I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how people learn. I’m planning on going back to study next year and I’m looking forward to continuing to learn and grow, but have to admit that I’m a little worried about how I’ll slot back into the studying mindset.
Whether we realise it or not we all have a preferred method of learning, a method that allows us to “get it” and make the best of our learning experience. I know that I have a particular preference for learning new things and wherever possible I try to follow that preference.
To put it simply there seems to be two basic ways to learn:
Learning by absorbing
At its simplest this is done through reading, discussion, lectures, usually the standard classroom setting. We “absorb” information from various sources and write a paper to show we have understood the lessons being taught. We tend to call this the University/College approach.
Learning by experiencing
At its simplest, learning by doing. A hands on approach, learning as you go, being shown how to do something and then applying new knowledge right away. We tend to call this the Vocational Education/Apprenticeship approach.
Both ways have their pros and cons, I’m certainly no expert on learning but for the purpose of this post those definitions are adequate. Both are proven ways to learn and grow, both have led countless numbers into successful careers and fulfilling lives.
However it seems to me that in Western culture we give preference to the University/College approach, we seem to place more value on learning through absorbing than learning through experience. There seems to be this almost subconcious belief that learning through experience is for those that arent smart enough or can’t cut it at learning by absorbing. Sure it’s not for everyone but we need to be careful that we dont place head knowledge above practical experience.
For example, its really important to know how to give CPR, to know all the techniques involved and the timing breaks between breaths and compressions. But if you’ve only read about CPR and never actually experienced giving it, even in practice, then you havent really got a well rounded knowledge of this life saving procedure. I’d like to suggest that simply knowing about something isnt enough, we need to also expereince it in order to have a well rounded and complete knowledge. There needs to be a balance between the two ways of learning otherwise we are in danger of not really knowing anything at all…