Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on March 31, 2020

What Is Observational Learning (And How to Make It Work for You)

What Is Observational Learning (And How to Make It Work for You)

Observational learning is the acquisition of knowledge based on another individual’s behavior, thoughts or emotions. Learning this way, you may not even realize you have learned something until you actually demonstrate the skill.

Observational learning is based on four different stages which involve active participation by the learner. This ensures comprehensive and long-lasting learning which is very effective because not only does it help you gain knowledge it helps you retain it, reproduce it when needed and even reinforce it.

The four stages of observational learning are:

  1. Attention – If you are paying attention to your surroundings, you will absorb a lot more than you think are. When you learn to be attentive in a certain situation, you will be learning from it the entire time.
  2. Retention – This is the part where your brain is committing details to memory and making connections with information it has stored from earlier instances by forging new neural pathways.
  3. Reproduction – A key stage in observational learning is when you, as the learner, are required to reproduce from memory the knowledge you committed to it earlier. This reproduction could be verbal or through actions.
  4. Reinforcement or Motivation – The final stage of observational learning is reinforcement or motivation. As a learner, there is no reason for you to reproduce any knowledge unless you are motivated to do so, or you need to reinforce your knowledge for deeper understanding. This motivation could be a reward for knowledge well retained or a skill well used.

There are unlimited opportunities for observational learning in the real world.[1] As a learner, you are responsible for training your brain to be open to absorbing knowledge and being in situations that will help maximize the learning from opportunities presented.

Here are a few strategies you can adopt to make observational learning work for you:

Advertising

1. Find the Right Person to Learn from

It has been proven through multiple studies that people learn better from those who fit a certain profile that attracts the learner:

  • It’s someone you respect. You will always learn a lot from the person you respect, even if this person is not actively seeking to teach you. You will focus on them when they speak, you will observe their mannerisms and you will unconsciously learn from all the things they say and do around you.
  • It’s someone you identify with. A person you identify with on any level will always be a good teacher. It could be someone in a position of authority or a peer. You could feel this person has experienced some of the same things that you have and has managed to rise above them. This connection with someone will make you more tuned to them and help you learn by observing them. Athletes, celebrities and other successful professionals who have overcome hardships are popular options for observational learning.
  • It’s someone you’re attracted to. It could be a celebrity, a peer or anyone else at all. You could be attracted to for any reason at all: their looks, talent, popularity, sense of humor, lifestyle. All these are factors that make a person attractive to you and you subconsciously learn a lot from them.
  • It’s someone at a higher “level” than you. This could be a senior executive at your workplace, a teacher in college or a sibling. Any person who is in a position of authority and is well able to shoulder the responsibility their position brings is a good option.

2. Shadow Your Teacher

Do you love a sport? Have you ever found yourself making the same play you saw your favorite player making? You might have admired a basketball player and spent hours shooting hoops the way he did, even though he never taught you personally. This is a classic example of observational learning.

Being around the person you want to learn from and observing them as they go about their business will open up immense opportunities to learn.

Take the example of a medical student who is assigned to a rotation led by a doctor considered an expert in his field. This student will be walking behind the doctor on his rounds, taking mental notes of his behavior with patients, other staff and students and how he goes about treating the patients. This is also one of the best examples of observational learning.

Similarly, if you are looking to learn how to sell, shadow a person with a good reputation and proven skills. Observing this person as he goes about selling a product or service will impart better learning than textbooks.

Advertising

3. Seek to Reproduce Learning the Rewards

There would be no reason for you to reproduce any learned behavior if there was no consequence for it. While some things reproduced can result in negative consequences (think extra chores for breaking a vase playing football indoors), you should actively seek to reproduce only those actions that will get you a reward.

This reward could be a better playing technique that gets you on the team, a good bedside manner when dealing with patients or anything else that you think is fair for reproducing a desired behavior.

The process of reproducing any learning that will reward to means you are first off paying attention when the learning opportunity is presented, and also that you’re making an effort to commit the learning to memory.

4. Take Good Notes

Does this sound contrary to observational learning? It really isn’t. When you have stepped out of the learning environment and are working to commit the newly acquired knowledge to memory, writing it down helps. A lot.

Rephrase your learning. Write out notes in your own words unless there’s a phrase that you think is perfect or if you are using a direct quote.

Advertising

Remember, the brain remembers in pictures. If words aren’t your thing, use mind maps, mnemonics or any other aid that will help you revisit the information you just committed to memory.

5. Reproduce Your Learning

A fantastic way to recall observational knowledge is to reproduce the said learning. Teach someone else what you have learned and focus on remembering the details. You could also ask to reproduce the information in front of your teacher. This is a great opportunity to know if you remember right!

