One of the things that is often said to me as I teach these techniques and principles in both education and business is something along the lines of :
"Well I have tried that and it doesn't work for me"
"I can see how these techniques work but I don't know if I want to put the effort in to learn how to use them" .
It often amazes me that people get hooked on the process rather than the result. In my mind, to be a really effective learner, you need to know exactly what it is you want to learn, the level of proficiency you want to achieve in your subject or skill and a deep understanding of the reason why you want to do it and its importance to you. If you have those things clear in your own mind then the process does not matter because you will do anything to achieve your goal as long as it works. Now all of the techniques that I talk about work. Some may require more effort than others to get to work and what may be easy for one person to use may be very difficult for the next but if you are focussed on the result and it is an important outcome for you, then you will do W.E.I.T. (Whatever it Takes). When I reviewed "Accelerated Learning for the 21st Century" by Colin Rose and Malcolm J. Nicholl in January 2000, I told you about their 6 step M.A.S.T.E.R. plan for Accelerated Learning and it is that process that I want to cover this month.
STEP 1 - Motivate Your Mind
Probably the most important step of the entire process. It is so very important that you are motivated to learn for your own reasons because if you are not, when you have to start working hard, it is likely that you will not put the right amount of effort in. You need to do a WIIFM (What's In It For Me) exercise to prime your mind and focus your energies on your learning. That way you will be able to generate motivation to get started and use it to sustain your efforts when things seem tough.
Step 2 - Acquiring the Information
This is the data gathering section of the process and it can be enhanced by knowing your learning style and capitalising on it. We tend to learn using a combination of Visual (what we see), Auditory (what we hear) and Kinesthetic (what we physically and emotionally experience) strategies. We will always use a combination of these three but there may be one which is dominant. Find out which it is and focus your learning on that style.
Step 3 - Search out the Meaning
It is so very important to understand what you are learning rather than just memorise a series of facts. As Rose and Nicholl say in their book "Turning facts into personal meaning is the central element to learning". They go on say that in career terms, the ability to develop a deep understanding and make sense of a jungle of information pays much better than the ability to regurgitate a series of facts.
Step 4 - Trigger the Memory
Once you have developed a deep understanding of your subject, you will still have to lock it into your long term memory and this is where many of the techniques that I have written about on this site become relevant. My own favourite techniques are a combination of Mind Mapping (which for me will give me 80-90%) of my learning, and the use of memory systems (eg the peg system) and mnemonics to round off the last 10-20%. That of course is my own personal preference but find what works for you.
Step 5 - Exhibit what you Know
This stage is in my mind the most important part of the process. Too many of us spend hours and hours and hours hunched over our notes and text books trying to learn and yet we spend very little time practising the recall of the information that we have learnt. So in effect we develop a very strong "IN" mental muscle yet the "OUT" muscle that we will rely on in our exanimations is hardly tested at all. Spend more time demonstrating what you know than putting it in and keep adjusting and correcting until you get it right every single time. It is by not following through on this process that causes the sort of comments I mentioned before.
Step 6 - Reflect on How you have Learnt
The most successful people always monitor what they do, compare their results with their desired outcome and adjust their approach if they are not getting what they want. It is at this stage that you should review the techniques you chose to use in step 4. Keep using the ones that are giving you the results that you want and either get better at the others (I'd suggest you try using something a couple of times instead of dismissing something because it did not work the only time you tried it) or try something else.
And there you have it, the 6 step M.A.S.T.E.R plan for Accelerated Learning. To remember the steps just use the mnemonic MASTER for the first letter of each step of the process. Let me know how you get on with this.
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