Inspired by Coursera ‘Learning How to Learn Course’ by Barbara Oakley and Terry Sejnowski (University of California, San Diego)
We learn something new every day dealing with a new task at work, taking courses, or developing new skills. Learning helps us do various tasks better.
However sometimes we learn ineffectively. At school some teachers made me memorize maths’ problem solving, trigonometry, or physics equations by heart. I was great at tests, but after 15 years I can hardly remember any of the equations or the context where they could be used.
In the ‘Learning How to Learn’ course Barbara Oakley and Terry Sejnowski talk about our brain processes and the most useful ways to learn new things. The final assignment requires the students to demonstrate to both themselves and others how much they have learned. For this purpose I prepared this outline of basic tips for enhancing learning.
In order to be better learners we should sleep well. It’s essential as far as the brain cleans itself while sleeping and builds new synapses, connections between neurons.
Then we should exercise regularly. Physical activity helps to enlarge the number of neurons in our brain, thus it works better at acquiring and understanding new material. The more neurons and synapses in the brain, the better for us.
Procrastination is a habit that is evoked as a response to a new task. The feelings we have in such situations are similar to those that we feel when experiencing pain. It prevents us from learning new things, making big projects, and living a more pleasing life.
As a habit procrastination has four parts. To overcome this state we should change any of its parts:
The other way to combat procrastination is to focus on process not product.
|I should write that very-very-huge article with all that interactive-.html-something-that-I-must-figure-out.||I just draft the plan for this page text for 30 mins and see what happens next.|
Describing it in simplistic terms, we have working memory and long-term memory, a mental blackboard and a warehouse storage, respectively. Working memory cannot process more than four pieces of information at once. In order to use it effectively, consider the following recommendations:
Put it simply, there are two modes of thinking. Focused mode involves a direct approach to problem-solving using rational, sequential, and analytical skills. Diffused mode is what happens when you relax your attention and let you mind wander.
When you learn something new your brain should go back and forth between these modes. So learning is like bodybuilding — it takes time and impossible to accomplish over night. That’s why it is a good idea to alternate between leisure- and working-time hours.
CChunks are mental leaps that unite unknown information together via meaning. It is like our brain slices new information into edible pieces.
To build a chunk we need:
Chunks form bigger chunks that build chunk libraries. The bigger our chunk library, the easily and creatively we are learning new things and solving problems.
Worked-out examples help to form chunks. But we shouldn’t just look at examples, it creates the illusions of competence. It is obligatory to practice ourselves.
The most essential skills in our lives we have mastered by practice: how to walk, to write, to speak, and to think. Practicing is the way to learn how to do just about anything important. So we should consider the following ideas:
Denis Frolov on July, 16, 2017. Updated in October, 2017.