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Published on December 23, 2019

The 3 Stages of Learning That Help You Learn Effectively

The 3 Stages of Learning That Help You Learn Effectively

We’re learning every day of our life from the moment we are born. Without realizing it, we’ve been employing at least one of the 3 stages of learning to gain knowledge actually: cognitive learning, associative learning or autonomous learning.

Each of these stages of learning is very different from the other. These stages can be taken progressively, where one stage comes before the other, or individually where each is a complete learning methodology on its own. In any situation that involves learning opportunities, a person looking to acquire knowledge makes a subconscious decision to gain it a certain way, based on any one or a combination of the three stages mentioned above.

If you want to learn faster, it is important that you know which stage of learning you’re currently at and what steps to take next to advance to the next stage of learning.

Stage 1: Cognitive Learning

Cognitive learning works towards developing an overall understanding of skills. It engages students in the learning process, getting them to use their brain more effectively to make new connections from knowledge already stored in their mind. It improves comprehension, helps develop problem solving skills and promotes long-term learning.

This can also be considered the first stage of learning where the learner observes and listens and makes connections based on knowledge he has already gained. This knowledge could have been acquired through conscious or subconscious learning.

Knowledge in the cognitive stage can be acquired through any of the following methods:

Implicit Learning

It takes place when the learner is unaware of the fact that they’re actually learning. It does not involve specific instructions, rather, it happens with verbal and visual cues and usually takes place in a social setting.

A child learning to speak is an example of knowledge gained implicitly: in a social setting without being taught by an instructor.

This type of learning is retained well over years and is resistant to psychological changes in people. It is better for skill reproduction and is independent of age and IQ.

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Explicit Learning

It happens when a person actively seeks out opportunities to learn. This may or may not involve a teacher. This also requires verbal and visual cues.

A good example of this type of learning would be learning to ride a bicycle. The person wanting to ride the bicycle may attempt to learn on their own, mimic the actions of another person (visual cues) or may ask for instructions from someone who already knows how to do so (verbal cues).

Explicit learning conditions the brain to solve problems and learn new concepts.

Collaborative Learning

It is the type of learning most commonly used in educational institutes. It involves varying degrees of collaboration between the learner, the instructor and other students.

An instructor provides knowledge and helps students make sense of it. The students are then asked to discuss the newly acquired information, connect it to knowledge gained earlier and use it in coursework.

Collaborative learning increases higher-level thinking, verbal communication and leadership skills in a student while promoting self-esteem, acceptance of differing views and student-teacher and student-peer interactions.

Co-operative Learning

It is structured in a way that students have to interact with each other and the instructor – where instructions are followed and best skills and qualities are observed and learned.

Co-operative learning is best observed in an environment where practical knowledge is also gained. Playing fields and science laboratories are good examples of co-operative learning settings.

This type of cognitive learning helps increase retention power and self-confidence and build relationships. It offers opportunities for social support and helps improve attitude and tolerance towards authority and even those who are different to others.

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Observational Learning

Observational learning is the acquisition of knowledge through observation and imitation of others.

It is an effective learning methodology as it makes learning an enjoyable activity, encourages social interactions, enhances memory and influences mannerisms.

Albert Bandura proved the effectiveness of observational learning with his Bobo Doll experiment where children who saw an adult hitting the doll hit it too. Those children that did not see the Bobo Doll being hit did not hit it either.

This type of learning can be positive, such as learning compassion and sportsmanship or negative such as learning to fear snakes or spiders just because someone around us is afraid of them.

Learn more about observational learning in this article: How to Use Observational Learning to Learn Effectively

Meaningful Learning

Meaningful learning happens when a concept has been understood fully and is being applied in practice. It is a goal-oriented method of acquiring knowledge, and is the opposite of rote learning.

A good example of this style of learning would be a chemistry student who learns in class that mixing certain chemicals will result in an explosive reaction. This knowledge will stop him from mixing those chemicals in the lab.

Meaningful learning is a durable style of learning as it requires linking of new information to previously acquired knowledge. It is constructive and encourages learning through different techniques.

Like cognitive learning, the next stage of learning can also be taken as an independent methodology or as the second step of a three-phase learning system.

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Stage 2: Associative Learning

Associative learning is where the brain is conditioned to learn or modify responses taking into consideration stimuli offered. This type of learning occurs when new and old information can be linked to each other, giving weight to the theory that ideas and experience reinforce each other.

