Something to reflect on: what is the best way to learn?
No matter how much or how little you have studied in the past, you have experience of learning and as such will no doubt have an opinion as to the best way to learn. You may find that a quiet room is the best environment, or you may like the library, or a coffee shop with earphones plugged in to block out the background noise. Hopefully you will agree that there is no one-size fits all answer when it comes to the physical conditions.
So how about the technique of learning? Is there a ‘right way’?
It’s a question we’re often asked and a topic that we have written on before. Here are 3 recent examples:
The reason we continue writing on this theme is simple. There is no simple answer because different people respond to different techniques. However, there are tactics that can be employed to give yourself a better than average chance of turning knowledge gathering into understanding.
In this post we want to propose a method called Reflective Learning, or Reflective Practice. This is of particular relevance to those people looking at professional development, as the focus is on learning and improving from trying and doing.
These days, it is fashionable to talk about ‘flow’, a state of mind in which you find yourself happy because you are able to carry out an activity without finding it too challenging or easy. You become absorbed in the task, losing awareness of outside distractions and even forgetting the time. But there’s a risk that this ‘flow’ becomes complacency and a desire to only tackle activities which match your skills. In other words, flow can be another word for ‘staying in your comfort zone’.
TRUE OR FALSE: When you’re learning a new skill, or aiming to improve a skill, you should aim to get all practice questions correct?
Did you answer true? You’re not stretching yourself enough… Don’t worry about getting things wrong, it shows you’re trying; it shows you’re willing to learn. We suggest that you aim to get 3 out of 10 practices wrong. Then reflect on what you did and didn’t get right. Use this reflection as a means to building your understanding and then try again. If you’re getting more than 5 wrong then you may need to ease off a little and build your skills up to the level you’re struggling with.
Reflecting on exercises doesn’t mean just finding out what the correct answer is. Try and think about the task you attempted in the context of your previous experiences and use this chance to build a new layer on your knowledge.
Reflecting can be an opportunity to collaborate with peers or mentors. Explain what you think you got wrong and ask for advice and if you’re able to offer support to others in the same way then so much the better.