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Published on April 15, 2020

Which Learning Approach is the Best for You? Here’s How to Know

Which Learning Approach is the Best for You? Here’s How to Know

As a person who is always looking for ways to enhance learning, it is a common occurrence that sometimes, the hacks and amazing tips you find online end up being useless.

What’s explained like it’s a magic trick does nothing at all. Instead of speeding up your learning, it even slows you down and makes things worse.

Does this mean that these online articles are lying to us?

No, neither are these articles false nor are the learning tips useless. The fault is in your choice of the learning approach.

Do you want to find out why and how? Well, you’re in the right place!

What is a “Learning Approach”?

A learning approach is a pretty self-explanatory term. Any learning method that you use to gain knowledge is a learning approach.

The difference here is that a learning approach is categorized based on the goals that it helps to achieve.

So, if a learning approach has proven to help memorize facts, it will be defined all around this characteristic instead of the way the brain work, the information is retained or any other scientific explanation.

Now what happens here is that a learner is expected to opt for a learning approach that suits the learning aims. This is what ensures that the process itself will prove effective.

Each learning approach is best suited for the respective objective and works seamlessly for the learner regardless of their learning style.

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6 Types of Learning Approaches

Since learning is technically boundary-less, it is only right if there are numerous learning approaches to match various learning goals.

It is best to be aware of all the available options so that you can choose the best one as per your objectives.

1. Behavioristic Approach

If you have a faint idea about the behaviorism theory in learning, you’ll understand this approach very easily.[1]

Basically, as the name suggests, this approach is focused on behavior for the most part. Any sort of learning that is aimed towards a change in behavior is learned best by this approach.

Several skills require a change in behavior rather than the retention of information. It is mostly used in practical learning.

The behavioristic learning approach emphasizes repetition and reinforcement. To elaborate, you can look at the 8 types of learnings introduced by Gagne. These include:

  1. Recognition: The stage where the learner gets a signal of new knowledge or occurrence
  2. Stimulus: The learner reacts to the received information
  3. Multiple discrimination: In this learning, the individual reacts but the responses are carefully chosen to be most relevant to the information received
  4. Concept learning: Based on the stimulus activated by the information, the individual understands the meaning instead of the information itself
  5. Verbal chain learning: Based on whatever information is received, the learner associates a certain verbal pattern with this new knowledge
  6. Motor chain learning: In this type of learning, the individual follows a chain of actions that they deem necessary
  7. Acquisition of rules: This is an extension of concept learning where the learner behaves as per the understanding by creating certain rules in their head
  8. Problem-solving: the learner creates rules after understanding the concept and then uses the entire information to come up with something creative

All these types technically define the types of behaviors that any new information can stimulate.

2. Social Learning

Social learning is very closely related to the behavioristic approach. In fact, it is an extension of the same concept.

However, the social learning approach involves the observations of others’ behaviors instead of focusing on the behavior of the learner. For example, children do what they see their parents doing.

This approach also emphasizes the fact that students of any age and in any environment will do as they see, not as they hear.

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Learn more about social learning in this article: How Social Learning Helps You Learn Faster

3. Constructivist Approach

Constructing basic knowledge is what the constructivist learning approach is all about.

Skills that require the learner to be creative should be practiced using this approach. This technique puts a lot of focus on reflection and reevaluation. This encourages the learner to brainstorm by creating connections and links in their minds with prior knowledge. It also puts the learner in charge of the route that the learning takes.

4. Cognitive Approach

The cognitive learning approach is focused on memorizing and remembering. Don’t misunderstand to be a process of cramming information. Instead, it is a deep method that allows the brain to understand the information and then remembers it for long-term.

It is a great learning method to use for anything that involves the memorization of bigger pieces of information. But, at the same time, you want a solid understanding of every bit of knowledge that gets imprinted in your mind.

5. Experiential Approach

When you learn something by doing it practically, you are following the experiential learning approach.

There are various categories of experiences that teach you something. This may be an observation of an event, being a part of an occurrence, purposely trying out a new skill or process, or reflecting on any of these experiences.

Whatever the case, it is generally important that the learner is an important part of the experience. this leads to first-hand learning.

6. Humanist Approach

The humanistic theory is based entirely on the concept of goodness for all. It aims for a united world that is at peace, where there is an even spread of knowledge, and the learners gain skills and knowledge that have positive effects.[2]

Now, you may have already guessed that this approach works best for group tasks. Learning that has spiritual grounds or aimed towards a community will be done right with this learning approach. This technique starts by encouraging the learner to focus on the right versus the wrong.

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Moreover, the humanistic approach has two forms:

Pedagogy is the mere transmission of knowledge which is basic learning. However, andragogy makes things interesting by putting all the learning control in the hands of the learner.

Hence, this method is well-suited for leaners that are highly motivated and do not like to be controlled.

How to Apply Different Learning Approaches?

So, how can you put these learning approaches to use?

