Taking steps to Improve Learning Process

How do you learn?  What is learning, really?  Learning is acquiring a tool that allows you to do a task.  You learn arithmetic so that you have the tool to balance your checkbook or figure out the price per ounce at the grocery store.  You learn English grammar so that you have a tool to write and speak clearly.  You combine tools to make a process.  You learn a new process that gives you the tool to start your car, back it out of the drive way and get to where you want to go with a minimum of traffic tickets.  The older you get, the more processes and the more involved processes you learn.  But, and here is the most important question, how do you learn?  Some processes, like advanced math at MIT, take pages and pages of processes.  Some processes, like cooking an omelet, are short and require a physical skill with acuity to recognize certain stages of the process and when to continue.  (That sounds rather complicated doesn’t it!  Well, are the eggs mixed well enough?  Is the cooking surface the right temperature?  What kind of cooking surface do you have–does it require some type of fat to keep the eggs from sticking?  What kind of cheese is it–quick melting or slow melting?  Is the omelet ready to turn?  Are the inside ingredients hot?  So though there aren’t many steps in this process, it takes practice and experience to recognize what the next step is and when it should occur.)

If you take education courses, you learn how to teach.  Well, you learn a process of teaching.  1st you set a goal, then a set of objectives to reach that goal, then you check the progress of the student at each milestone in the objectives and finally the student reaches the goal.  There are many classes that work with the theory of learning.  Babies learn by imitation, then by association.  “Ba baba baabababa!  Baba. Baa?”  and the baby is thinking, “oooooh  I can make sounds and the parental units seem pleased.  They also make sounds!  We can make sounds together!”  The baby learns about personal space by expanding his reach… rolling over, scooting, crawling, toddling.  “What does this taste like?  What  does that taste like?  The parental units keep pulling things out of my mouth.  I wonder what that tastes like?”  Then there is the 1st “No.”  They associate “no” with something that parents take away, or something that causes the parents to remove the baby to another place in the area.  “Sometimes when they don’t see me, I do the no thing anyway.  It tastes/feels awful!  I cry!  I like the word, “no” though.  It means that everything else is “yes” and I just go until they tell me to stop.”  Someone did a study that suggested that kids here the word “NO” 400 times a day in their 1st year.  Or about 48,000 times in their 1st year.  Well that comes to 4 months, so they don’t start hearing the word No until they’re mobile.  What are parents trying to teach their babies?  Associate the word “no” with danger.  It is not an easy concept, but it is the 1st concept we teach.  What if we only used the word “no” with actually dangerous situations, and used the word “ew” for when they throw their food, or kiss the dog, or play in the flour?  Would the concept of danger be more easily understood by the baby then?

As we develop, we begin to assume a favorite style of learning.  Some learn by hearing, some by seeing pictures, some by reading, some by doing, but everyone learns basic tools somehow.  When teachers present new material, they will naturally use the tool most efficient for dispersing information to the largest number of students at the same time, speech.  The students listen attentively and take notes.  Do all children write the same speed?  No?  Then how do all students get the pertinent information?  Wouldn’t it be better to teach the children a process they can use over and over and over again to best results?

Tomorrow I will introduce that very process!

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