Learning: it is probably one of the most misunderstood and misapplied concepts today.
Many of us assume learning results from attending a class. We believe that our brains are like sponges that just absorb whatever it hears or sees.
We presume that learning is a byproduct of listening to a lecture. We’ve even given names to this type of learning: auditory learning and passive learning. Oh how we’ve deluded ourselves into a false sense of security about learning.
Five Wise Research-Proven Learning Points We Must Comprehend
I bet that you and I both believe that learning is important. It’s a fundamental tool that we all need today.
Here are five fundamental research-proven points about learning we need to appreciate, comprehend, respect and apply.
1. To Be Useful, Learning Requires Memory
If we can’t remember what we’ve learned, what use is it? Not only do we want to help our participants learn new skills or information, we want to help them remember it so they can apply it. We have to find ways to provide triggers, more than just than the traditional handout action plan. Those cognitive triggers, as Dr. Will Thalheimer calls them, are ways to prepare our memory systems as cues for specific learnings and prompts on how to successfully apply them.
2. We Need To Keep Learning And Remembering All Of Our Lives
Our learning should never stop. It is not a drive-by conference or workshop event. Succeeding at work requires a mastery of job skills. And those skills are constantly evolving. So we have to consistently learn, unlearn and relearn. Learning is not something that stops once we leave school. It is something we must do for the remainder of our lives. And if you’re good at learning, you’ll have an advantage in life.
3. Learning Is An Acquired Skill
Just like playing the guitar, baking a cake or hitting a homerun, learning is an acquired skill. It is something we can attain through understanding, practice and application. It is not a byproduct of sitting in a class. Nor is it the byproduct of attentively listening to someone else tell you how to do something. It requires thinking, connecting, sense-making and application. To improve your mastery of a job or hobby, we’ve got to become better learners. That requires metacognition, an understanding of our own thinking processes as well as meta learning—an awareness and understanding of the process of learning itself instead of just knowledge.
4. The Most Effective Learning Strategies Are Counterintuitive
As the authors of Make It Stick: The Science Of Successful Learning point out, most of what we think about how we learn is actually wrong. We are really poor judges of when we’ve learned something and when we haven’t. For example, many of us believe that reading and rereading as well as rote practice, are effective learning strategies. However, the authors cite research that proves they are some of the least effective tactics. Similarly many of us get frustrated when learning is hard. We want easy learning. However learning should make us wrestle with our current beliefs. The more difficult learning is, the more effort it takes to master it and the more we are going to remember it.
5. Critical To Our Success Is Learning, Unlearning And Relearning
One of the hardest things you’ll have to do to be successful in the future, is unlearning. If you’ve always done something the same way in the past, the brain thinks that’s the only way to do it in the future. You’ll have to unlearn past successes to be successful in the future.
Which of these five do you need to work on personally? Which of these five does your organization need to work on in their learning offerings?