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Published on February 25, 2020

Effective Learning Theories (and How to Benefit from Them)

Effective Learning Theories (and How to Benefit from Them)

Not all humans absorb information in the same way and at the same rate. Different methods work for different people. These varying methods and how they work are exactly what learning theories are. With a great deal of research, educationists have proven how each learning theory is unique and effective.

Once you grasp the concept of how your brain works, you can effectively begin learning in an improved manner. This isn’t just true for academic learning as it works the same for learning skills and general information as well.

In order to understand which learning theory affects your learning style, keep reading!

Effective Learning Theories

Educationists and psychologists have developed various theories based on the varying perceptions of individuals. However, there are four in particular that can be closely related to everyday learning.

Behaviorism

The behaviorist learning theory was introduced by John Watson [1]. His school of thought believes that people learn from interactions. Every event or piece of information leads to a certain reaction.

This behavior helps the brain retain details. Eventually, how the individual behaves is affected by what was learned. It is a continuous cycle.

So:

If you were to read about something, it won’t stick in your mind unless the information you read stimulated a reaction. Similarly, even if you were a part of a real-life scenario, unless the brain gave out reactionary signals, nothing is learned from that situation.

The environment plays a huge role in this learning theory. When a person is born, their brain is completely blank. Gradually, the environmental factors fill up the brain with knowledge. Learning is coherent with the environment, and so, the same knowledge may not be learned in the same way in a different environment.

In simpler words, different environments lead to different learning outcomes and abilities.

All behaviors are justified as a result of what the brain already knows. Whether the interaction is subconscious or not, it is directly connected to what the individual has learned. Hence, all that is learned has a direct effect on behavior.

All in all, the behavior of any person alters according to the knowledge they have. So, if you were learning to control your anger, this theory can be used to help control your outrage by altering your thought processes.

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Cognitivist Theory

The education psychologists Piaget and Tolman originally derived the cognitivist learning theory. Their theory is based on the concept of memory. You can understand this theory by comparing the human brain to a computer. A computer’s memory will retain and utilize as much information as you enter into it. Similarly, the human brain learns based on what is remembered by the brain.

Basically:

The cognitivist theory states that the brain first receives the information, comprehends it, and then reacts to it. Therefore, the learning process is done before the reaction takes place. Just like a computer, the final output is based on memory.

Moreover, even if there is no reaction involved, the person still learns and gains something from the information.

Let’s say you were learning a new language. You will have to memorize certain words and their meaning. Your memory will play the main role in this process.

This theory also puts the individual learner in charge. Without dependence on a learning source, the learner is an active participant who understands and receives knowledge. If you want, then, you can start learning a new language any day without a teacher if you have the source material.

Constructivism

The learning theory of constructivism was created by Vygotsky. It focuses on perceptual learning.

Here’s what this means:

Each individual has a unique perception based on the learning that was done prior to a certain event. Everything that you’ve seen, felt, or heard in your life contributes to your point of view.

This perception is then used to learn from theundon that the brain receives. Basically, Vygotsky believed that every experience contributes to some sort of learning twice: once when the event actually takes place and then on an individual level.

The concept of constructivism is for the learner to build information based on previous knowledge. Altogether, this creates a meaningful context in the mind of the learner. These connections between the old knowledge and the new information lead to a fool-proof method of learning.

As per this school of thought, learning means understanding an experience. If there is no understanding of the event, there is no learning. If you don’t figure out the meaning of the chords, you can never learn to play the guitar.

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This theory uses this phenomenon to improve the learning abilities of individuals. It suggests that the learner should be more engaged in order to make the learning process more successful.

Constructivism encourages collaborative work. This learning theory emphasizes problem-solving, as well. All of this leads to improved thinking skills, which in turn boosts the learning process.

If you are learning to paint, for instance, everything you draw will be your unique reflection. This is why no two artists can ever produce the same work, even if they use the same equipment.

Experiential Learning

As the name suggests, this learning theory elaborates on learning from experiences. This is a concept quite similar to behaviorism. However, David Kolb, the person who developed the experiential learning theory, suggested a different take on it [2].

