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Published on March 3, 2020

How the Cognitive Learning Approach Helps You Learn Faster

How the Cognitive Learning Approach Helps You Learn Faster

It is widely believed that as you become an adult, you get dull. Your personality stops to shine and the brain stops accepting new ideas the way it used to when you were a teen.

Guess what?

That is not true at all. You can continue to polish your skillset as you grow. The ability to learn never fades as long as you use the right techniques.

Cognitive learning is one such technique that continues to help your brain grow so that you don’t ever have to stop gaining knowledge!

What is Cognitive Learning?

Cognitive learning is a method in which your brain creates connections in order to understand the knowledge at hand.[1]

Basically, when your brain interacts with something that is new, it is almost impossible to comprehend it. So, if you were to be introduced to a foreign language on its own, none of the information will ever make sense in your mind.

With the cognitive approach, your brain will connect the new information with what is already known. To do so, you may use visuals, audios, writing or any other method that works the best for you.

In the example of a foreign language, with this approach, your brain will link the new words to prior knowledge. If you’re learning to write a specific word, you can create a link between its meanings with a visual that will help you remember how to write it correctly.

Similarly, the brain might not be able to remember the right pronunciation unless the word is related to a similar sound which the person is already familiar with.

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Cognitive learning is the name of a constructive approach that leads to long-term learning. It is a very hands-on and active technique. The brain is forced to be a part of the entire learning process in a productive way. This neither tires the mind nor confuses it.

This method strongly emphasizes on prior knowledge. New knowledge is learned on the basis of old concepts. Not only does this allow the new information to find a permanent spot in the brain, but it also further solidifies the previous concepts.

The 3 Main Ingredients of Cognitive Learning

In the cognitive learning approach, you implement three major factors of the cognitive process:[2]

You use your memory to recall familiar information, comprehend the new knowledge, and then apply the data retrieved from both these processes to create new connections.

So, the use of memory is limited to recollection and there is no cramming involved. As for comprehension, your brain figures out the entire trail of knowledge for a solid learning base. Lastly, the application is useful for problem-solving as well as for reflection. You can build onto the knowledge to learn more than what it stated.

All in all, the cognitive learning approach puts the brain to work in a healthy way. It makes sure that the learner actually retracts information from the presented knowledge instead of simply forcing it inside the brain.

This is why it is an effective approach even for elders. They have years of experience and so, their brain is full of relevant examples. This means that they are capable of learning anything in the world as long the approach is used correctly.

The Benefits of Cognitive Learning

Now we know exactly how cognitive learning works. Why should you bother to implement this technique in your life? There are tons of other options that allow you to learn new things effectively too. So, why bother with cognitive learning?

Knowledge Becomes Applicable

Here’s the thing:

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The learning process goes beyond the few hours of absorbing new ideas. You may consider an approach successful if it puts the required data in your mind. But, that is useless unless you can extract practical knowledge from this newly learned information.

Let’s take the example of a training workshop where you’re learning tactics to deal with unsatisfied customers. The workshop is superb. You’re given a long list of tips to implement. However, that list is useless unless you can actually use it in real-life situations.

A customer is standing in front of your desk screaming at you. You are in full panic mode and your brain is struggling to figure out a way to solve the problem. There is a clear image of the exact list that was taught to you. But you don’t know what information to extract from this list and how to implement it.

Had you used the cognitive learning approach, your brain wouldn’t have to cram the list of tactics. Instead, there would have been a clear understanding of how each tactic applies to the real world. You would have a solid connection with the given information.

A real-life scenario that demands the implementation of the knowledge would instantly trigger your brain, the links in your brain will light up the necessary portion of information and you won’t get in trouble.

“How all of this can happen?” You may ask.

Cognitive learning is a method that affects more than just the process of the entry of information in your brain. It unconsciously affects other parts of the brain too.

These parts work on the boost of confidence of the individual. At the back of the mind, the learner is self-assured that whatever has been learned is done in a fool-proof way. This boost of confidence further aids the process of quicker learning and successful application of the idea.

A Leverage of Skills

Cognitive learning helps develop more skills than what the learner is aiming for. You could be learning a new language with this approach but simultaneously, your problem-solving abilities will also be polished. This means that right off the bat, your brain begins to learn how to use the learned knowledge to deal with real-life issues.

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On top of that, your brain will automatically develop the skill to understand situations at a deeper level in order to tackle them efficiently.

It is a technique that encourages more learning. You won’t feel frustrated. Instead of wanting to give up, the cognitive approach will make you want to learn even more. What’s better than that, right?

The cycle will continue and you can keep polishing your skillset further throughout your life. Moreover, the knowledge learned with this method is long-term. Not only is prior knowledge strengthened, but the roots of the new information are always laid strong. Whatever new skill or information you learn, it will benefit you forever.

How to Use Cognitive Learning in Everyday Life?

So far, you’ve seen how cognitive learning works and what benefits it has. But the real question is, how to implement this approach in your everyday life?

Here’s the deal:

There are three stages of learning. Cognitive learning is the first one. Once you put this approach in play, the other two steps follow naturally.

Cognitive learning can be done in any one of the following ways:

1. Implicit Learning

There are numerous skills you learn unconsciously. Nobody really taught you to speak but you got the hold of how it’s done. Anything that you learn without an instructor is technically implicit learning. It is focused on unconscious psychological learning.

2. Explicit learning

This is the complete opposite of implicit learning. It is when you make an effort to seek an instructor who can teach you something. Looking for learning opportunities consciously is explicit learning.

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3. Collaborative Learning

When you’re learning alongside other novice level learners from the same instructor, it leads to discussions that may not have crossed your mind. Collaborative working is dependent on interactions to a certain level.

4. Co-operative Learning

In case the collaborative learning includes a practical approach along with a set of defined instructions too, that is so-operative learning. It is quite closely related to the collaborative learning method.

5. Meaningful Learning

Cognitive learning focuses on the true understanding of what a piece of information implies. It is based on the total interpretation without rote learning anything at all.

For example, instead of learning the guitar’s chords, if you were to understand why each chord is different, it will be meaningful cognitive learning.

6. Observational Learning

As the name suggests, this is the learning done through observation. You learn what you see. The social environment and interactions play a big role here. Your socializing abilities are a kind of skill that you learn through this method.

Here’s how to do it: How to Use Observational Learning to Learn Effectively

The Bottom Line

There is no way to practically implement methods like implicit learning. Since it is an unconscious approach, it only works when the mind is not exactly focused on the task at hand. However, you can try out methods such as observational learning or meaningful learning.

Whatever you’re trying to learn, observe it being done practically. Watch game shows, for example, to learn how to play badminton. Or, understand the meaning that makes the knowledge useful instead of just cramming it word to word.

The cognitive learning approach is undoubtedly an excellent method. It is a life-long technique that will never stop working!

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Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] CumInCAD: Conversation, Cognition, and Learning
[2] The Tech Edvocate: What is Cognitive Learning

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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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