Breaking down your learning

It is important to set specific targets for your learning. To be a successful learner and achieve these targets, one of the key attributes you need is the ability to divide your learning into manageable, bite-sized chunks. "Breaking learning down into a series of hows" is how Peter Honey and I describe this skill.

This involves you in interrogating what it is you want to learn and breaking it down into appropriate chunks. Different aspects of it may then need different approaches. As the metaphor of interrogation suggests, you need to ask yourself some difficult questions. There are a number of techniques which may be helpful here.

Zooming in

This is an expression coined by Dr. Javier Bajer, chief executive of the Talent Foundation. It describes the process of putting learning under the microscope by progressively increasing the magnification so that you see more and more of what is involved in the learning. So, if you are thinking about learning to drive a car, you might start by seeing a car moving safely down the road with you as its driver. With a little more magnification, you might see a driving school and yourself sitting in a car being taught. Then, it might be a picture of your monthly diary showing your planned lessons and practice sessions. The next layer might show you in the car practicing reversing the car into a small parking space, and so on.

Naming the parts

Another technique, widely used in training, involves sticky labels. Get a large piece of paper of the kind that you have on a flipchart. Arm yourself with a pile of sticky labels. Think about the learning in which you are involved. Imagine your learning is a kind of machine and try and break it down into its constituent parts. Using the example of the car again, this could mean you writing down on your labels things like:

Learning to signal Learning to park Overcoming my fear

Using the mirror Understanding road signs Moving steadily

When you have done this, stick all the labels on to your paper and stand back. Now, see if you can group them together into helpful categories. Then work out what kind of approach you need to take with each group.

A useful prompt in this activity is to ask yourself questions beginning with who, what, where, why, when, and how.

Writing the recipe

You might like to see if you could describe your learning in terms of a recipe. For driving a car, your recipe could deal with the skills you need to learn to become competent, learning to start, changing gear, turning corners, etc. Or, it might be that you prefer to think of it consecutively in the way that a food recipe does:

Find a car

Find a driving school Book a course of lessons Arrange for practice sessions Etc.

Whatever your chosen technique, with learning as with life, you need to be able to break down any task into achievable sections or chunks, to understand the series of "hows" you need to master.

How To Accomplish More In A Fraction Of The Time

How To Accomplish More In A Fraction Of The Time

The pace and intensity of our lives, both at work and at home, leave several of us feeling like a person riding a frantically galloping horse. Our day-to-day incessant busyness too much to do and not enough time; the pressure to produce and check off items on our to-do list by each day’s end seems to decide the direction and quality of our existence for us.

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