This theory actually includes part of all the aforementioned theories. It is a mix of behavior, cognition, perception, and experience. This theory explains that the learning process begins with an experience. This could be anything like an occurring event, a drawing, something that the person wrote, etc.

The next step is for the brain to reflect on this. This reflection may or may not result in an external reaction. Eventually, it becomes part of the memory. This is where perception and cognition come in.

Now:

The way that experiential learning is different from behaviorism is very simple. Behaviorism talks about the effect of external behavior on learning and vice versa. Experiential learning, on the other hand, focuses on what goes on in the mind that results in external behavior.

As per this theory, if you’re a computing guy who wants to learn new codes, you can do that in the best way if you use a visual. Write down the coding pattern or, perhaps, see a video to have a picture in your mind that you can learn from.

The Relationship between Learning Styles and Learning Theories

This is what each learning theory states. But, how does this relate to your everyday learning?

Every human has a specific learning style. This learning style is directly coherent with all or some of the aforementioned theories. These theories have actually been derived from the various learning styles.

There are 7 basic learning styles:

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  1. Visual: These learners can understand better with the help of images.
  2. Aural: Such individuals learn from auditory sources.
  3. Verbal: The use of words in speech and writing is the preferred method of learning.
  4. Physical: These people need to use their sense of touch to grasp information.
  5. Logical: Such learners use reasoning and have a systematic learning method.
  6. Social: Learning is most effective in groups for these people.
  7. Solitary: These individuals like to work alone.

Each one of these learning styles is directly related to one of the four learning theories. For example, a logical learner is a live example of the cognitivist learning theories. If you are brilliant at budgeting, there is a high chance that you have good thinking skills that help you to organize information in your mind.

A social learner uses the constructivism theory. Collaborative work and their own personal perception help them learn better. The social butterfly who is the perfect PR representative uses this theory and style.

Physical learners react to the information they learn. This is the implementation of the behaviorist theory. Without moving their hands or using their sense of touch in one way or the other, it is difficult for these people to retain information in their brains. A karate trainee will have to physically perform to learn the skill. It cannot be memorized.

As for experiential learning, it is a prominent style in the visual and aural learning styles. There isn’t always a reaction, but the visual or audio information that is received is enough to get the brain cells running.

Using Learning Methods That Work For You

If you are not using learning methods that go in line with your learning style, you’ll find it hard to digest information. Instead, you will experience unwanted stress, which ends up affecting your productivity and intellect.

You may be wondering:

With so many learning theories and styles, is there a right or wrong one? Well, that’s not how it works. The brain is a very complex organ that works differently for everyone. This is why the absorption of information is also different for everyone.

There are numerous parts of the brain that are performing completely different tasks. The right lobe, for example, is responsible for music and audio. The frontal lobe deals with words. Similarly, the temporal lobe deals with social activities.

Not all of these parts of the brain work at the same pace in every human. For some people, the frontal lobe is far faster than the rest. In other cases, another part is more dominant.

Everyone’s brain is better at different things. If one human can understand music very well, another is more competent in terms of logic. Therefore, this affects the learning process, which is why everyone ends up with a different learning style.

For this reason, educational psychologists have put forth so many different learning styles and theories as the learning ability of individuals tends to vary. This is also why all the theories are different, despite having a few similarities.

As for your exact case, only you can figure out which learning theory applies. Similarly, you have to figure out your learning style on your own, too. You can do so with a quick style evaluation test. Once you are aware of which method your brain prefers, you can use that knowledge to improve your day-to-day learning capability.

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Learning Styles Can Change

Here’s the thing:

You might have been acing tasks throughout your life with the help of visual learning. Or, you may have had an excellent memory. That does not, however, guarantee that your learning style is the same when you’ve entered your professional life.

Learning styles can change, and that comes with the requirement of a necessary change in your methods. If you were once a social learner, teamwork would have boosted your motivation to a whole new level. Instead of singing solo, your performance would be better in a band.