Associative learning emphasizes acquiring knowledge from the environment and reinforces optimal behavior. It conditions the brain to expect consequences and make decisions based on these expected outcomes. Let’s take a look at the different conditioning of associative learning:

Classical Conditioning

It is a form of associative learning where the brain is trained to associate a certain desired consequence to an action.[1]

At school, it could be extra time for games if the students finish assignments in advance, while in an office it could be a cash bonus if employees meet their targets. In a home environment, it could be extra screen time for kids when they finish chores.

Classical conditioning emphasizes learning from our environment and nurtures critical thinking. It can help to modify undesirable characteristics in the learner and can be used to help overcome phobias.

Operant Conditioning

Operant condition is the idea that certain actions will result in reward or punishment. This type of conditioning offers an easy way to learn new lessons.

The mind can be trained to expect a reward for every book finished (homework pass) or punishment for coming late to school (detention).

This article Positive Motivation vs Negative Motivation: Which One is Better explains the concept of associative learning in the light of positive and negative consequences.

Extinctive Conditioning

Extinctive conditioning is when the brain is trained to not expect a previously expected response when certain conditions are not met. A comedian scrapping jokes that don’t elicit laughter anymore is a good example of extinctive conditioning.

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You can use this type of mind conditioning to modify existing behavior which may be undesirable.

Discriminative Conditioning

Discriminative conditioning is when the brain is trained to reliably expect a certain outcome to a stimulus.

An example of this would be training a dog to jump at the command “jump” and not when commanded to “sit”, “stay” or “heel”.

Moving on from associative learning, we come to the third stage – and if going step-by-step the final stage – of learning, this is the one that gives a learner the most freedom.

Stage 3: Autonomous Learning

At this stage of learning, learners gain knowledge through independent efforts and develop an ability to inquire and evaluate away from teachers and peers influence. Teachers or mentors here are not the instructors, but facilitators.[2]

Learners at this stage have enough knowledge and the power to control their learning. They are looking for sources that will help them make decisions based on their own understanding of the matter.

Also, learners are responsible for setting targets and goals, and making sure their understanding is clear in order to achieve the learning targets.

Autonomous learning motivates learners to learn on their own will. They have the freedom to plan, execute their own learning plan and create strategies to achieve their goals. They are aware of their learning style and can self-evaluate.

Bottom Line

Each stage of learning is crucial in its own way. The 3 stages of learning — Cognitive learning, associative learning and autonomous learning are proven successful. If you combine and use them as a progressive way to acquire knowledge and skills, you can become a lifelong learner and always learn at your own pace.

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Featured photo credit: Avel Chuklanov via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] VeryWellMind: Classical Conditioning Overview
[2] Professor Jack C. Richards: Autonomous Learner

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Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Last Updated on October 5, 2020

How to Use Deliberate Practice to Be Good at Almost Anything

How to Use Deliberate Practice to Be Good at Almost Anything

I first came across the principle of deliberate practice in the book Peak by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool. According to Anders Ericsson,[1]

“Deliberate practice involves stepping outside your comfort zone and trying activities beyond your current abilities.”

What that means is breaking down the skill you want to acquire into separate components and developing your skills, so you master each individual part of the skill. Deliberate practice is not practicing something over and over and not pushing yourself to improve.

In this article, you will discover how you can make deliberate practice work in your everyday life and achieve your goals faster, even when you lack innate talent.

How Deliberate Practice Works in Everyday Life

Imagine you want to become a better presenter. Deliberate practice requires breaking down the presentation into different sections.

For example, you could break down the presentation into the beginning, the middle, and the end. Then, you would work only on the beginning one day. You would practice the tone, the pauses, and even your movement at the beginning of the presentation. On another day, you might practice the transition from beginning to the middle, etc.

The opposite approach would be to mindlessly run through the presentation over and over again until you memorize the script. This type of practice might help you to memorize your script, but you would not necessarily deliver a great presentation. It would likely sound forced and over-practiced instead of dynamic and natural[2].

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Do Lots of Deliberate Practice

    In my teenage years, I was an aspiring middle-distance runner. During the winter months, we ran a lot of long distances on the road as well as cross country. The purpose was to develop our overall stamina and basic strength.

    As the summer approached, we transitioned onto the track and did a lot of 10 X 600 meters with 60 seconds rest between runs. Here, we were working on our speed endurance, a key factor in performing well at middle-distance running.

