How to Learn vs How Much to Learn

Diptarko Paul (Weloquent)

When I think of my Physics classes in school, I remember them as a gruelling experience - one where I tried to wrap my head around theorems, numbers and formulas in vain. However, in my first year college, I enrolled into an Astronomy class, thinking I’d learn about the stars. It was only a couple of classes later that I realized to my dismay, that Astronomy had to do more with Physics than the stars. I sank back into my chair and wondered if there was any way to opt out of taking the class for the rest of the semester, when I saw my Professor wear a helmet and sit on a wheeled cart placed over a fire extinguisher and whizz past the lecture hall.

“Newton’s third law: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” he said as he undid the helmet on his head. “The thrust with which the water is released by the fire extinguisher, had an equal and opposite reaction hence propelling itself (the cart, and me) towards the other side,” he explained. 

This three minute practical and creative demonstration taught me a lesson I’ll remember for life, quite unlike when I underlined the same definition in my textbook several times in school. The way I started studying took a dramatic turn for the best. As Albert Einstein puts it, “Education is not learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think.” I began thinking.

Today’s school academic curriculums are often overwhelming for many students. Most educators wish to speed through a long syllabus so that they are able to complete it in time, forgetting that each student has a unique learning style and curve. Hence, the question that becomes critical to focus on is understanding how to educate and how to learn, rather than what to teach and how much to learn. The following are a few highlighted methods to facilitate effective learning in students:-

Practical Experiences

Oscar Wilde once famously said “Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth learning can be taught.”

For many students learning something new is often easier through practical experiences. Tangible experiments allow children to become aware of the advantages of self-learning, and learning through trial and error, thus keeping them engaged and intrigued. For instance, giving a child seeds of a plant, and having them nurture and observe it multiple times a day, may teach them basic plant biology better than a textbook can. 

In-Person Conversations

We are often told to keep quiet in the classroom. However, engaging in discussions and productive conversations with each other is an excellent way to develop critical thinking. Social subjects can become much more interesting for the students if they are asked to express their views and perceptions in teams - regarding various aspects of ethics and morality. Learning about new perspectives and thinking on the spot will further sharpen decision-making skills - one that is key for success in contemporary times.

Learning with Technology

Although it is a historical and cultural fact that the earliest known scriptures, hymns and sacred poems were memorized and passed down to subsequent generations; the progress of technology in the modern era has made it absolutely important to adopt a smart approach while designing education methods. 

Memorizing books front to back does not make much sense when technological innovations makes information accessible by will. It is important to understand that with the availability of big data, understanding and interpreting the existing information is more important than memorizing it. (Interestingly, once the information is understood, it is also more likely to never leave your mind - and hence also be “learnt.”)

Technology is here to stay, and so we might as well make optimum use of it to enhance our learning methods. Using free time to stream Youtube experiment demonstrations, or conduct research studies through assimilation of available facts on the internet - are great ways to upskill and be future-ready!