However, if over the years your style changed to solitary, and you didn’t change your methods, you would only slow yourself down. Band performances will no longer be good enough because your brain will be unable to allow you to practice well during group sessions.

Basically, the brain adapts with time.

It may become weaker, but it may also get stronger. The parts of the brain that were once dominant may be taken over by another lobe. That’s how learning styles change. It isn’t a quality that will stay fixed forever.

With the right learning method and a few other tips, you can boost your learning power immensely. The monumental difference in your day to day productivity will be clearly noticeable.

As an adult, you are the only person who can guide yourself to the right learning track. If you want to learn a new skill quickly, you should figure out your learning style and implement it accordingly. Then, look into the corresponding learning theory to resolve what the method of knowledge absorption for your brain is.

By using the concept of the theory to aid your learning style, you can become a fast learner in days.

More Tips on Learning

 

Featured photo credit: NordWood Themes via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Behaviorism
[2] Signature Experience: Experiential Learning Theory

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Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Last Updated on March 25, 2020

How to Learn Quickly And Master Any Skill You Want

How to Learn Quickly And Master Any Skill You Want

Have you ever heard of the idiom ‘practice makes perfect’? I’m pretty sure someone would have said that to you at least once in your life! It’s a common saying, often used to encourage someone when they’re learning or doing something that is new to them.

They may need many tries before succeeding and getting it right. It’s like learning to ride a bicycle, learning how to drive, taking up a second language, or cooking for the first time. It’s rare for anyone to ace it on their first try.

Whenever you want to start learning something new, I’m sure you’re always hoping to get good at it quickly. But the reality is, that sometimes it does take days, months or even years before you can confidently master a skill.

That’s simply how learning works. You try, you gain experience, you learn from it, and you try again. And each time, you’re improving and making progress. Every time you repeat this learning process, you’re going through something called a Feedback Loop. You’ll have to go through multiple feedback loops before confidently executing the skill.

What separates a fast learner from a slower learner is not some innate, natural talent. Instead, it’s because the fast learner understands how they learn, and has a systematic way to apply it all the time to learn a variety of things. They know how to effectively use their Feedback Loop to speed up the learning process.

So the good news for you, is that if you’re currently wanting to learn a new skill as quickly as possible, then you just need to learn how to create an effective Feedback Loop.

What is a Feedback Loop?

When we talk about feedback, it simple means getting information about how well you’re performing each time you make an attempt at practicing or applying a skill. Feedback is what tells you what went wrong, or what went right.

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A Feedback Loop is made up of 3 stages:

  1. Practice / Apply – This is the stage where you put what you want to learn into action.
  2. Measure – This is the stage where you’re acquiring information about your performance. This is also the stage that is most ignored… or done ineffectively.
  3. Learn – This is the stage where you analyze how well you performed, and make adjustments to improve and practice/apply again.

It’s important to recognize these 3 stages and put them into place each time you practice a new skill.

Many people only have Stage 1 completed, and a very unclear or fuzzy process for Stage 2, which leads to poor results in Stage 3.

A good, smooth cycle will help you continuously make improvements with each loop, creating steady progress and upgrading your understanding of the skill.

How to Have an Effective Feedback Loop

To make sure your Feedback Loop is effective, you will have to look at 3 key factors: Consistency, Speed, and Accuracy.

1. Be Consistent

Being consistent means having a regular way to get the same quality of feedback. You need to be able to compare every practice or learning experience in order to measure, learn and make adjustments. If your feedback is not consistent, then you’re going to have a hard time knowing what went wrong or what went right.

For example, say you’re learning to play the guitar. If you play a different song every time you practice, you’re going to get very inconsistent feedback. Because the difficulty, rhythm, and pace of every song is different, you won’t have a reliable way to compare how well you played the current song versus the last. So, the best way to learn would be to play the same song over and over again until you get to a certain proficiency.

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Seems obvious in this case, but it’s just an example. A lot of times learning is hard because we don’t focus on keeping with a consistent environment or actions.

2. Be Quick

Let’s move on to the second factor: speed. Having speedy or fast feedback is important because the longer it takes to get feedback, the longer it will take to improve on the skill. That’s why some people spend a tremendous amount of time practicing, but make very slow progress.

