Learning involves almost every aspect of our life, and is crucial for us both as a child and in the adult life to understand how to deal with it.
At the bases of an effective learning there are attidutes ANYONE of us has. But everyone is different and some of these abilities work well in some people and have to be “trained” in others. Some people learn things better and faster apparentely easily and some struggle to get results. We say people who are good at learning are smart or that they have got high QI, which sometimes might be right, but the main reason of this success is that they know how to use learning strategies based on attitudes they naturally have.
When I was younger, during a language course i was taking, one day the teacher started the lesson drawing a circle on the blackboard. He asked us to imagine the blackborad as the area of the global knowledge (language knowledge in the specific case) on something, and the area inside the circle as our personal knowledge on the argument.
So, the knowledge in our possess is only a small circle compared to the rest of the balckboard that we ignore. Than he said that the two areas join together, of course, by the perimeter of the circle. This means that the circle’s perimeter is the
window throught which we se the world around us, or better to say,our perception of that world. It’s easy to see that, the smaller the circle is, the smaller is its area and also the smaller is its perimeter. He called it the vicious circle.
He explained that, less knowledge we have on something (of the specific language in that case) and smaller will be the perception of what we know compared of the whole we need to know yet. So, in other words, the less we know the more we ignore to know so little. In the same way, the grater is our knowledge on something, more able are we to have the right perception on the argument and to interact with the new, in order to grow our knowledge and make the circle bigger.
I was very impressed by this story and I started to transpose the concept on everything I learned thereafter, in school and in life in general, even associating it to the process of learning itself. Later on, when i grew up, I discovered that the “vicious circle story” concept is in fact a specific therm in psychology and it is called metacognition.
Metacognition is the ability to recognize how we learn and think, understandthe positive and negative sides of our learning strategy in order to improve this process.
When we reflect upon our thinking process, or learning process, that means we are engaging in metacognition. For example, when we realize that we can study better in a silence room, or that we are more are more productive at work
in the morning than in the afternoon, or when we plan that we need eg. one month to go through a text book, we ‘metacognise‘.
- monitoring progress
When a metacognitive person wants to achieve a goal, he SETS a reasonable one, considering his time constraints, his knowledge on the argument and the motivation to achieve the goal. Then he IMPLEMENTS a learning plan, and MONITORS the progresses along the way. At the end, he EVALUATES if the results are as near the final goal as he wanted them to be.
So, as we can see, a successful person is not the necessarily the high QI one, but it’s a person who knows how to use metacognition the right way in order to arrive where he wants to.
The good news is that, even though you are someone who struggles in the things you do, the learning process is not immutable, and every one can improve in that and start being a metacognitive person. In articles to follow I will talk more about tips and strategies that help the process of learning.