Friday, November 2, 2012

Thinking about learning

Think about the moments in your life where you felt that you have learned. Not the events or experiences from which you have learned, but the times where the actual learning occurred. For me, these moments have mostly fallen into one of two broad categories: 1) action and 2) reflection.

The action category focuses on the "what" and the "how" of things. Action is where topical or practical learning takes place. It's well suited for hands-on or skill-based activities or things at which practice is needed in order to improve.

To create action-oriented learning opportunities:
- Approach activities with a learning stance. Sometime the easiest way to create a learning opportunity is to simply pause for a moment to consciously engage from the perspective of a learner.

- Perform new activities. Obviously if you are doing something new you are probably going to learn something.

- Use new tools or methods. Doing the same activity in a new way can provide opportunities to learn more about the activity.

The reflection category focuses on the "why" of things. Reflection allows for deeper learning and eventual mastery of a subject. It gives us the ability to soak in the subtleties and nuance within a subject area as well sense patterns and connections between (sometimes seemingly unrelated) subject areas. Enough reflection eventually allows us to determine principles, establish values and helps us create new mental models.

To create reflection-oriented learning opportunities:
- Create a time and space suitable for analysis and introspection. Reflection can't be rushed or squeezed in. You also have to create a time and space that is compatible with your learning style and personality.

- Get routine exposure to new ideas and experiences. While you can certainly learn by reflecting on your routine activities and experiences adding to these only enhances the process. New hobbies, roles, activities, books, classes…whatever…all add another node in the network to use for reflection.

The last thing to point out is that these two categories, action and reflection, should find some sort of equilibrium that works for you. Certainly, just thinking about how and when you learn can help. However, taking some time to understand how you learn and types of learning may help even more.

1 comment:

  1. Nice! Sometimes you can learn by watching as well :-) (And then mimicking.)