[Article] Learning for adults

Very few of us are taught how to learn. As a small child learning is as natural as breathing. The world is full of new experiences and objects to discover and we are constantly adding to our store of knowledge, skills and memories.

We go to school and the process continues, except that now we are surrounded by other children and we’re all supposed to be learning the same things at the same time. Some thrive in this environment and others find it challenging. The amount we learn varies.

At the end of ‘full-time education’ we celebrate. No more lessons, no more homework, no more exams! Fantastic!

And then, after a little time or a lot, we realise that we still have a lot to learn…

So, as an adult, how do you learn? There may be opportunities to attend a class and learn as part of a group, recalling your schooldays for good or ill. More than likely, a lot of learning goes with your job – you learn from experience or from a colleague. Maybe you hunt out information on the internet – ‘Google is your friend’ people say, or ‘Just YouTube it’ (when did YouTube become a verb?)

All very well, but do you know what actually works for you? What makes it easy for you to absorb new information, assimilate new experiences or extrapolate from one incident so judge what might happen in the future?

Here’s a way of finding out:

Take some time out, probably about half an hour. Equip yourself with pen and paper and some form of liquid sustenance and get out of your normal environment – somewhere you can have some uninterrupted privacy.

Write a list of 5-10 things you have learned as an adult, that you learned easily and enjoyed learning as well as finding the resulting knowledge or skill valuable.

Divide the list into knowledge and skills – there might be different factors involved that it would be useful to see.

For each one, write down the process you went through to learn it. Recall as much detail as you can. What motivated you to start learning this? How did you go about it? How did you know when you’d ‘got it’?

Take a break, enjoy your liquid sustenance and the knowledge that you have successfully learned all this.

Now, look at the processes and seek out the patterns. Are there some common factors in what motivated you to learn? Are there patterns in the way you went about it? Any common features? How do you test your learning?

From this, you can probably figure out your own strategy for learning, which means that next time you have something new to learn, you’ll know the best way to go about it!

Everyone learns in their own way, at different speeds, at different times for different reasons. However you do it, is right for you. The important thing is to keep learning.

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