Advertising
Advertising

Published on January 6, 2020

How to Educate Yourself and Be an Effective Self-Learner

How to Educate Yourself and Be an Effective Self-Learner

Innovation and automation are everywhere in the many industries of the world. It’s a wonder watching it but, with it stems some problems with more and more people being replaced with robots and having to re-train or enter another field.

In order for people to do those things, most people often turn to go back to school rather than considering other options. While going back to school could be helpful, you can always consider learning how to educate yourself instead.

Maybe a long time ago that option wasn’t a reality, but with good quality information and other factors, educating yourself now is well worth considering. Even if you’re not in the market for a new job.

What Does It Mean to Educate Yourself?

What it means to educate yourself is a matter of having a series of habits that promote how to educate yourself. Going into finer details, these habits comprise of a system to help you stay up on relevant topics that you are passionate about.

As I mentioned earlier, this method has only sprung up in recent years as a valid option. The reason that’s the case was that information wasn’t readily available. Several decades ago, our information came from newspapers, radio, and television.

But now, information is being created every single day by the thousands through blog posts run by professionals or large businesses.

The quality of the information and the quantity of it has increased thanks to the Internet and further expansion of it. It’s to the point what it means to educate yourself is leveraging the information on the Internet.

Advertising

Can You Self-Educate without Going to College?

Since the internet is the best way to gather information, it’s totally possible to self-educate ourselves without going to college. Here are some ways to start off:

1. Stay Current on Industry News

Not just the news of the industry you’re in, but also in other areas you have an interest in.

As I said, the industries are changing because there is always something happening. One way on how to educate yourself is being aware of what’s going on in the industry.

The only thing to keep in mind with this is there are many ways to stay caught up in the industry. You don’t need to pay for subscriptions to several papers or magazines to stay caught up. Turn to social media and search for relevant hashtags or keywords, or sign up to news outlets mailing lists. There are plenty of free options.

2. Sign Up for Online Courses

Information has become so abundant that there are all kinds of courses available. Online learning is also a really effective way to learn these days. Some options you can turn to are sites like Udemy or Skillshare which have thousands of courses available. Here’re more sites for self-learning: 25 Killer Sites For Online Education

Some universities have even opened up courses online for free. One example of a site providing that is edX which has courses from MIT, Harvard, Berkeley University and others. And at Lifehack, we offer some free classes too.

3. Get a Mentor

Every industry has skilled individuals who are willing to teach others. Backed by years of experience in the field, they can pass down valuable lessons that no other classroom could teach you.

Advertising

This is another strong method because a mentor is likely to stay ahead of the curve. Their years of experience and understanding of the industry can lead to more specific advice. After all, traditional colleges and universities tend to focus on widespread information rather than what you really need to know.

A mentor is another way to get a personalized experience. Here’re some tips on finding a mentor that suits you: How to Find a Mentor That Will Help You Succeed

4. Take Up an Arts Class

While some people think that arts of any sort are a waste of time or a joke, it’s worth considering it seriously these days.

Recall that innovation stems from people’s ability to look at a problem and create creative solutions. Don’t you think that requires some creative thinking?

While you might not want to be an industry trendsetter, being artsy or creative can provide other benefits. Benefits that come to mind are:

  • You can do this solo. Done by yourself and taught by yourself has perks to it.
  • It is cheap to do. Want to be a better writer? Open up a document on your computer and start typing. You can do the same with any other device as well. Even if you’re looking to draw or paint art supplies aren’t that costly and you can pace yourself as much as you’d like.
  • You could meet other people. There are other writers, artists, singers and more in your town. It’s a matter of looking around for them.
  • You will learn new skills. All of these mediums provide various skills when you look at them. Not only that but you can also learn about yourself through this medium too.

5. Start Journalling

Even if the art stuff isn’t something you’re keen on, I’d at least suggest taking up journaling. Specifically journalling for the sake of reflecting.

This doesn’t mean you have to journal about your day, but rather focus on the information that you learned that day — personal or otherwise. This is important because information only stays as relevant to us as long as we recall it and retain that information.

Advertising

With this in mind, you can use the journal to jot down big lessons that day, quotes, or other little tidbits of information you want to remember. After that, be sure to check that journal once a week to go over what you’ve learned.

Try one of these 15 Inspiring Journal Ideas to Kickstart Journaling.

6. Always Be Looking Stuff Up

Google and Wikipedia are powerful sources of information. Make a point of using it every day at some capacity, especially if you’ve got a smartphone or you’re around a computer.

One other alternative to look at is bringing a dictionary or encyclopedia with you. The idea with this is to look up a new word and try to make a reference of it over the course of the day.

How to Learn Effectively as a Self-Learner

It’s one thing to know how to educate yourself but it’s another to be effective at it. Some strategies can be focusing on one of the activities above and spending only 15 minutes a day on that. However, there are other methods to consider to be an effective self-learner.

Use the Sandbox Method

The first method I’ll suggest is the Sandbox Method.[1] It’s an ongoing process for self-education and is based on how we learn and process information.

