How do we learn?
There are two things I want to share with you today on learning.
First is that there are four stages to learning.
What they don’t teach you in grade school
How to think
The basis for learning in our schools is based on rote memorization. We are not taught how to utilize the information we learn so that we can think and apply our knowledge in all areas of life.
How to learn
Nobody teaches you how to learn. Teachers just keep asking you to memorize pieces of information, with the hopes that one day you will be able to integrate it all and have usefull knowledge. The problem is that you are busy memorizing, and you have no relativity for why you are learning. Therefore, you don’t file this information in the right place. Then, when you do need it later in your life, you are not able to retrieve this knowledge.
Four levels of learning
In learning anything, we go through stages.
- First, we look at the activity and say “I can do that.”
Unconscious Incompetence = You don’t know that you don’t know!
- Then we try to do it. That’s when we realize that we don’t know what we are doing, and we are probably in trouble in trying to perform the activity.
Conscious Incompetence = You know that you don’t know!
THIS IS WHERE MOST ADULTS STOP WITH NEW ACTIVITIES!
- As we continue to learn/practice/ rehearse the activity, we realize we can do it.
Conscious Competence = You know that you know!
- Then we reach a point where we are just doing it, and it is as natural as eating, driving a car, riding a bicycle, or any activity that we do just by habit, without thinking.
Unconscious Competence = You don’t know you know!
At this stage you are doing things automatically. You have the knowledge to respond with a conditioned response — Like an Auto-Pilot response.
Learning can be simplified into two steps:
- Being exposed to knowledge or information
- Retrieving that knowledge
We say that “I learned that in high school.” We were exposed to that information in high school, but we also filed it somewhere we could retrieve the information on demand.
If you knew that an orange was a piece of fruit, but you didn’t know it was citrus, someone could ask you to name a citrus fruit, and you couldn’t name an orange — not because you didn’t know what an orange was, but because nobody gave you a cross-reference for retrieving that knowledge. Or the teacher may have given you the cross-reference information without any basis for teaching you this, so you elected not to keep it available as useful information.
Second is that there are two types of learners.
Learn more than one part of the puzzle at a time
When we are in grade school, we are taught to learn step one first completely. Then we can move on to step two, and learn that completely. We continue with learning each step one at a time until we have learned all the steps. Unless we consciously change this method of learning, we continue to use this method throughout our adulthood. This method can be called ‘stringer’ learning. (Success Magazine, 1980)
When you learned to put your first large jigsaw puzzle together, you were taught to put the outside edge together first, to build yourself a frame, or a base. Then you start putting small inside sections together until the puzzle is complete, and you can see the total picture. You didn’t start with the upper left corner and keep trying pieces until you got to the lower right corner, building it in a sequence. You jumped around and started to see pieces of the big picture until it finally all came together.
This method can be applied to learning, and is called ‘grouper’ learning. You create groups of knowledge, and then finally link them all together to create the big picture. Sometimes, you can get a good feel for the big picture before all the pieces are all in place.