Back Track

In the last blog, I argued how rote learning could complement active learning and ended the discussion with the need to regurgitate and absorb the essence of what we have learnt to by heart. Let us put our heart to learning.

“The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them,” is a famous quote from Albert Einstein.

We have to go a level above – a meta level – to observe with a better and higher perspective to find a solution to the current problem. When we discuss about Cognitive Behavior Training during our workshops under Yogakshema, we elaborate on the need for meta cognition to overcome some challenges in thinking process.

We cannot learn the physical features of a person from his shadow. Shadow is two-dimensional image of a three dimensional person. Even his height, which is two dimensional, is cast with the help of a lamp. From his shadow, we can calculate the height only if we learn the position and angle of the lamp. We learn the parameters that cause the shape of shadow. When there are several variables to deal with, we simplify the problem unrealistically assuming certain parameters to be constant and certain entities to be ideal.

“At constant pressure, the volume of a given mass of an ideal gas …”

To understand the relatedness is essential part of learning process. Relatedness or influencing associations are part of the model under study. This would require us to investigate a related domain, sometimes.

One style of teaching and learning is rote repetition of effort, which may not increase the understanding. Some teachers would repeat the sentence a little louder each time hoping that the student’s doubts would be cleared.

In an International conference at Bangalore, I witnessed an Indian doctor asking a Russian doctor, “Is this your first visit to Bangalore?”   

The Russian indicated that he did not understand the question. The Indian doctor verbatim repeated the question twice with the same response from the Russian.

I stepped in and asked the Russian, “Have you been to Bangalore earlier?” He said, “No.”

Many times, learning suffers because we have not understood a fundamental concept on which the current theme depends. In such situations, it is necessary that we stop a while from the current task and revisit the basics.

Before painting, we prepare the surface by filling the holes, removing the dents, scraping away the rust, applying primer, and drying. Applying coats of paint won’t hold unless the surface is prepared. If we have no patience to prepare, we get a poor finish and the paint would peel soon.

Each one of us is a student, irrespective of our profession. If we reflect every time if our fundamental knowledge is adequate to learn a new concept, fill the gap and remove the rust, we are on a path of effective learning experience.

If a student does not understand a new concept, the teacher has to check if the student has been prepared to learn the concept. Else, she has to guide the student to learn the essential basics. Time would be a constraint for both, the teacher and the student. But, the difficulty in understanding will be cumulative as we go forward with more advanced topics.

Those who develop educational software could help by referring to the lessons covering basic concepts of the current lesson. When a student finds the current lesson difficult, she can back track to the foundation concepts and return to the current lesson.


About pgbhat

A retired Naval Officer and an educationist. Has experience with software industry. A guest faculty at different institutes and a corporate trainer with software development companies.
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