Over the last several months I have been learning a lot of new material on my own. Over this period, I have realized that my learning can be organized into three strategies. By understanding these strategies and their roles I hope to become a more productive learner.
- Exposure (comprehension, communication)
- Connections (understanding, theory)
- Implications (memorization, application)
Exposure learning is the highest level of the three strategies. It is characterized by a light touch that can easily jump from one subject to another. For me, exposure learning is defined by comfort rather form. Because exposure learning primarily involves consuming information I already know I used to considered it less important. However, I now think it is the key to life long learning. It allows for constant knowledge refreshing without wearing a learner out.
Connection learning is the level below exposure. It is characterized by aha moments and Wikipedia articles. I find this level to be one of the most fun. Here I start to discover the ties between lots of areas I already know. For long term recall this is critical as the more connections the easier it is to remember. It also corrects small misunderstandings by looking at a subject from many perspectives. With its focus on theory though it can cause a false sense of subject mastery.
Implication learning is the deepest level of learning. It is characterized by a narrow and intense focus. Implication learning requires getting hands dirty and can be frustrating. No misunderstanding is accepted at this level otherwise incorrect implications and applications are reached.
Personal Learning Tendencies
Historically I’ve spent most of my time at the Connections level. In prepping for the GRE over the last few months though I’ve found that I need considerable more of Exposure and Implication learning. The amount of subject matter I’ve learned can only be retained if I find light reading material that exercises my new knowledge. At the same time, the GRE and Grad School are about application and demand that I am able to understand the implications of theories. Going forward I am working on having a more balanced learning diet.