Learnacy

WHEN MOST PEOPLE THINK ABOUT LEARNING, THEY THINK THEMSELVES straight into the thick of a learning experience. But you know better! You have seen how your mind needs to be powered up before you start learning. You know you have to have a broader understanding of learnacy, or how you learn to learn.

Let's suppose that you are ready and switched on to learn. How can you improve the way you use your mind? How can you ensure that you become a competent learner? Now that you understand the basic information about your brain and why it is easy to waste your effort if you are not in the right frame of mind and eager to start, this part of the book contains a few of the answers and some of the key techniques.

And when you have finished this part, "Go For It," turn to Part III. Just as it was important to get ready beforehand, so it is essential that you get steady, becoming able to change and adapt the way you do things after you have learned something. In this way, you will be using your mind more effectively.

It is possible to take a reductionist view of learning that assumes that it is simply the sum of a few techniques and skills. However, this is clearly not the case. Learning is complex, slippery stuff. As you will have seen from the earlier chapters, the techniques are only a small part of the story. If learning were an iceberg, then the techniques would be the visible bit above the surface. What lies below the water, the emotional and psychological self-understanding that we have been exploring and the areas still to come, would be the solid bulk of the ice hidden from most people's sight. You will see how this is the case when I explain, on page 82, that the old "3Rs" that many of us grew up with at school are no longer as relevant in today's world. In particular, you will see how two of the new "5Rs," Reflecting and Responsiveness, come after what is normally thought of as learning, and are dealt with in Part III.

Once you come to that moment when you are consciously ready to start learning, when you realize that you want to do something but can't, you need to go through a number of stages to achieve competency in your chosen area.

Take the example of driving a car. To begin with, you do not even know that you want to learn how to drive a car. Then, you become conscious that you can't do something you want to do. Perhaps as a teenager you watched one of your parents driving and begun to wonder what it would be like. Or you had an elder brother or sister who seemed to be having more fun than you because they knew how to drive.

So, you learn how to do it but remain very conscious of how you undertake every aspect of the task, painfully looking in the mirror, signaling, and then maneuvering out into the road in a very mechanical way and going forward and backward as you attempt to reverse the car into a small parking space. Finally, you can do everything without even being aware of what you are doing. You can drive along changing gear, instinctively looking in your mirror from time to time and chatting as you do so.

In other words, you have gone full circle from not being aware that you were an incompetent driver to being competent, so skilled that you don't even notice what you are doing. Most commentators agree that the process looks like this:

Unconscious incompetence

Conscious incompetence n

Conscious competence c

Unconscious competence

This process is at the heart of learnacy and learning to learn. Recently, Dr. Peter Honey and I have set about trying to work out what the key skills of learning to learn are.

As far as we know, no one has systematically tried to explore and define this area, despite growing interest in it. To do so, we asked a number of people interested in learning what they thought were the key elements of this big and difficult concept. Then, we conducted a survey among a much larger group and asked them to rank the elements in order of importance. The results were fascinating. Respondents told us that the 30 listed below were either critical or very important to them:

Rank

Identifying how much of your learning is solitary and how

%

much collaborative

85.9

2

Choosing to learn online

85.3

3

Using media or books about learning

85.3

4

Planning to use a particular medium and then trying it out

84.1

5

Consciously modeling or imitating others

82.4

6

Distinguishing between formal and informal learning experiences

81.8

7

Keeping a written record of your learning

81.8

8

Practicing or strengthening underutilized styles

81.8

9

Identifying how much of your learning is passive versus active

81.2

10

Finding out how other people learn

81.2

11

Breaking learning into a series of "hows"

80.6

12

Continually seeking to add new learning techniques to your

repertoire from all possible sources

80.0

13

Identifying how much of your learning is absorbing facts or

information versus experiences or trial and error

80.0

14

Persisting with new learning methods or techniques until they

become easier

80.0

15

Habitually exploring how you learn

78.8

16

Pondering the different feelings, pleasant and unpleasant,

triggered by different learning experiences

78.2

18

Focusing on developing your preferred learning style(s) Experimenting, on a trial and error basis, with different ways

77.6

of learning

77.6

19

Deliberately choosing challenging learning options

77.6

20

Using mind maps or spider diagrams

75.9

21

Consciously using a learning model, for example, the learning

cycle or the idea of multiple intelligences

75.9

22

Pondering your motives for learning, the original ones and the

ones that keep you going

75.9

23

Using techniques to activate your memory

74.4

24

Using a variety of study skills or techniques

74.7

Rank

Description

%

25

Understanding the different roles played by people when

learning together

74.1

26

Getting in touch with the feelings or emotions that suffuse

learning

72.4

27

Answering the question,"How can I improve the way that I

learn?"

72.4

28

Learning from people who do it differently

70.0

29

Accepting accidental, unplanned experiences and working out

how they contribute to your learning

70.0

30

Undertaking activities to strengthen learning skills and/or

overcome weaknesses

70.0

Source: Peter Honey and Bill Lucas

Source: Peter Honey and Bill Lucas

We were surprised at the high level of consensus that this survey showed.

What do you think? Do you agree with this selection? Are there any techniques that you use A in developing your own learning that are not listed here? Is there anything on this list that surprised you? How many of these techniques do you feel you have as part of the resources you use as a learner?

If you look at these 30 skills, they fall into three broad categories: understanding yourself as a learner, learning to use new techniques, and learning about learning.

How To Accomplish More In A Fraction Of The Time

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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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