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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 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.

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    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?

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    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.

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    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.

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    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

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