Wednesday, November 23, 2005

      How To Learn Effectively (Part 2)?

Earlier, I had blogged about effective learning. Life-long learning is a very critical skill in today's world, in order to stay relevant, competitive and for life-long employability. I am currently reading the book "Accelerated Learning for the 21ST Century" by Colin Rose, Malcom J. Nicholl. It advocates a 6 steps 'M-A-S-T-E-R' plan for accelerated learning as follows:

  1. Motivate Yourself for Learning - In order to learn effectively, we must first be motivated to acquired the knowledge. We must see that the knowledge in concern is relevant, useful, or beneficial to us. The question WII-FM (What's In It For Me?) can be used to judge the level of motivation for the learning task at hand.

  2. Acquire The Information - This is the process of gaining the 'raw' information. There are generally 3 methods of acquiring information (remember V-A-K), and each works for different people and under different cirumstances. Find the method which works best for you as follows:
    1. Visual - Using sight as the primary means of acquiring information. Examples includes reading, watching a demostration.
    2. Auditory - Using hearing as the primary means of acqiring information. Examples includes attending seminar, listening to tapes/CDs, listening to experiences of other people.
    3. Kinesthetics - Using physical and emotional experiences as the primary means of acquiring information. Examples includes coding tutorials, basketball drills practices etc.

  3. Search for the Meaning - Personally, I feel this is a VERY important part of the learning process. It means that we must make sense out of the information acquired, rather than to 'dead memorise' the facts. By memorising facts only, chances are that we will very soon forget them. As it is very hard to remember isolated facts, such as dates in history. The recommended way is to associate new information to current knowledge pool (this is the context of learning), and to build onto knowledge from there. The key is to "understand" how the new information fits into the context and what new knowledge can be derived.

    For example, in project management, it is taught that stakeholders' involvement are very important (facts). Think if there was any experiences in which a project failed due to poor stakeholders involvement. Recall the misunderstandings that resulted from the lack of communications between stakeholders, and requirements that did not match expectations (associating facts with current knowledge). Think of how involving stakeholders could have avoided many misunderstanding and how you would do better the next time (deriving new knowledge).

    This is the reason why people who fare well in rote learning and MCQ tests, may not necessarily do well in practical applications. A lot of these tests ability to memorises facts, not applications. Scenario-based questions instead test the applications of knowledge.

  4. Trigger the Memory - This involves many memory techniques used to remember knowledge gained so that they can be recalled when required at later time. The M-A-S-T-E-R mnemomics to remember these 6 steps is one such example. Mind mapping is another example.

  5. Exhibit your Knowledge - A key to retaining knowledge is to use it often. We should find opportunities to exercise the knowledge gained, such as real-life applications at work. However, it can also include discussing with people what was learned, teaching someone else etc. In terms of knowledge, it is said 'use it, or lose it'.

    One method which I find very useful is to rephrase what was learn in our own words. This exercise tests our understanding of what was learnt, and also the ability to output the knowledge for application. Very often, learning via input of information alone is less effective than input coupled with output (that is why I am writing this blog entry, ha...). Don't be surprise to think you have learnt, only to find that you can't explain what was learnt in your own words.

  6. Review on the Learning Process - Reflect on the how learning was done. It is important WHAT was learnt. Yet it is equally important to think about HOW the learning was achieved. Is it effective? Can it be more effective next time?


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