You can also repeat the information to yourself again and again until you are sure you know it well.

6. Rest Your Mind

In order to learn from observation, your mind needs to be alert to everything that is happening around it. A well-rested brain is proven to be better at learning and making new connections.

If you don’t already have a routine, create one and stick to it. You should aim for 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep so your mind refreshes (our body produces a fluid at night that flushes toxins away from the brain). Here’s how I create my routine: Powerful Daily Routine Examples for a Healthy and High-Achieving You

Advertising

Give your mind a few minutes to disconnect throughout the day so when you need it to connect with your surroundings, it is ready to do so. Take a look at this guide on meditation: Meditation for Beginners: How to Meditate Deeply and Quickly It can give you some great tips!

When you’re in an intense or even boring environment, your brain can disconnect because of information overload or sheer boredom. If you are distracted where you need to be focused, take a break. A short walk outside, a drink or even a few moments in the sun will do you a world of good.

7. Play Mind Games

No, not the mind games that mess with another person. We mean the kind that keeps your mind sharp and focused.

Memory games with cards, find the difference, Sudoku, crosswords are all games that will help. You could also memorize an image then recall it by either writing about it or drawing it yourself.

You can find some more ideas to boost mind power in the article 7 Brain Training Habits to Easily Boost Your Brain Power.

Bottom Line

So, here’re 7 ways you can try to make the most of observational learning. They’re strong, proven techniques that will make this type of learning effortless yet successful.

More About Effective Learning

Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

Learning Methods to Help You Learn Effectively and Easily How to Take Advantage of the 80 20 Rule to Succeed in Life How to Set Professional Development Goals for Success Social Learning How Social Learning Helps You Learn Faster and Easier How to Improve Memory: 7 Natural (and Highly Effective) Ways

Trending in Learning

1 Learning Methods to Help You Learn Effectively and Easily 2 How Social Learning Helps You Learn Faster and Easier 3 How to Build a Memory Palace to Remember More of Everything 4 How to Make Going Back to School at 30 Possible 5 10 Powerful Learning Hacks to Boost Your Learning Ability

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on September 24, 2020

Learning Methods to Help You Learn Effectively and Easily

Learning Methods to Help You Learn Effectively and Easily

You’re never too old to learn, and this isn’t just some fancy statement; this is many people’s motto in life. If you agree, there are various learning methods to help you ensure that you continue to learn day in and day out.

We have all been learning since childhood—our parents teach us morals, our teachers teach us math, society teaches us acceptance, our work teaches us how to do our job, etc. Even if you’re 70, life has a whole new book of things to teach you; you just need to have the heart and willingness to learn.

What you learn today will always benefit your current and future self. The question is, with such limited time in life, how can we learn effectively?

In this article, I’ll introduce to you the essential learning methods and some of the best ways to learn.

The Best Ways to Learn

There are so many different ways of learning, and here, I’ve handpicked some of the best ways that will definitely help you in being an effective learner[1].

Here Are The Best Learning Methods for Retention

    1. Your Comfort Zone

    For most people, staying in their own comfort zone opens their minds and helps them retain information. For instance, many learn and retain information when they’re taking notes on a piece of paper; others learn by watching videos and documentaries relevant to the topic.

    By finding out how you’re comfortable learning will surely help you in effectively retaining new information, and you will remember it for a longer period of time.

    2. Learning Through Play

    Just like children learning actively, you can learn through play. This doesn’t literally mean building blocks out of plastic Lego, but by implementing what you have learned[2]. If you’ve just learned a new way to make quiche, the best way of making sure you know it properly and remember it is by immediately making it at home.

    Advertising

    3. Pass That Information on

    If you’ve learned something, avoid passive learning, and, instead, pass the information on to someone else.

    When you go through what you’ve learned and are explaining the process to someone else through this teaching method, you will learn and remember better.

    One study found that teaching information is so effective in introducing it to our long-term memory because it forces us to retrieve that information over and over again[3].

    In classrooms, there is a frequent activity of dividing students into groups, and one of them explains to other classmates what the day’s lecture was about. This not only helps the speaker understand concepts better, but when other classmates are being reinforced with the lesson, they also remember better.

    4. Rote Learning Is a Big NO

    Many people try to memorize word by word what they have been taught, as if they were sitting in a written exam. Teachers discourage rote learning in students as well because by only memorizing some words, the goal isn’t met. The main point here is to truly understand and connect the dots of what you’ve learned.

    The generation today has grown up with computers and is used to getting all the information needed at the click of a button, which means they don’t really absorb the true meaning of what they’re learning.

    Rote learning is just like that. You just pick up the information from somewhere and learn it word for word, which doesn’t really help you understand anything, only to memorize.