This method recognizes that we don’t always need to memorize facts, formulas, or other specific bits of information. Instead, the method helps us to develop a deep understanding of the skills we’re using and expose ourselves to a lot of information around that topic. We can then use that information to improve ourselves and to encourage further learning.

Advertising

Here is a breakdown of the method:

  1. Build the sandbox. What this means is determining where you’re getting the information, and what the information is about. Your sandbox by the end should be cheap or free to do, have low-stakes, and have some public element to it.
  2. Do the research. Start off with how-to’s and general information about the area you are learning. These get you to practicing your skills which give us a better grasp of the topic.
  3. Implement and practice. Once you’ve done the skill on your own, the next thing is to make it more public. For example, if you are wanting to learn how to bake, start baking goods for guests or for a party.
  4. Get feedback. Once you’ve done something, go back and do some more research. Keep filling in gaps of knowledge. Create your feedback loop. Maybe there is a better method to baking a pie? Or perhaps your form was off when lifting weights? Whatever the case is, you want to be certain you’re doing it right or finding ways to improve your current performance.

Take Up These Learning Habits

While the sandbox method is a great method, there are other alternatives. Namely strong habits that while alone may do little, but with many can give you a well-rounded learning experience.

Here are some ideas that come to mind:

  • Having a studying environment. You don’t have a classroom, so the next best thing is making a place you frequently go a place of study. It could be a library, a room in your home, or a cafe. Regardless, have a place where you can study and learn with purpose.
  • Highlight information. If you’re the type to buy books or e-books, make use of highlighters. You can also consider other note-taking apps where you can store specific bits of information. Apps like Evernote or OneNote are great for that.
  • Learning from various mediums. There are 7 styles of learning we can use though we prefer only one or two of these methods most. Figure out which ones you like and challenge yourself to learn in a different way.
  • Set goals. To get into learning as a lifestyle, it’s important to keep up the habit. Goals are a good way of staying on track of the habits you want to have.
  • Consider tutoring. Not only can you get paid to tutor people, but this also reinforces things you learn as well. Tutoring is also a way to validate and reassure what you are learning is sticking with you too.

Final Thoughts

Being a self-learner is all about adopting and embracing various methods on how to educate yourself. While going to university are still valid options, the sheer amount of information available allows any person to learn about anything.

So save yourself the massive time and money sink to go to university and consider these habits. These habits can pay off in big ways over time.

More Tips for Self-Learners

Featured photo credit: Cassidy Kelley via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

Social Learning How Social Learning Helps You Learn Faster and Easier How to Improve Memory: 7 Natural (and Highly Effective) Ways how to make a life plan How to Make a Life Plan That Works (With a Life Plan Template) Why Do I Procrastinate? 5 Root Causes & How to Tackle Them How to Get Motivated Every Day When You Wake Up

Trending in Learning

1 How Social Learning Helps You Learn Faster and Easier 2 How to Build a Memory Palace to Remember More of Everything 3 How to Make Going Back to School at 30 Possible 4 10 Powerful Learning Hacks to Boost Your Learning Ability 5 6 Effective Learning Techniques that are Backed by Research

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on September 18, 2020

How Social Learning Helps You Learn Faster and Easier

How Social Learning Helps You Learn Faster and Easier

Have you ever noticed that you tend to learn certain things simply by observing others? Learning in this way is called social learning, which is one of the 6 common types of learning. It helps you learn faster as knowledge and habits are acquired easily when they are practiced by people within a certain environment.

Throughout the centuries, humans have incorporated social learning in their lives as a major learning approach. The fact that human behavior is learned has made this possible. From initially being the only way to learn, it is now the fastest and most comprehensive learning method.

In this article, you’ll find out how you can make good use of social learning and observed behaviors to help you learn faster and easier.

The social learning theory as presented by Albert Bandura is simple. It suggests social learning is based on attention, retention, motivation and reproduction[1].

While these stages seem like common sense, there is a surprisingly large number of people who go through social interactions without learning anything because they aren’t actively practicing the different stages.

Let’s get started with the first stage, attention.

Attention

Since our mind has a limited capacity for storing data, it’s the things that we pay attention to that stay with us. Giving 100% of your attention to a situation you learn from is guaranteed to help you maximize social learning.

Stay in the Moment

When you’re focused on learning from your surroundings, your mind will focus only on what it wants to learn, so distractions fade away. However, it’s very normal to be in a situation where the information you are getting becomes monotonous or you get distracted for some other reason.

Make sure you are well-rested and energized so you can spend your energy learning things that matter to you[2].

social learning theory

    Be Mindful

    Mindfulness in its simplest terms is tuning into we’re experiencing in the present rather than thinking about something that could or did happen.

    Advertising

    For social learning, you should be mindful only of the conversation or activity you want to learn from, filtering out other things that don’t matter to you as much at that moment. This way, your brain can make memories of what you are experiencing at that time only, which is the thing you want to learn.

    If you find yourself getting distracted, focus on deep breathing until the distractions fade away and you can bring your attention back to the learning opportunity at hand.

    For more tips on being mindful, check out this article.

    Don’t Multitask

    In today’s hyper-connected world, it’s normal, even expected, to be a multitasker. Being amongst people and checking emails on smartphones is now normal social behavior.

