Becoming a better learner

Don Fraser introduces his approach to learning

High-performance learning is a way for students to be successful in college, at least according to one former professor.


The term was introduced by former Durham College Sports Management professor Don Fraser and his wife Lisa. Don was at Durham College on September 14th to address a group of Sports Management students about his approach to learning.

There are eight steps to become a high-performance learner, Fraser says. The first is attention which you can control with your eye contact. Wherever your eyes are focused, that is where your attention is, he says.

The second is about your body’s physiology. After 20 minutes or so, students start to loose focus. To help keep students more engaged and change their physiology, teachers can do interactive activities, Fraser says.

The third is interest and making sure that whatever is going on that it fits your skill set. It’s about making your brain interested on an otherwise boring subject.

The fourth step is relationship and how to create that special relationship between student and teacher. So then they can work on each others’ strengths and weaknesses, Fraser says.

The fifth step is context which is about looking at the purpose of why the student is there.

The sixth step is work ethic and how it’s not just about being physically there but also being attentive. It does take some time to develop a great work ethic.

The seventh step is about repetition and how it takes about 21 to 42 days to develop or change a habit.

The eighth step is about having a system and you can do this by taking the first seven steps and making them in to a system.

According to Fraser, by following these steps, any student can become not a just good learner, but a high-performance learner.


Giovanna Pierone, a Durham College sports management student, was at Don’s recent seminar. She says she always thought she had to multitask but after hearing Don’s talk, that is not the case.

She said, “High-performance means not multitasking is one of the things that I think will really stick with me and help me to be that high-performance learner that I want to be.”


Lisa is the author of the book, Making Your Mark: High Performance College and Career Success. The first edition of the book was released in 1992.

Shortly after the third edition of the book came out in 1994, Don got a call from the Vice-President of St. Clair College, saying that they wanted to buy copies of the book for all of their faculty to teach to their students.

She also said that they wanted a seminar to train their staff on how to use the skills in the book. Don said that his wife, Lisa was more of a writer than a speaker. The VP at St. Clair College suggested that Don do the talk since he was a professor.


Don eventually agreed to do the session at St. Clair College and since then Don has been giving talks about High-Performance Learning and he has been doing full-time since 2005, which is when he retired from Durham College.

Don says, “I realized, we’re missing something, we don’t teach people how much power they have.”