experiences promote the refinement of solution strategies and more experienced people can show you things that are difficult to explain.

Science Nugget: Why experiences help with leaning

The notion of experiential learning is based on the understanding that knowledge is constructed by ourselves. Through reflection and analysis of what we experience, we form abstract, experience-independent concepts and theories, in other words, knowledge. In this way, we can transfer insights once gained to other situations.

This approach helps you increase the efficiency of your learning by making the most of learning experiences. It encourages you to give more space to practical experience, even in topics where you might otherwise limit yourself to the acquisition of more abstract knowledge.


Info-Box: If you want to learn more about...

 ... experiential learning, read this informative blog post.
 ... Learning types and learning cycle by Kolb, visit this information page.
Dr. Emanuel Schreiner, TUM Institute for LifeLong Learning

TUM Learning Nugget: Learning and Obstacles

You do not achieve goals with dreams only. It is crucial to deal with the obstacles that stand in the way of achieving your goals. Try the WOOP method!

Learning and Obstacles

Setting goals is an important step toward successful goal achievement. However, setting the goal and dreaming about it is not sufficient for achieving it. Instead, the imagination of the goal should be contrasted with something we tend to be uncomfortable with and therefore often suppress: The obstacles that may stand in our way when we try to achieve the goal.

Learning Nugget: How to overcome obstacles to learning

You need 5 minutes where you are undisturbed and can give free leash to your imagination.
Think about the next few months: What is your most important wish (Wish)? Think about the goal you have defined for your TUM Learning Challenge. Now imagine the positive consequences of achieving this wish. How would it feel (Outcome)? Next, turn your attention to what is (still) standing between you and the achievement of your goal, what may be holding you back mentally or emotionally (Obstacle). Last, draft an "if-then" plan for how to overcome the obstacle in a very concrete way (Plan): "If X happens, then I will do Y."
The four steps create the acronym WOOP:

Wish: "What is your most important goal?"
Outcome:  "What would be the most wonderful thing if you achieve your goal?"
Obstacle: "What behavior, thought, or feeling is preventing you from achieving your goal?"
Plan: "What can you do or say to yourself to overcome these obstacles?"

Science Nugget: Why is this helpful

WOOP is a scientifically based mental strategy that helps people to find their wishes, to fulfill goals, and to change habits. The method, developed by Professor Gabriele Oettingen, has been proven effective in many studies with people of all ages and in many areas of life.

Studies show that those who are more likely to “dream” are less likely to take action. During the TUM Learning Challenge, WOOP can help you to avoid falling into the common trap of dreaming, and to identify and overcome obstacles through mental contrasting and "if-then" plans. In addition, WOOP guides you to find clarity when you feel stressed and uncomfortable.

Info-Box:  If you want to learn more about...

... the concrete application of WOOP, go to the comprehensive and informative homepage.
 ... the connection between habits and WOOP, watch this interesting interview

Dr. Alexandra Strasser, TUM ProLehre | Media and Didactics, TUM Institute for LifeLong Learning

TUM Learning Nugget: Learning and Goal Setting

Research shows: The more specific the learning goal, the greater the chance you'll achieve it! Learn how to successfully launch your Learning Challenge with the SMART formula.

Learning and Goal Setting

Lifelong learning is not only a necessity, but a great desire many of us have. But sometimes this comes too short in the hustle and bustle of everyday (professional) life.
Setting goals, however, increases commitment, facilitates planning, and fosters our motivation. Concrete goals can increase our sense of personal effectiveness – a psychological need of all of us.

Learning Nugget: How to set my learning goals successfully

Make your goal as concrete as possible (specific). Think of criteria to evaluate whether your goal was achieved (measurable). Align the goal with your Learning Challenge 2021 (attractive). Check what tools/ skills/ resources are needed (realistic), and finally, set a deadline for achieving the goal (time-bound).

Specific: “What exactly am I intending to achieve?”
Measurable: “How will I know that I have achieved my learning goal?”
Attractive: “What will I enjoy about it?”
Realistic: “Can I really accomplish my learning goal?”
Time-bound: “By when can I expect to have reached my learning goal?”

Science Nugget: Why is this helpful

The SMART formula is based on the goal-setting theory developed by occupational psychologists Locke and Latham and has been confirmed in numerous studies. Science shows: The more concrete the learning goal, the greater the chance that you will achieve it. A goal increases our effort, extends our persistence, and leads us to seek appropriate strategies to achieve it.

This exercise helps you to make your TUM Learning Challenge goal more specific and thus motivates you to achieve it. Moreover, it helps you to increase your efforts or change your strategy to achieve the goal if your performance is below the set target.

Info-Box: If you want to learn more about...

... the goal-setting theory, read this informative research articlel.
... how to achieve SMART health goals, read this interesting interview.
... additional tricks to make your goals stick, read this inspiring article.

Dr. Biljana Rudic, TUM Institute for LifeLong Learning