On the other hand, the best forms of feedback are almost instantaneous. The shorter the time it takes for one Feedback Loop to complete, the better. This is because you’ll have more attempts, which means more improvements within the same timespan.

So, the key to getting fast feedback is to take the skill or knowledge and break it down. Try to breakdown the skill into different components. They could be broken down into steps, subskills or processes, or even by difficulty.

For example, if the skill you want to learn involves a sequence (ie: there is a step by step process), you can break your learning down by each step. Create a Feedback Loop for each step individually instead of the whole process. Isolate the processes into different parts that you can focus and work on individually.

Let’s say you’re learning to cook. You can break this skill into steps, such as finding fresh and suitable ingredients, preparing and handling the ingredients, preparing condiments and sauces, serving and plating, etc.

Or let’s say you’d like to learn how to play soccer. You can identify the sub-skills that make up the larger learning techniques to playing soccer, and create feedback loops for each of them individually. So you could start by learning how to dribble the ball, followed by passing, and then shooting.

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The third and final factor to an effective Feedback Loop, is Accuracy. This means having feedback that actually reflects your performance accurately. Since you’re relying on feedback to tell you what and where to improve on the next time, this is very important. This is why measuring feedback is a key skill to have for an effective Feedback Loop.

3. Be Accurate

Obtaining accuracy in feedback becomes a common weak point for many learners, because it’s not always easy to define what “accuracy” means.

To get accurate feedback, we have to have a way of measuring it. The reason why we sometimes get poor feedback is because we’re trying to measure our progress without quantifying our performance. Or, we’re using the wrong metrics to quantify the feedback. Worse yet, it might just be that you were never measuring or recording your performance at all! Can you recall yourself being in a similar situation?

In order to find areas for improvement, you have to be able to compare your current performance with your previous performance. This is so that you have a baseline, or something to measure up against, to look for room for improvements.

Quantifying is a way to accurately measure your performance. Quantifying something means attaching a number to it. This helps to give objectivity and consistency when comparing two things. Quantifying feedback can give you constructive information that will help you improve during each cycle of the feedback loop.

Let’s say you’re practicing how to dribble a basketball. The first time you dribble, your coach tells you you’re doing a good job. The second time round, you get better and your coach affirms you by saying you’ve done a great job! Sure, your dribbling skill has improved–you know it, your coach knows it, but by how much? And how can you further improve your dribbling skills? A good job versus a great job doesn’t indicate how well you’ve performed, and how much better you can perform.

But, now in the second scenario, if you manage to dribble the basketball up and down the court 4 times continuously without letting the ball slip, your coach tells you you’ve done a good job. In the second round, your coach now tells you to dribble the basketball up and down the court 8 times continuously without letting the ball slip. You managed to do that and your coach tells you great job! You can now quantify your improvement by the number of times you were able to dribble the basketball across the court.

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With a quantity attached to your performance, you’re now able to push yourself further by learning to dribble 16 times or more across the basketball court. You can even add in new obstacles like having to dribble across the court with an opponent trying to snatch your basketball. If you’re successful, you can try dribbling across the court with 2 opponents snatching your basketball, so on and so forth. You’re now able to easily quantify your improvement.

Continuously Improve Your Feedback Loop!

So now that you’re familiar with the Feedback Loop, are you ready to put it into practice? What’s a new skill that you’d like to start on?

Try implementing every stage of the Feedback Loop when learning this new skill and see for yourself, whether your learning improves at a quicker rate.

It is essential to continuously improve your Feedback Loop in order to keep up your momentum, and avoid running into the law of diminishing returns. Improving your Feedback Loop means knowing what to measure next, and what questions to ask, to find out.

In fact, the technique you’ve learned from this article is only part of our Learning Course. If you’d like to discover more gems that will help you speed up your learning and push yourself towards the goals that you’ve been striving for, check out our Learn Anything Fast Course.

Or you can find out more learning tips in these articles:

Featured photo credit: Adeolu Eletu via unsplash.com

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