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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.

More About Effective Learning

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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Published on January 19, 2021

What Is Learning by Doing And Why Is It Effective?

What Is Learning by Doing And Why Is It Effective?

The list of teaching techniques is ever-expanding as there are multiple ways for us to gain knowledge. As a result, there are multiple techniques out there that leverage those particular skills. One such technique I want to share with you is learning by doing.

This technique has been around for a long time, and it’s a surprisingly effective one thanks to the various perks that come with it. Also called experiential learning, I’ll be sharing with you my knowledge on the subject, what it is deep down, and why it’s such an effective learning tool.

What Is Learning by Doing?

Learning by doing is the simple idea that we are capable of learning more about something when we perform the action.

For example, say you’re looking to play a musical instrument and were wondering how all of them sound and mix. In most other techniques, you’d be playing the instrument all by yourself in a studio. Learning by doing instead gives you a basic understanding of how to play the instrument and puts you up on a stage to play an improvised piece with other musicians.

Another way to think about this is by taking a more active approach to something as opposed to you passively learning about it. The argument is that active engagement provides deeper learning and that it’s okay if you make mistakes as you learn from those as well. This mentality brought forth a new name for this technique: experiential learning.

What Are Its Benefits?

Experimental learning has been around for eons now. It was Aristotle who wrote that “for the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.”

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Over the years, that way of thinking changed and developed and for a time was lost once computers were integrated into schools. It’s only been in recent years where schools have adopted this technique again. It’s clear why teachers are encouraging this as it offers five big benefits.

1. It’s More Engaging and More Memorable

The first benefit is that it’s more engaging and memorable. Since this requires action on your part, you’re not going to be able to weaken your performance. This is big since, traditionally, you’d learn from lectures, books, or articles, and learners could easily read—or not read—the text and walk away with no knowledge at all from it.

When you are forced into a situation where you have to do what you need to learn, it’s easier to remember those things. Every action provides personalized learning experiences, and it’s where motivation is built. That motivation connects to what is learned and felt. It teaches that learning is relevant and meaningful.

Beyond that, this experience allows the opportunity for learners to go through the learning cycle that involves extended effort, mistakes, and reflection, followed by refinement of strategies.

2. It Is More Personal

Stemming from the reason mentioned above, learning by doing offers a personal experience. Referring back to the cycle of effort, mistakes, reflection, and refinement, this cycle is only possible through personal emotions—the motivation and realization of knowledge of a particular topic tying into your values and ideals.

This connection is powerful and thus, offers a richer experience than reading from a book or articles such as this one. That personal connection is more important as it encourages exploration and curiosity from learners.

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If you’ve always wanted to bake a cake or cook a unique dish, you could read up on it or watch a video. Or you could get the ingredients and start going through it all yourself. Even if you make mistakes now, you have a better grasp of what to do for the next time you try it out. You’re also more invested in that since that’s food that you made with the intention of you having it.

3. It Is Community-Connected

Learning by doing involves the world at large rather than sitting alone in your room or a library stuck in a book. Since the whole city is your classroom technically, you’re able to leverage all kinds of things. You’re able to gather local assets and partners and connect local issues to larger global themes.

This leans more into the personal aspect that this technique encourages. You are part of a community, and this form of learning allows you to interact more and make a connection with it—not necessarily with the residents but certainly the environment around it.

4. It’s More Integrated Into People’s Lives

This form of learning is deeply integrated into our lives as well. Deep learning occurs best when learners can apply what they’ve learned in a classroom setting to answer questions around them that they care about.

Even though there is a lot of information out there, people are still always asking “what’s in it for me?” Even when it comes to learning, people will be more interested if they know that what they are learning is vital to their very way of life in some fashion. It’s forgettable if they’re unable to tie knowledge in with personal aspects of their lives. Thus, experiential learning makes the application of knowledge simpler.

5. It Builds Success Skills

The final benefit of learning by doing is that it builds up your skills for success. Learning by doing encourages you to step out of your comfort zone, discover something new, and try things out for the first time. You’re bound to make a mistake or two, but this technique doesn’t shame you for it.

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As a result, learning by doing can build your initiative for new things as well as persistence towards growth and development in a field. This could also lead to team management and collaboration skill growth. These are all vital things in personal growth as we move towards the future.

How to Get Started

While all these perks are helpful for you, how are you going to start? Well, there are several different approaches that you can take with this. Here are some of them that come to mind.

1. Low-Stakes Quizzes

In classroom settings, one way to introduce this technique is to have many low-stakes quizzes. These quizzes aren’t based on assessing one’s performance. Instead, these quizzes are designed to have learners engage with the content and to generate the learned information themselves.

Research shows that this method is an effective learning technique.[1] It allows students to improve their understanding and recall and promotes the “transfer” of knowledge to other settings.

2. Type of Mental Doing

Another approach is one that Psychologist Rich Mayer put together. According to him, learning is a generative activity.[2] His knowledge and the research done in his lab at Santa Barbara have repeatedly shown that we gain expertise by doing an action, but the action is based on what we already know.

For example, say you want to learn more about the Soviet dictator Stalin. All you need to do is link what you do know—that Stalin was a dictator—and link it to what you want to learn and retain. Stalin grew up in Georgia, killed millions of people, centralized power in Russia, and assisted in the victory of World War 2. This technique even applies to the most simple of memory tasks as our brain learns and relearns.

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3. Other Mental Activities

The final method I’ll share with you is taking the literal approach—getting out there and getting your hands dirty so to speak. But how you go about that is up to you. You could try reading an article and then going out and applying it immediately—like you could with this article. Or maybe you could find further engagement through puzzles or making a game out of the activity that you’re doing.

For example, if you wanted to learn about animal behavior patterns, you can read about them, go out to watch animals, and see if they perform the specific behaviors that you read about.

Final Thoughts

Learning by doing encourages active engagement with available materials and forces you to work harder to remember the material. It’s an effective technique because it helps ingrain knowledge into your memory. After all, you have a deeper personal connection to that knowledge, and you’ll be more motivated to use it in the future.

With that in mind, I encourage you to take what you’ve learned from reading this article and apply that in the real world. It’s only going to benefit you as you grow.

Featured photo credit: Van Tay Media via unsplash.com

Reference

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