Learning new skills – bite-sized steps are vital

Why bite-sized steps are vital
Have you tried to learn something only to end in confusion and then quit in disgust?

You have fallen into the trap of skipping over words you did not understand and have not made the data your own by using it in examples before going on.

This confusion is the major cause of why children or adults cannot learn. It is caused by going by too many words or symbols that were not understood and by inhaling information faster than it can be put to use and understood.

Misunderstood words can be a career killer
Sleeping-in-classLet me give you a real example from my own life. I did very well in high school as I was able learn at my own speed by reading. When I got to college, I would go unconscious in certain lectures because these instructors used new terms every day without explaining what they meant. I looked much like these students.

Most instructors would not explain what the terms meant even when asked by students. They told us that was what the reading assignment was for. It took a long time before I realized that the reading assignments were where the learning should take place and that the lectures were for filling in the gaps.

The problem is that once you have gone by any word and do not understand it, the material immediately after that word is a blank in your mind. If the word is an important word like the name of a subject, you can fail the subject entirely, because the subject just does not make sense!

I failed a subject in college, twice, because I did not know what the name meant. Even though I did the problems and attended the lectures, the material would not stick because my understanding of the subject was precariously balanced on a giant confusion of what the  subject name meant. Years later, I thoroughly cleared up that confusion and my understanding of the material has returned.

(I am not giving the subject name because I do not want to cause you pain and unconsciousness either. You probably have one of you own.)

What bite-sized step is right for you?
If you are studying a new subject and are eager to get on to the next topic, you are probably taking in the data at the right rate. The acid test is whether you can apply the information you just encountered.

If you cannot apply what you have just heard or read, you need to clear up any misunderstood words or symbols and you need to use the information in real examples or demonstrate how it is applied before going on.

If you are having difficulty with anything you are doing, whether it is a work assignment, making pottery, knitting, or designing on a computer, take a look at the exact area of difficulty and see what words are confusing. There will be some and strangely enough your difficulties will begin to disappear when you clear up the words that are not understood. It often helps if you have someone work with you to spot and clear up these confusions.

The bottom line:
New skills can be acquired when you acquire knowledge in bite-sized steps that you can easily digest.

If you cannot acquire skills that you need, you might want to consider whether you really want to learn this material. Are you just doing it to satisfy someone else?

This leads to the next topic in this series: Learning new skills – what is your motivation?

(Image credit to Daniel at cuppy-cake.blogspot.com)

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