Usually, when I observe or experience training of another kind, the instructor is giving good, even amazing ideas to the students. However, it is often unfortunate that their manner of teaching it could be so much better.
We may judge a good learning experience, not just by what is being taught, but also by how it is being taught. There is a lot of good information out there in live learning experienced, but not necessarily delivered well. So often, in schoolroom lectures, sermons in churches, trainers giving technical instruction, or in parents giving correction or advice, the manner of giving it is for the convenience of the teacher, not for the convenience of the learner, not with sensitivity to how people actually learn things. The main critique I would want to offer is that too much is given at once, and it is not given in a sensible order, and then too much is expected of the student too soon.
First, there are universal principles for how humans learn. For each skill, whether more cognitive (intellectual) or more kinestetic or more emotional, there are things we must understand about how that domain of the body best approaches, absorbs, retains and automates the skill.
Then, there are age, social, cultural or gender-specific characteristics that we should be sensitive to.
Then, there are a variety of personality and learning styles. The more a teacher can sense the unique characteristics of his audience that are layered upon the universal ones, he is in much better position to provide a more effective and satisfying learning experience.
Some Of The Principles
For every person being taught…
There is a pace at which they need to receive the information- not too slow and not too fast.
There is a capacity limit for how much they can handle in set – just like muscles fatigue and need a short rest, so does attention. The more new and complex the information, the sooner the student will fatigue. There is a limit to how much can be received in total in a whole session.
There is an optimal size of the package of information. Big skills can be subdivided into smaller skills, which can be further subdivided into micro-skills. When a student struggles too much with a particular instruction, it can be broken down into smaller, more bite-size pieces.
There is a sequence that skills should be taken on. There are preliminary skills that must be in place first, because later skills are dependent upon them.
There is the need for choice and agency. When the student feels they have choices in what and how they learn it, when there is some sense of control over the process, there is a sense of ownership and a higher level of attention and retention.
There is a need for challenge, struggle, error, feedback and self-correction. The student must be challenged, must be allowed to fail, must sense it himself and attempt various ways of fixing it. The brain needs this in order to map that skill and strengthen it.
There is time needed for integration. Like the process of eating and digesting food, the student needs to take on just a portion of the skills, take time and frequent practice to grasp, organize and retain them. He has to chew and digest what he’s got right now, before being ready to bite into the next portion.
There is a process for automaticity. It will take thousands and thousands of successful, mindful repetitions of an action, under varied conditions and increasing challenge and distraction, before that package of skills are made automatic in their neuro-muscular system and made resilient to high stress and fatigue.
Once you learn how to learn in this way, you are in a powerful position to teach yourself so many more things. You can learn-how-to-learn in one domain and take that self-learning-skill into another. How you practice you swimming can be transferred over to how you practice another sport, or a new language or learning how to write code.
Or you may take what you are being taught by someone else, and improve the learning process for yourself. Especially, when you are part of a class or learning group where things are delivered one way for everyone, you may appreciate having the understanding of an effective learning process and an understanding of how you personally need to learn things in order to take what’s given to you and set things up to make it more digestible, at least for yourself. You might even find other students coming to you for help because you obviously know how to learn things.
Kids learning to do tricks on a skateboard is probably one of the best, natural examples of organic self and social learning. It’s incredibly popular and has stuck and spread world-wide for at least 2 generations now. Maybe the fact that it is a learning process that is principled by instinct, yet largely uncontrolled, un-formalized and strongly self-motivated has something to do with that.
What if you practiced your favorite sport like skateboarders do?