Taking steps Toward Improving the Learning Process

THE METHOD.  I know you’re all anxious to know what it is.  And I’ll get to it in a minute.  How do we know where to begin when we’re learning something new?  Start at the beginning?  What if you don’t know where the beginning is?  Try it and see how it goes?  Ever try to put together a child’s toy where all the directions are in mangled transliterated Chinese?  Try to reverse engineer from the end product? “I think, if I enter all the things into the database, and then move the categories around, it’s supposed to look like a mailing label…why does it look like one of the dead sea scrolls?”  Amy’s beginning point on a project will not be the same as Zelda’s.  Why is that?  Amy learns differently than Zelda.  So how can 1 method address the different starting points?  The 1st step.

Step 1:  Determine what you know.

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Have you ever seen this situation before?
  2. Have you ever used these tools before?
  3. Do you recognize some of the components?
  4. Is the procedure similar to anything you’ve done before?
  5. Have you watched someone do or use this new thing before?

I’m going to use a musical illustration.  Brand new song to learn on the piano, what’s the 1st thing you look at?  What key is it in? Is it major or minor? Have you played in this key before?  Do you know the scale?  What is the time signature?  Have you played in that time signature before?  Does it introduce new notes?  Analyze the chord progression.  Are there any chords you don’t recognize?  Look at the composer.  Have you played anything by that composer before?  Are there new rhythms you haven’t encountered before?  Are there unusual fingerings?  Do the L and R hands have to change position frequently?  Are there melodic or harmonic patterns you can recognize?  What musical form is it?

Here’s a mathematical illustration.  Word problems are fun.  Say that to yourself over and over again…  *grins*  Look at the problem.  Not the paragraph, the problem.  Everyone looks at the beginning of the paragraph.  That’s not where the problem is.  You look confused.  The problem in a word problem is the very last question.  How many oranges does Jimmy have to produce to become independently wealthy?  Which person lives in the green house?  How fast is the foul ball traveling when it hits you?  Looking at the last question will give you the parameters you need.  Many times, especially in tests, they give you more information than you need for the express purpose of confusing you. Now you do your analysis.  Have you worked a problem like this before?  What are the basic facts you need to solve a problem like that?  How is the answer to be measured– number of oranges? meters/second? the name of the person to be placed in the green house?  Does this require more steps than the last problem that you did like this?

Here’s a basketball illustration.  You are the coach.  Your players have problems with a man to man coverage.  They tend to follow the guy they’re guarding and cannot react quickly enough to put themselves between the ball and the basket or the ball and the player the offensive player is attempting to pass to.  Did they do a drill that helped keep the guys moving quickly and change directions faster in college?  Do they need to increase their speed? agility? or is it a concept problem–they don’t understand how a man to man defense works.  Maybe it’s an eye/foot coordination challenge.  Once you know what the problem is, then you can go about the next step.

In all of these situations, the 1st thing you do is find your particular starting point.  It’s like the old joke.  “Dad?  Do you know where you’re going?”  “Yes of course!”  Then the wife asks, “Honey?  do you know where you are?”  “Oh, well that’s a completely different question.”  Knowing where you are going is good, but you have to know where you’re starting in order to go the right direction.

Tomorrow, step 2.

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