by Wajid Baysudee
Published on: Sep 17, 2008
Type: Opinions

step 1
Find someone to learn with
In trying to learn anything, finding a learning buddy usually does the trick. While some people might scoff at the idea of finding another person to learn with, there are, in fact, plenty of positives associated with group learning, like:
• Accountability: You are held accountable for learning and understanding material with the involvement of another person.
• An additional mind at work: The different background, experience and knowledge that another person brings to the table can contribute to discussions that open up material, as well as different approaches to learning and understanding.
• Co-teaching: It’s one thing to have read and understood a concept, but it’s something else altogether to try and explain it to another person; this act of teaching a concept can boost your own understanding of it.
• Enjoyment: For many people, learning something in tandem with others instantly makes it more enjoyable. Granted, there’s a greater opportunity to screw off, but that can be diminished with a little discipline.
step 2
Choose a learning method
To learn anything, decide on a method that will best teach you the material beforehand, as opposed to simply diving into the material without a plan.

The learning method you choose should be based on two factors. The first is a method that works with your own preferences; there are literally dozens of learning styles, but you can start with visual, auditory and kinesthetic learning styles (ones that largely rely on the senses) or by using a number of assessments to determine which one is best, such as Kolb's Learning Styles Inventory, Jackson's Learning Styles Profiler or Fleming's VARK Learning Style Test. A simple Google search will land you at their testing sites.

The second factor involves what the subject lends itself to. For example, reading material will guide you in some areas, but if your plan is to learn how to ride a bull, reading material can only take you so far; eventually you'll have to actually employ some mechanical learning and get on the beast. Arguably, there will be no amount of reading that can adequately prepare you for that.

Set a practical context
Whether you’re out to learn something that’s been assigned to you or it’s merely something that has always interested you, you can give the subject an added significance by tying it with something in your present lifestyle. This can also give you an occasion to practice what you’ve learned.

To some extent, tying the subject into things you already know with a view toward a broad understanding of the subject is known as holistic learning -- connecting unfamiliar concepts, ideas and facts to ones you already know or comprehend. For example, if you have an interest in philosophy or you merely like to read, and you are learning to play a sport, you can read Eugen Herrigel’s classic Zen in the Art of Archery, thereby combining a long-term interest with the subject at hand.
Put what you're learning into practice
To learn anything, there is no better long-term learning tool than actual practical experience. It is also the greatest trial of your learning style, and of course, experience is the best teacher.

If you’re trying to understand how Wall Street works, there may be no better teacher than opening a brokerage account and actually making small trades (although you might want to start using a mock computer program, just in case you lose your ass on an investment). Foreign languages are never more effectively put into practice than through practical interaction with native speakers -- something the internet is particularly geared toward, especially when you live in a small town or the language you’re learning is only commonly spoken in remote corners of the world. In learning to fly a plane, you can study the instruments and practice on a variety of flight simulators, but nothing will serve your experience better than getting into the cockpit (with an instructor, of course) and taking flight.

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