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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!

More Learning Hacks

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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Published on June 22, 2020

7 Characteristics of a Smart Auditory Learner

7 Characteristics of a Smart Auditory Learner

I spent five years as a middle and high school teacher, and I would often hear people talking about learning styles. “Betty is a visual learner. Sam is kinesthetic. Emma is an auditory learner.”

I hadn’t read any research about learning styles at the time, but on the face of it, it makes sense. Some people seem to learn better when they see things, others when they’re active, and some when they hear things. I know that I really struggle when someone spells a word aloud. I have no idea what word they’re spelling. I’ve always just made the excuse that I’m a visual learner and will need them to write it down for me. But is there any truth to learning styles?

Before we delve into the characteristics of a smart auditory learner, let’s take a step back and explore what research says about learning styles more generally.

Debunking Learning Styles

In the 1990s, a New Zealand school inspector named Neil Fleming[1] came up with a questionnaire to measure people’s preferred learning style. Now called the VARK questionnaire, it’s still used today to discern whether people are Visual, Auditory, Read/Write, or Kinesthetic learners.

Fleming’s learning styles theory gained popularity over the decades, but no studies have confirmed its legitimacy. In a study by Polly Husmann and Valerie Dean O’Loughlin[2], they found that people who used their preferred learning style did not see any improvements in learning outcomes. In short, there was no correlation between learning style and actual learning.

Another study by Abby R. Knoll, Hajime Otani, Reid L. Skeel, and K. Roger Van Horn[3] also found that learning style had no relationship with recall. Participants who preferred visual learning did not recall images they saw any better than words they heard.

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There’s no evidence that learning styles help people learn or recall. Instead, they should be thought of as a learning preference. I prefer when people write things down for me, but there’s no evidence that this improves my recall.

7 Characteristics of a Smart Auditory Learner

Having a preference for auditory learning means you gravitate toward verbal communication. Audiobooks and lectures might be your cup of tea instead of the charts and graphs of a visual learner.

So what if you think you’re an auditory learner? Let’s say you have a knack for processing audio communication and can close your eyes and pick up all the important details of a lecture or audiobook. The following list is for you. Here are 7 characteristics of smart auditory learners—people who use their auditory preference to their advantage.

1. They Take Learning Styles With a Grain of Salt

This bears repeating. There is no evidence that people’s learning styles impact their learning, so a smart auditory learner definitely takes learning styles with a grain of salt.

Think of it as a preference. Smart auditory learners know they prefer audiobooks and hearing things out loud, so there’s no harm leaning into that preference.

Just don’t assume it’s going to improve your test scores.

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2. They Get Rid of Distractions

Just because you’re an auditory learner doesn’t mean you can sift through lots of auditory inputs at once. No matter your learning preference, make sure you put effort into limiting distractions.

An auditory learner might struggle to study while listening to music or have difficulty working with the TV on because they’re so receptive to auditory information. Therefore, you should find a quiet place to learn, so you can focus all your energy on whatever it is you’re trying to retain.

3. They Match Learning Task With Learning Style

The real secret to improving your retention and recall is to match the learning task with the learning style. A smart auditory learner knows the best time to rely on auditory learning. They don’t always fall back on listening. Instead, they strategize the best approach for each individual learning challenge.

For example, I might know that I favor visual learning, but if I need to memorize my lines in a play, I might be better served recording the other characters’ lines, so I can practice saying my lines when I hear my cues.

Maybe I’m more kinesthetic. That doesn’t mean that I have to move to learn. Instead, I have to be strategic about when and how I add movement to my learning process. It might make sense for me to memorize countries or states by drawing a giant map and running to the right spot when someone yells out that geographic location. However, it doesn’t make much sense to dance around while I’m reading Foucault. The learning style should be in service of whatever it is that’s being learned.

Instead of catering to people’s learning preferences, we should be matching the learning style with the task at hand. Ask yourself, “What’s the best style (visual, auditory, kinesthetic, reading/writing) for this particular learning task?”

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4. They Use Their Voice

Auditory learners might need to read things aloud or listen to audiobooks instead of silently reading. Adding your voice can help turn reading/writing into an auditory exercise.

Get creative with it. If you consider yourself to be an auditory learner, think of different ways to add an audio element to your learning. Sing it. Yell it. Turn it into a poem. Just don’t get stuck in the reading/writing learning style when you prefer to be hearing and listening.

5. They Practice Listening

Smart auditory learners don’t take listening for granted. Just because you prefer auditory learning doesn’t mean you’re great at it. Instead, smart auditory learners take their preference and improve it over time.

Practice your listening skills. Give people your undivided attention, clarify what you’ve just heard, and challenge yourself to be as active and present a listener as possible.

Asking clarifying questions and repeating back what you’ve just heard can help you assess how accurate your listening is[4]. You should also transfer what you’ve heard to other learning styles. Write it down or draw it as pictures, charts, and graphs. That brings us to the next characteristic of smart auditory learners.

6. They Use All Learning Styles

Smart auditory learners use all the learning styles. They may have a preference for listening, but using all types of inputs helps improve retention and recall.

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If you’re studying for an exam, don’t just record your notes as audio or listen to online lectures. Use flashcards, read your notes out loud, quiz yourself, create an active game that requires you to move around, and teach the concepts to your roommate. This gets as many parts of your brain and body involved in the learning as possible, which increases your odds of retaining the information and acing the exam.

7. They Reflect on What Works and What Doesn’t

Smart auditory learners are also reflective and self-aware learners. After you try a learning strategy, assess and reflect on how it went. Did you retain as much information as you’d hoped? Build off your successes and change strategies when a learning style isn’t working for you.

Smart auditory learning is really just smart learning. Create a game plan that uses multiple, appropriate learning styles. Then, follow through by removing distractions and studying your heart out. After assessing how much you’ve retained, reflect on what worked and what didn’t. Then, refine your game plan for more success next time.

Final Thoughts

It would be magical if learning styles were a silver bullet for learning. I’d love to be able to say I’m a visual learner and then be able to recall every single piece of information just by seeing it represented visually. Unfortunately, that’s not at all how learning styles work.

Learning is complex and messy. Just because we prefer one learning style doesn’t mean it helps us learn better. What we really need to do is experiment with all the learning styles and try to match the right learning styles with each specific task.

Knowing your learning style is important. It’s good to know how you prefer to receive information. Just don’t stop there. Use your preference for auditory learning strategically and when it makes sense to do so.

More Tips for When You’re an Auditory Learner

Featured photo credit: Blaz Erzetic via unsplash.com

Reference

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