Many people mistakenly believe that the ability to learn is a matter of intelligence. Different studies are making it clear that learners are made, not born! Through the deliberate use of practice and dedicated strategies to improve our ability to learn, we can all develop expertise faster and more effectively. We can all get better at getting better.
Here are three practical ways to build your learning skills.
Organize your goals In order to develop an area of expertise, we first have to set achievable goals about what we want to learn. Then we have to develop strategies to help us reach those goals.
A targeted approach to learning helps us cope with all the nagging feelings associated with gaining expertise: Am I good enough? Will I fail? What if I’m wrong? Isn’t there something else that I’d rather be doing?
Studies consistently show that people with clear goals outperform people with vague aspirations like “do a good job.” By setting targets, people can manage their feelings more easily and achieve progress with their learning.
Think about thinking
Metacognition is crucial to the talent of learning. Psychologists define metacognition as “thinking about thinking,” and broadly speaking, metacognition is about being more inspective about how you know what you know. It’s a matter of asking ourselves questions like: Do I really get this idea? Could I explain it to a friend? What are my goals? Do I need more background knowledge? Or do I need more practice?
Metacognition comes easily to many trained experts. When a specialist works through an issue, they’ll often think a lot about how the problem is framed. They’ll often have a good sense of whether or not their answer seems reasonable.
Reflect on your learning
There is something of a contradiction in learning. It turns out that we need to let go of our learning in order to understand our learning. For example, when we step away from a problem, we often learn more about a problem. Get into a discussion with a colleague, for instance, and often your best arguments arrive while you’re washing the dishes later. In short, learning benefits from reflection. This type of reflection requires a moment of calm.