Well, the wheel is in your hand. You can use any of the approaches wherever you think they fit best. But, here are a few examples to give you an idea of what works best in which case:

Behavioristic Approach

This learning approach can be used for anything related to behavior. Improve your emotional stability, practice anger management or go for other self-help skills.

Also, tasks that negatively trigger you can be handled with this technique.

Social Learning

There’s a lot in this world that requires you to interact with other people. Any skill that falls under this umbrella is learned best by social learning.

If you want to learn PR management tactics or marketing strategies, social learning is a great option. Similarly, this approach is also a successful method to gain the skill of managing client services.

Constructivist Approach

The constructivist learning approach is useful for creative skills such as the production of a film or writing a novel.

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Cognitive Approach

Since this approach is aimed towards tasks that require memory, it is a wonderful technique to use in research.

Let’s say you wanted to create a business plan that would prove successful in the coming decade. You could use the cognitive approach to do some historical research and find out consumer behavior before finalizing your plan.

Experiential Approach

Anything that requires a practical outlook should be tackled with this learning approach.

So swimming, playing instruments, and painting require this approach. Even if you observed and memorized all the instructions, you’ll not do well unless you get in the field yourself

Humanistic Approach

The humanistic approach can be used in any skill, the only difference is that the learner is mostly in control. So skills that the individual is highly motivated to learn will work best with this approach. It works even better for community-based or spiritual learning.

Anything from cooking to coding to calligraphy can be learned with this technique as long as you’re ready to be in charge with responsibility!

The Bottom Line

Multiple learning approaches can be used simultaneously to learn one skill or fulfill one task. For example, the cognitive approach is suitable for learning chords of a song whereas the behaviorist approach is needed to actually play these chords on an instrument.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to experiment and try out all the different learning approaches and techniques. As said before, there is no right or wrong. It all just depends on your personal style and goal.

At the end of the day, the learning game is all in your hands. You can boost it or leave it stagnant. The best advice for you is to avoid the latter. As you age, a continuous effort will keep you on the track to betterment!

More Tips to Help You Learn Faster

Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] A Journey Through Psychology: Behavioral Approach
[2] web.cortland.edu: What is Humanistic Psychology

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Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Last Updated on July 24, 2020

A Comprehensive Guide to a Smart Learning Process

A Comprehensive Guide to a Smart Learning Process

One of the most crucial aspects of our lives is the ability to learn. We often take this skill for granted since not many of us pause and think about our learning process. In fact, if we did, we would probably uncover that we engage in ineffective learning mechanisms.

Think about it. Has your learning helped you recall things you learned last month? Go back a year and ponder.

A lot of how we learn was tucked away in school. Our exposure to school learning is the basis of how we learn moving forward. However, over the past few decades, learning has evolved into different stages of learning, and that becomes the main issue.

No longer are we looking at examinations of people’s characteristics about understanding and learning. Instead, scholars have created learning processes that use materials that support our interactions with others and our goals.

As a result, we can learn new things more smartly and effectively – which will be covered as we proceed further in understanding the learning process.

The Essential Steps of the Learning Process

In his book Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell states that the key to success is for us to practice 10,000 hours on a specific skill. It’s also worth noting that the skill needs the correct learning direction. If you’re learning how to do something the wrong way, you’ll continue to use it the wrong way.

But before understanding the learning process, we must understand the stages of learning. Written in the 1970s, Noel Burch created a model called the Four Stages of Learning. [1]

From there, we can use the stages of learning as a basis for how to learn effectively.

1. Unconscious Incompetence

Think of a skill that you are good at and that you use every single day.

Now think back to when you first developed that skill. Were you good at it? Probably not.

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You never heard of the skill or had a desire to learn of it until that point. This is the first stage: You know nothing about it.

2. Conscious Incompetence

Once you have heard of the skill, you begin to delve into it.

Driving a car is a perfect example. Before this stage, you never felt the need to learn how to drive. Nevertheless, once you became of legal age, you had to study to get your license. You likely made several mistakes on the driving test as well as during the written test.

This is the stage where you feel learning is slow, and you’re also aware of your mistakes.

3. Conscious Competence

By this stage, you know pretty much everything you need to know. At the same time, though, you are also aware that you need to focus and concentrate on what you are doing.

This stage can be that you know the rules of the road and can drive well. However, you feel you can’t talk to anyone, play any music, or look away from the road. You feel like you need total silence to focus and concentrate on driving.

At this stage, learning can be even slower than the previous stages. The learning isn’t consistent, nor is it a habit yet.

4. Unconscious Competence

By this stage, you’ve made it. You know everything in and out about the skill. It’s become a habit, and you don’t need to concentrate. You can relax and let your unconscious mind take over.

Exceeding the 4 Stages: Flow/Mastery

While Burch only covered four stages, there is another stage that exceeds it. This is the flow or mastery stage.

You may have heard of something called a flow state. [2] It’s the mental state where someone is performing an activity and is fully immersed in it. They feel energized, focused, and get a sense of joy from doing this activity.

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Flow or mastery can stem from all kinds of activities like Writing, reading, jogging, biking, figure skating, and more. It’s also characterized as complete absorption in what you’re doing, making you unaware of space and time.

