Learning to learn…

One of the things that disappoints me about all my time in education is that nobody actually taught me how to learn. Instead I had to stumble along, gradually trying to pick up what works for me. I guess I finally discovered how to learn during my PhD. What did I discover? That I learn in pretty much the same way as everyone else. Pity someone didn’t save me a few years and give me the heads-up a bit earlier. I read this quote from Dune recently,

“… because his first training was in how to learn. It’s shocking to find how many people do not believe they can learn, and how many more believe learning to be difficult.”

It’s actually pretty simple to push stuff from your short term to long term memory. All you have to do is,

  1. Read/revise a subject. Make sure you get a good understanding of the basic principles and some of the important facts surrounding the subject.
  2. About 2-3 days after learning something new, run quickly through that subject again. You don’t have to slave over it. You just have to do a quick pass through to jog your memory.
  3. After about a week of the second pass, do a third pass through the information.

In doing this, you’ve taken a very big step toward transferring that knowledge from your short term memory to your long term memory. It’s simple, but it takes effort!

But that’s just facts right? Yes, but as you learn more stuff you start to notice patterns and build relationships between those items, which help you to draw conclusions that others see as leaps of faith or moments of inspiration. Those gurus you look up to aren’t any cleverer than you. They’ve just made all the same mistakes you did, but a few years before you!

Just some idle thoughts before bed…

Cheers

Tim…

PS. If you dislike formal approaches to learning, just offer to teach a class on a topic. If you are a conscientious teacher, you will make so many passes through the information before stepping in front of your students, it will be burnt into your brain forever. 🙂

Author: Tim...

DBA, Developer, Author, Trainer.

7 thoughts on “Learning to learn…”

  1. Hi Tim,

    >> If you dislike formal approaches to learning, just offer to teach a class on a topic.

    This can be dangerous! Look at all of the people who are “teaching” others on OTN, in hopes that they will learn something themselves!

  2. Hi.

    RE: Teaching. I did mention, “conscientious teacher”, which suggests a level of experience of the material. 🙂

    RE: Undergraduate professors. Not at all. Most of them had no inkling of how the brain works. University lecturers are some some of the worst teachers out there. They have a great command of their subjects, but are seldom schooled in the art of teaching. Instead they are employed for their ability to draw in research grants. Teaching is a side issue in their job specifications. Can’t speak for other countries, but this is certainly the way it is in UK universities. At least it was when I was a part of that system… 🙂

    Cheers

    Tim…

  3. Hi Tim,

    >> University lecturers are some some of the worst teachers out there.

    I’ll bet it varies by major.

    In my computer secience, programming and IT classes, the profs were all about ingesting huge specs and solving problems. Many of the MBA classes are the same way, they teach the student “how to think like an executive”! . . .

  4. >> but as you learn more stuff you start to notice patterns and build relationships between those items, which help you to draw conclusions that others see as leaps of faith or moments of inspiration.

    That’s why I recommend that DBA’s take a class in “data structures” and algorithms!

    BTW, I agree with you about teaching. When I was a adjunct professor, I really had to know the stuff, inside and out!

  5. Excellent point about presenting a topic – it sure makes you make sure that you have all your eggs in a duck, so that the audience (usually peers) aren’t able to stump you with a tricky question.

  6. Tim,
    Trust you are fine.
    I concur with you, the difficult thing about learning is there’s no class like “learning to learn” :).

    Warm Regards,
    Vijay Sehgal.

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