Proven Strategies to Enhance Your Knowledge, Communication, and Information Retention
Since you are going to be spending your valuable time with this learning material, we are going to begin with the Elements of Effective Learning Strategies as our first awareness and tool. Once a goal is established, it is important to know how to move along the pathway to success. Learning how to learn will give you an overview of how to best assimilate this information and incorporate it into your life skills. It will also give you a template to understand where your clients, employees, customers, colleagues, and others might be blocking themselves from moving forward.
As we look at the Elements of Effective Learning Strategies in more detail we will take each step separately. Remember this is for you, the reader, as well as for you to effectively guide others when that is your area of responsibility.
1. Begin in a Positive State:
“Think of a time when you were able to learn something easily and rapidly.”
This question will bring up an example or experience, perhaps even from childhood, of a time when learning was successful, even though it might have taken effort or time to achieve. Examples might be: Riding a bicycle; driving a car; playing a sport; cooking a special meal; etc. As you remember this experience, ‘step into…’ (imagine you are back in the experience) what it was like to be there then. This will associate you with the experience. To associate means to imagine re-experiencing the feelings and memory in the present, as if you were there again. This is a valuable way to create a positive state of being.
A positive state for learning will include curiosity, openness, desire and motivation to learn, calmness, willingness, playfulness, excitement, etc. Some situations may require tenacity and others being more relaxed, so choose an example that will elicit a state of being that is appropriate for the current learning situation or challenge.
2. Chunk down to a manageable size:
“What is the first step?” or “What has to happen first in order to achieve your goal?”
One of the ways we keep ourselves “stuck” is to have such a huge or faraway goal that is overwhelming, surreal, or uninteresting. Asking this question points you in the direction of creating a plan or procedure that may include many mini-goals leading to the larger outcome. It brings the task into a seemingly accomplishable focus with a time and date to take action.
3. Feedback from the Task itself:
“As you complete a step, or while doing the task, be open and flexible for course corrections. Notice what is working; notice what you would do differently…without judgment or criticism – just the facts!”
As we are growing and experimenting, everything is either a learning experience where we are gathering important information, or we are actually implementing the change or some of both. When we stay focused in this way, it supports the presupposition that there is no failure – only feedback. It’s a good self-esteem builder.
4. Compare your ability now with your ability in the past:
The challenge is to focus on personal progress in relation to the goal; rather than comparing oneself to an expert or other authority figure. It’s good to have role models and mentors and people who inspire us. Yet, when we then compare our skill as a beginner to the skill of the expert and expect to have the same level of competency, it can be very discouraging. On the other side of the scale, if we were to compare ourselves to someone less accomplished than what we want to achieve, we might wallow in mediocrity and not be motivated to do our best.
5. Convincer Strategy:
“How do you know you have learned well enough for now?”
Having an exit strategy is crucial for success. It is important to be able to recognize when you have studied enough, read enough, practiced enough to meet your goal, and then move on.
6. Confusion to Practice to Understanding:
Develop the habit of awareness to let confusion or not knowing to be a positive motivator. So often, someone will have a “be perfect already” mandate that becomes a huge roadblock to taking a risk or being willing to go through the learning stages we discussed earlier.
People who are excellent learners relish confusion and challenges, knowing that they will be solving the puzzle or gaining expertise and adding to their lives as they strive for clarity and results.
7. Future-Pace Learning:
“Where, when, and with whom will you be using this goal? Think about how beneficial that will be!”
Future pacing refers to the skill of doing a mental and physical dress rehearsal of the new learning or ability. By associating or connecting the new pattern with future events, when those events arrive, the new response will be more familiar and comfortable. When we visualize a thought, the brain believes it is true. Therefore when we imagine being successful, skillful, or attaching the accomplishment we just made into situations in the future, there will be more of an automatic result when the situation becomes present.
How Do We Learn?
There are three basic ways that we learn. The most natural form is Modeling which is the foundation of learning. Modeling is simply detailed pattern detection. We choose something we want to accomplish or learn, find one or more examples of someone who does this with excellence and then discover the structure of the components that bring success.
This is basically how we naturally learn as a child: See, Hear,… Do. In this course, you will learn tools to model with precision and then be able to teach or install successful patterns with others and with yourself. It is important to find the basic pattern or structure of a topic or challenge, leaving aside anything that is superfluous to the result.
As a coach, consultant, and leader, it is also important to be able to model what it is your client is doing that doesn’t work. It is another way to find ways to create change when something is not working. Pattern detection is an important part of modeling.
Direct Experience is when life just happens. There may not even be an intention to figure something out or learn – we just happen to be recipients of an experience. Then we can decide what to do differently if we don’t like the result, and we decide what to repeat if we are happy with the outcome.
A less immediate yet powerful way of learning is through Indirect Experience, or stories and metaphors. We can learn by hearing about the experiences of others, then imagining how this might relate to your own life.
We will be using all three of these styles of learning throughout this course. We will describe a particular process, demonstrate it through the accompanying DVD, and give you guidelines and drills to practice and develop your own competency.
Each of you has developed a particular style of learning that is familiar, and you come to this course with certain skills and goals in place. Being open to updating your strategies, and being willing to take the small steps required to build a skill, will serve you well on this learning journey.