    Six hundred meters was not my racing distance. I ran 800 and 1,500 meters, but those 10 x 600-meter training sessions were a form of deliberate practice to develop the necessary skills to be able to perform at our best in a crucial part of the race—the middle.

    How to Use Deliberate Practice

    There are specific steps you can take to get good at deliberate practice and achieve a high level of performance for a specific goal.

    1. Break it Down

    Whatever skill you want to acquire, you need to break it down into different parts.

    Imagine you want to become better at writing. You could break down the writing process into creating eye-catching beginnings, strong middles, and inspiring endings.

    If you were to work on the beginning part of the writing process, you could practice different types of introductions. For example, you could try starting with a quote, a detailed description, or a personal story.

    Anything you want to practice can be broken down into smaller steps. Identify them and put them in a list to make sure you stick to the right order of things.

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    2. Create a Schedule

    Now that you know the steps, you should create a schedule to keep yourself motivated. Studies have shown that having a set deadline helps improve motivation by offering feedback on how close or far you are from a goal[3].

    For example, if you want to learn to play the guitar, try scheduling an hour each day to start practicing the chords. You can set yourself a deadline to learn your first song within three months.

    Find what schedule feels doable with the lifestyle you have. This will help you experience continued improvements through purposeful practice.

    3. Get a Coach

    One key part of deliberate practice is toget feedback from teachers or coaches.

    In our writing example, you could ask a friend or a person you know who reads a lot, and ask them what they think of your beginning. Ask them how you could improve it. With the feedback in hand, you can then go back and rewrite the introduction to make it even more eye-catching.

    If you were to develop your presentation skills, you could practice your opening with a colleague or friend you trust, and ask them for feedback. The key is to listen carefully to the feedback and then to go back and fine-tune your practice so you push your skills further.

    If you do not have access to anyone who can provide you with honest feedback, you can video yourself performing your presentation and do a self-critique. It is hard to watch yourself at first, but after you get over the initial shock, you can watch dispassionately and see how you move, sound, and perform.

    Do you use your tone and energy to make it interesting? Are you conveying your message clearly? Are you using too many filler words? All these questions will help you to improve your craft and skills.

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    Earlier this year, one of my communication clients asked me to review and coach his senior leadership team on a presentation they were to give to the CEO of the company, who was visiting Korea. After going through their individual presentations with them, I felt there was no passion, no emotion, no pride in what they had achieved over the previous twelve months.

    Because they had rehearsed their presentation alone with no coaching or feedback, they had focused too much on the script and missed the important energy and passion.

    I advised my clients to look at their scripts and think about what they were proud of and what they were excited about in the coming year. That one, small shift in perspective quickly put the energy and passion into their presentations.

    Getting feedback is an important part of getting the most out of deliberate practice.

    4. Use the Internet to Get Anonymous Feedback

    Another way you can get feedback is to put your writing skills online in the form of a blog post and ask people to give you feedback on your writing style. Or, you could record yourself and upload the video to YouTube. I began a YouTube channel three years ago, and this allowed me to improve my presentation skills through self-analysis.

    I have also received a lot of feedback, both positive and negative, which I reviewed and corrected where I felt the criticisms were justified. An example of this was my introductions to my videos. When I first began, my introductions were long and rambling.

    I received a lot of feedback about this, and I soon shortened them and learned to get straight to the point. It has helped me to sharpen my message.

    Bonus Tip

    The role of deliberate practice is

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    to accelerate your learning skills. With learning languages, for example, traditionally we would buy ourselves a textbook and learn grammar principles and long lists of vocabulary. Once we had some basics learned, we would then practice speaking and writing sentences.

    If you were to apply deliberate practice to your language learning process, you would find someone—preferably a native speaker of your target language—and talk to them. They would correct you and advise you where you can improve your pronunciation and intonation.

    Chris Lonsdale talked about this when he delivered his TEDx Talk on how to learn a language in six months. All the advice he gave in that talk was based on the principles of deliberate practice:

    Final Thoughts

    Whatever it is you want to master and improve your skills at, when you use the power of deliberate practice, you can quickly become better than the average and achieve top performance.

    Developing your skills in the area of communication can give you huge advantages in your workplace. Learning and mastering anything new can give you the skills to stay relevant in your industry.

    As we go through the disruptive changes of the “fourth industrial revolution,” the onus is on you to develop yourself, and engaging in deliberate practice is one way you can give yourself the advantage.

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    Featured photo credit: Elijah M. Henderson via unsplash.com

    Reference

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