    However, when you want to maximize your social learning, don’t multitask. You should focus only on the interaction you want to learn from and block out all the rest.

    Don’t reach for your device, and don’t engage in multiple conversations simultaneously. In short, don’t have your mind and other senses deal with anything apart from learning.

    Engage Actively

    Similar to the above points, learning through social learning is fast and easy if you listen, speak, and observe actively.

    When you’re actively engaged, you respond to the situation by making relevant observations, mimicking important actions, and focusing on listening so you understand.

    To maximize the benefits of learning through social learning, be attentive to those who are around and looking to learn as well. A good example of this would be medical students on clinical rotations who are actively observing and listening to the doctor they are assigned to, and responding to his / her queries.

    Retention

    Paying attention is great for learning, but what about retaining the new information?

    Our brain has limited space to store data, so how do we ensure we remember things that are important to us?

    Advertising

    These tips should help increase your retention power.

    Repeat to Remember

    Our brain starts developing from the moment we are born, absorbing things from people and experiences around us. It is learning constantly, and repeated experiences help reinforce the learning.

    A new experience opens up new neural pathways in our brain, and repetition of these experiences[3] strengthens the pathways, helping us retain the information better and for longer.

    Increase Brain Power

    You can improve retention by increasing your brain power: exercise regularly, sleep well, and stretch memory muscles by playing brain games.

    Here are more ways to help: How to Increase Brain Power: 10 Simple Ways to Train Your Brain

    Make Connections

    Connect a social learning opportunity with mnemonics. Use mental images, music, and anything else you want to retain and recall information.

    Link new information with old to reach new conclusions. You can use writing and speech for this.

    Remember That Less Is More

    When you are looking to retain knowledge through social learning, try taking in information in small quantities.

    Full day conferences, lectures that last for hours, and similar learning schedules do not have the desired effect. The human mind shuts down when it is faced with information overload, and the learning from these situations becomes minimal.

    Research shows that if you are looking to retain information from social learning opportunities, it’s a far better idea to put yourself in the situation more frequently for a shorter amount of time[4].

    Motivation

    The idea of a tangible reward or the emotional high that comes with the sense of accomplishment is what motivates us to keep doing a good thing, while the fear of repercussions or unpleasant outcomes is what keeps from doing something bad.

    Advertising

    When a child observes that good behavior of a sibling results in them getting a treat, while bad behavior courts punishment, the child wanting a treat will be motivated toward good behavior by this social learning lesson.

    Motivation to learn new information and habits is a critical part of social learning. To stay motivated for social learning, you can try the following.

    Find a Role Model

    Finding a role model and basing your learning on them means you are motivated to duplicate the role model’s behavior.

    The medical students example fits well here again. The students will be motivated to observe and imitate better clinical skills and patient handling techniques by observing others around them and aspiring to be as good as they are.

    Make a Note

    Write down things that inspired you, and keep going back to them to stay motivated.

    Talk About It

    Talk to your role model or peers about what is motivating you in a shared social learning environment.

    An example of this is a person in rehab who is motivated to attend meetings by the presence of others who have managed to kick the addiction and are on the road to recovery.

    This is based on reinforcement or punishment. Positive motivation is reward-based motivation (satisfied patients) and negative motivation is punishment-based motivation (absolute dependence on drugs).

    Remember, no matter which type works for you, without motivation, there is no reason for us to do anything.

    Reproduction

    In the context of social learning, “reproduction” is not propagation of the learning, but the implementation of it.

    Reproducing learned information is the last stage of social learning. Once you pay attention to your surroundings and retain what you learned in the setting, you are then motivated to reproduce your learning so you can get the reward.

    Advertising

    Bandura suggests direct reinforcement, vicarious reinforcement and self-reinforcement as the different ways to reproduce knowledge gained through social learning[5].

    Direct Reinforcement

    This is when you act on knowledge, knowing the result will be positive, or avoid the act because the result would be unpleasant.

    To repeat the medical students’ example here, direct reinforcement would be one of them practicing patient handling techniques learned from their role model, with the expectation that the result would be a satisfied patient.

    Vicarious Reinforcement

    Vicarious reinforcement in social learning is the application of knowledge that has not been learned first-hand but is learned by observing the consequences of the actions of a third party.

    A good example of this type of reinforcement would be learning not to take drugs after seeing the condition of a drug addict.

    Self-Reinforcement

    Self-reinforcement is when a person decides to reward him / herself for good behavior, or bring about a negative consequence as a result of an undesired situation.

    Think of a student who has promised herself a scoop of ice cream if she gets an A on an exam she studied hard for, or decided to ask for extra coaching if she got anything below a C.

    The Bottom Line

    Albert Bandura presented the social learning theory in the 1970s, and it immediately gained popularity because of its simplicity, practicality, and immense potential for success. While the theory never went out of fashion, it is now experiencing a resurgence for all the right reasons.

    If you want to become a smarter learner, take advantage of learning experiences and the social learning theory to learn faster!

    More About Effective Learning

    Featured photo credit: Alexis Brown via unsplash.com

    Reference

    Read Next