Exploding Myths about Learning


When I was a child, and a string of Christmas tree lights went out, it was my job to replace each bulb one-by-one to discover which one was burned out. To enrich our effectiveness in work or study, we need to first uncover what is obstructing our progress. We need to ensure that we are sufficiently hydrated and nourished. A person dehydrated by just five percent has a diminished cognitive ability of thirty percent. The right types of food will supply the brain with its fuel - glucose. As well, our immediate surroundings must be factored in. Things like temperature, illumination, cleanliness, acoustics, and support materials. A competitive atmosphere is built into the school format, and this discourages some who are less visual or auditory than others.


Ninety-five percent of our behaviors are automatic. They are driven by the subconscious mind, which faithfully carries out clear directives. Like computer programs, these patterns or habits are often established in early childhood, and operate flawlessly until they are changed. This can explain self-sabotage, difficulties with motivation, discipline, and attitudes.


Whether you are a student, or already in the workforce, you have a need to take in information in the most efficient manner possible. For the next few moments, suspend your belief in everything you know about how to learn. Keep an open mind to new concepts.


Some people still believe that incoming data (information) reaches the conscious mind first, and then somehow gets processed so that some of it finally reaches long-term memory. Actually, the opposite is true. Initially, all data hits the subconscious for processing. The brain's priority is survival. If the new information isn't threatening, then it is compared to existing data. If it's not needed, it is deleted. The remaining data is sorted and filtered. Some is handed off to the conscious mind for processing, and some is consigned to long-term memory. This all happens in a flash. The subconscious mind operates at 800 times the speed of the conscious mind.


Why can't people remember things when they are nervous? I am sure that you've heard of the body's reaction to threat. It's called fight-or-flight. It is typified by rapid breathing, and a diversion of oxygenated blood from the visceral area to muscles. As well, blood moves from the brain's thinking area (frontal lobes) to that part of the brain that is responsible for survival reactions (reptilian brain). Under stress, we just don't think as well.


We learn by taking in information through all our senses. The top three ways we learn is seeing, hearing, and touching. Most instructors do not think that learning through touch and movement is useful beyond the lower grades. Generally speaking, school systems cater to visual and auditory learners. Those whose principal learning mode is kinesthetic (touch, movement, experience) operate at a distinct disadvantage. This group makes up a large portion of high-school dropouts.


The concept of different learning styles goes far beyond just visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. I am sure you know that most people have a dominant hand and a dominant brain hemisphere. People also have a dominant foot, dominant eye, and dominant ear. The configuration of how any one person is wired may show one of a possible 32 unique learning styles.


Occasionally, trainers instruct according to how they themselves learn. They blatantly disregard the fact that many of their learners do not share the same approach. This non-inclusive teaching can be remedied by including a number of simple measures. The use of flip charts in lieu of presentation slides is more kinesthetic. It encourages learners to pace themselves with the lesson as it progresses, rather than "reading ahead" and not listening to the instructor. Flip chart pages can be placed around the room to be used as review points. These reviews are done at the beginning of the next class, in groups of three walking around the room (kinesthetic activity). The small group format increases the chance that each student will be discussing the points with classmates whose learning styles are different. This enables new perceptions to emerge.




















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