    Learning is all about being able to express what you have understood about a particular concept. It is being able to give your own opinion about a certain event, instead of just knowing the facts. Somewhere along the line, we do want to learn new things, but some of us have the attention span of a goldfish or simply don’t know the smart learning methods.

    Some people may be more receptive to one kind of method, and some to another. A smart person would try and find out which method of learning is best suited to them, and use that to enhance their learning process. The following learning methods will be helpful for you.

    Advertising

    Types of Learning Methods

    Essentially, there are 7 types of learning methods that researchers have compiled over time. If one resonates with you, it’s likely that it’s your preferred learning method.

    Visual

    This type of learning requires visual material to understand. This could be in the form of videos, graphics, and images. This method helps people in visually understanding what they see.

    You may be this type of learner if you often imagine faces to remember someone’s name, use landmarks to give directions, or need to write down information to remember it.

    Aural

    This kind of learning style uses audio like music and sounds to understand. You may like this learning method if you often remember information after lectures or are good at memorizing the words to songs.

    Verbal

    This method is usually for people who like to speak and narrate their stories in order to learn. This can be done through scripted speeches, impromptu narrations, or even just daily conversations.

    Logical

    Many people like learning through logic; they won’t understand a concept if they’re just spoon-fed it.

    They want proper reasoning to why and how something happened for them to properly learn something.

    These people are often very good at forming arguments, problem-solving, and participating in debates.

    Social

    This is when people learn better when they’re divided into groups and are with other people. These social groups help expand their horizons and give them confidence to ask questions and solve problems.

    Advertising

    Solitary

    This learning style is usually best for people who prefer to learn alone in a confined place that has no distractions whatsoever. They are either easily distracted with other people.

    Physical

    This is a learning technique where people learn through physical acts, like using their hands or simply by the sense of touch.

    This technique is used when a child actively participates in order to learn. For example, to help them understand what “fluffy” means, they are asked to touch a cotton cushion or a hairy cat. This is how children learn and understand better.

    However, many adults learn with this learning method as well. If you enjoy building or designing things, this may be your preferred learning method.

    What types of learning methods suit you better? You can find out in this article: How This Learning Style Quiz Can Help You Make the Most of Your Life

    In order to support any kind of learning listed above, you have to be physically fit and healthy. Your mind and body need to be nurtured in order for any kind of learning method to be effective. Here are some of the things that can be done on a daily basis to maintain a receptive mind and body.

    Habits to Help You Learn

    To be an effective listener, you also have to be able to retain that information. People learn new things every day, but only a portion of those people are able to remember what they learned by the end of the day.

    There are some tried and tested home remedies that have worked like a charm for people who are looking to enhance their memory.

    Sleep More

    An active brain is one that sleeps almost 8-10 hours a day. If you’re overworked and sleep for barely five hours, there are chances that your brain needs rest to retain information.

    Advertising

    But if you’re somebody who sleeps for 11-15 hours a day, you may just be too lazy and need to engage in healthy activities to keep your brain active.

    Eat Healthy

    Include lots of protein and Omega-3s in your diet. Drink lots of water and generally stay away from refined carbs.

    You don’t have to quickly switch over to salads, but just generally try to adapt to a healthier eating pattern. Limit the use of alcohol and caffeine because they slow down your brain, causing a hindrance in your learning journey.

    Here are 15 Brain Foods You Should Be Eating Regularly to Keep Your Mind Sharp.

    Socialize

    By meeting new people every day, you’re not only giving your brain a chance to open up, but you’re also having your brain exercise by getting new information. Talking to people and engaging in daily conversations helps the flow of information.

    Do Activities That Challenge Your Brain

    If your brain hasn’t yet been exposed to challenges where you really have to think and work your mind, you may not be an effective learner, despite engaging in the above learning methods. There are many activities that increase your motor skills, like puzzles, mathematical questions, or even solving crosswords in your daily newspaper. You can also try these 11 Brain Training Apps to Train Your Mind and Improve Memory.

    When your brain is active and running, you possess a better chance of learning new things and actually retaining that information.

    Final Thoughts

    Learning has been a safe haven for so many people, whether it’s about learning to cook a complicated dish for a family gathering or simply about sewing a button on a shirt.

    The best among us are people that don’t let anything get in the way of their learning process; these people make it their life motto to wake up every day and learn at least one new thing before going to bed. And these people are all around us; we are these people.

    The knowledge we gain today can benefit our career, relationships, and our everyday life, so get started now.

    More on Utilizing the Learning Methods

    Featured photo credit: Sarah Noltner via unsplash.com

    Reference

    Read Next