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We may have been told that we were “unique” by our parents growing up and as we continued to grow up we were constantly met with this idea that we should separate ourselves from other; make ourselves stand out from the crowd. Life filled with organization of people one way or another; the “have’s” and the “have not’s” or those who are “musically talented” and those who “may not have the chops to make it in that industry.” In an article from informED, they analyzed 25 things that “skilled learners” do differently than others and here is what they learned.
1. Think about their own learning
A student who has a high level of meta learning (thinking about your own learning) awareness is able to assess the effectiveness of her learning approach and regulate it according to the demands of the learning task.
2. Ask more questions
Researchers have found time and time again that students who ask more questions perform better academically. Thomas Good found that low-achieving students ask fewer questions than high-achieving students in middle and secondary education settings.
3. Are process-oriented
Learners who find more joy in the process of working toward their goals will have an easier time achieving those goals.
4. Can often find their own way, without guidance
Self-dependent learners become skilled learners, in part, because they familiarize themselves with the process of thinking critically and overcoming the fear of making mistakes.
5. Always keep the big picture in mind
Being able to visualize how the details fit into the bigger picture, and how one picture relates to another, is an enormous learning advantage.
6. Frequently try new things
Trying new things keeps the brain sharp. But it also expands your ability to learn new things while rewarding you with a new skill or piece of knowledge.
7. Make mistakes work for them, not against them
Skilled learners make a point of viewing mistakes as opportunities: they ask themselves, “What is my mistake and why did I make it?” and “What can I do to prevent this mistake in the future?”
8. Interested in improving their memory
In daily life, learning depends heavily on memory. Skilled learners either have strong memories already, or they’re interested in improving.
9. Keep Learning
It’s important to retain knowledge through practice. A 2004 Nature article reported that people who learned how to juggle increased the amount of grey matter in their occipital lobes, the area of the brain associated with visual memory. When these individuals stopped practicing their new skill, this grey matter vanished.
10. Process the same concept in multiple ways
“The more regions of the brain that store data about a subject, the more interconnection there is. This redundancy means students will have more opportunities to pull up all of those related bits of data from their multiple storage areas in response to a single cue. This cross-referencing of data means we have learned, rather than just memorized.”- Judy Willis
11. Teach Others
Modern researchers have found that students enlisted to tutor others work harder to understand the material, recall it more accurately and apply it more effectively. In a phenomenon that scientists have dubbed “the protege effect,” student teachers score higher on tests than pupils who are learning only for their own sake.
12. Use previous learning to promote new learning
Skilled learners connect new material they learned to what they already know.
13. Can turn knowledge into competence
Skilled learners try to use what they’ve learned on a regular basis, whether in conversation, writing, physical practice, or product creation.
14. Look up answers rather than struggle to remember
If you can recall the information without much trouble, it’s a better way of preparing for a test than simply re-reading the course material.
15. Are Good Observers
Skilled learners can pick up on the things that are most useful to them and filter out the rest.
16. Use testing to boost their own learning
Skilled learners quiz themselves on new and old material regularly in order to solidify it into their long term memory store.
17. Cultivate Curiosity
Skilled learners cultivate curiosity by asking questions, not taking things at face value, pursuing things you’re genuinely interested in, and not assuming you know all the answers.
18. Work To Understand
Skilled learners tackle the unknown with ferocity and don’t rest until they’ve addressed their own confusion.
19. Know How To Live With Uncertainty
Skilled learners realize the difference between questions with one right answer and questions with no right answer. Each type of question has its own value.
20. Make knowledge their own
Good learners change their knowledge structures in order to accommodate what they are learning. They use the new knowledge to tear down what’s poorly constructed, to finish what’s only partially built, and to create new additions.
21. Appreciate different perspectives
Skilled learners are open to views that are different from your own. Being open doesn’t mean agreeing; it simply means being willing to learn for the sake of knowing more about the world you live in.
22. Share what they’ve learned
Sharing requires an awareness of an audience, maybe even a different perspective from yours, and therefore forces you to think about what you’ve learned in a way that is useful to others. In this way, sharing enriches your own learning experience.
23. Can explain what they know in ways that make sense to others
Skilled learners think about what they’ve learned in terms of how others might interpret it
24. Have clear objectives
Skilled learners also have an agenda, and the goal of that agenda, more often than not, is mastery.
25. Gather information from a variety of sources
Skilled learners use a variety of sources when gathering information. Doing this helps avoid any potential bias and builds a fuller perspective.
Those are all fine but it's difficult to learn in only 25 easy steps. I'd rather learn the parameters and explore the known universe before drilling down to minutiae. Basically the funnel approach.
I think these are great tips. Reading through them, they seem to reflect the qualities of good leaders. Leadership requires creative thinking, the ability to be independent, and the skills to transfer your knowledge to others. Being a "skilled" learner, according to the above, seems to be very much an exercise in self-reflection - learning from your experiences and the ability to step back and evaluate a situation objectively. Those are great skills to have and will take you far on a personal level, but should also be leveraged to teach others how to do the same.
Skilled learners are taught to work in a particular pattern, and are much more efficient due to their skill-sets and awareness. It's these things that make them more wanted in whichever industry they work in.