Different Types of Learning Process

Another aspect of the learning process is the types of learning. While every person goes through those stages of learning, how we learn is different.

Having covered four learning styles in 4 Learning Styles to Help You Learn Faster and Smarter, I’m recapping the different types of learning in psychology.

Psychiatrists have narrowed how we learn down to seven learning styles as below:

  • Visual (spatial): Learning through pictures, graphs, charts, etc.
  • Aural (auditory-musical): Learning through sound and music.
  • Verbal (linguistic): Learning through spoken or written words.
  • Physical (kinesthetic): Learning through the body, hands, and a sense of touch.
  • Logical (mathematical): Learning through logic, systems, and reasons.
  • Social (interpersonal): Learning through groups or talking to people.
  • Solitary (intrapersonal): Learning individually through self-study or individual assignments.

You may be asking why all of this matters and actually how we learn plays a significant role. How we internally represent experiences stems from how we learn. What we learn not only establishes how we recall information but also impacts our own word choice.

It also influences which part of our brain we use for learning. Researchers uncovered this through various experiments.[3]

For example, say you’re driving to a place you’ve never gone before. How you learn will determine which method of learning you’ll use. Some will ask people for directions, while others will pull up Google maps. Some will write the directions out, while some won’t and merely follow street signs.

Knowing how to learn to this depth is vital because once you know what style you use, you can then develop a learning process to be a more effective learner.

How To Become an Effective Learner?

The learning process varies from person to person. Generally speaking, though, consider the following steps and considerations:

1. Improve Your Memory

Learning doesn’t only require that we learn information, but to retain it. If we are to learn something, we will have to learn and relearn. This means recalling and having a sharp memory to keep that information.

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Improving our memory can range from a variety of things. From memory palaces to practicing other memory improvement tactics.

2. Keep Learning and Practicing New Things

Learning a new skill takes time, but there is nothing wrong with learning a few other things. International Journal of Science – Nature: Changes in grey matter induced by training[4] reported that those who juggled between learning different topics increase their gray matter which is associated with visual memory

3. Learn in Many Ways

While we have our own go-to style, delving into other types and stages of learning can be useful. If you learn by listening to podcasts, why not try rehearsing information verbally or visually?

It will not start great, but by improving your skill to describe what you learned orally, you are further cementing the knowledge in your mind.

Judy Willis MD, M.Ed in her publication on Review of Research: Brain-Based Teaching Strategies for Improving Students’ Memory, Learning, and Test-Taking Success[5] states how the more regions we keep data stored, the more interconnection there is in the collection information that we later process.

4. Teaching What You Learned to Others

It doesn’t have to be in a tutoring situation, but this method is still a reliable way for two people to grow.

Regardless of learning styles, we retain the information we tell others more effectively than if we keep it to ourselves. Was there a random fact you told someone a few months ago? You are more likely to remember that information because you brought it up to someone.

5. Use Relational Learning

Relational learning is relating new information to things you already know.

A typical example of this is remembering someone’s name. You can better recall that person’s name if you associate that name to something or someone familiar.

6. Gaining Practical Experience

Nothing beats learning than trying it for yourself. Sure, seeing information does have its strong points -and most learning styles benefit from exposed information – there is something to be said about getting your “hands dirty.”

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7. Refer Back to past Info If Need Be

The learning process is not perfect. We’ll forget at certain points. If you ever struggle to remember something, make a point of going back to your notes.

This is key because if we try recalling, we risk ourselves learning or relearning the wrong answer. And again, there is a difference between learning the right way and the wrong way.

8. Test Yourself

While this step may seem odd, there are benefits to testing yourself. Even if you think you know everything about the topic, going back and testing yourself can always help.

Not only does testing improve our recall, but we may realize that we learned a concept or task incorrectly. That knowledge can enhance our effectiveness in the future.

9. Stop Multitasking

While we should be learning new things all the time, we shouldn’t be trying to do several tasks at once. We ought to focus on one activity at a time before moving onto other tasks.

By trying to multitask, we are learning less effectively and are only hindering ourselves. Check out how multitasking is merely another way of distracting ourselves.

Bottom Line

Psychologists define learning as the process of a permanent change in a person’s behavior resulting from experience. The understanding of the learning process is up to us, but do consider the bigger picture. Be aware of what style works best for you, and work to improve it while enhancing other learning styles. The only way we can advance a skill is to learn continuously. Even in the skills you have mastered, there are always new developments.

You can learn more about how you can cultivate lifelong learning and attain an edge in every niche that you get associated with today!

Featured photo credit: Aliis Sinisalu via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Gordon Training International: The Four Stages of Competence
[2] Habits for Wellbeing: Flow: the Secret to Happiness: Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
[3] Training Industry: How the Brain Learns
[4] International Journal of Science – Nature: Changes in grey matter induced by training
[5] Judy Willis MD, M.Ed: Review of Research: Brain-Based Teaching Strategies for Improving Students’ Memory, Learning, and Test-Taking Success

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