Learning Deconstructed

The word “knowledge” means something different than it used to. It used to mean understanding of information. That information might relate to theory or practice. So I might understand the theory of general relativity or how to make coffee. The change occurred when we started to think more carefully about the process of understanding.

What doe sit mean to understand something? There are at least two aspects to understanding. One is retention. I have to be able to retrieve information about the subject in order to claim that I understand it. The second is application. Memorizing data so that I can regurgitate does not allow me to use it.

If we think of understanding this way — composed of retention and application, we have the elements of a learning model. I take in data, I ask what did I take in (to test if I can retain it), I use it, and I ask how could I use it better, then I test if I have made an improvement. In this sense, learning is a cycle that takes us up up to higher levels until we conclude that we no longer need to go further. We focus on other learning priorities.

This can be modified to manage learning from doing. All we need to do is to define the task, do it, ask how I could do it better,  test performance the next go round. and measure progress. The elements are

  • agenda (deciding what to do)
  • doing
  • setting metrics
  • redoing
  • measuring

If you apply the above rigorously, you develop a passion for life long learning.

A brief follow up — check this article out that discusses the difference between reception of information and testing that reception.


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