FAN Premium Blog 2-9-19


Feb 9, 2019

“The best thing about any higher education is learning how to learn.”

Do you want to grow, develop, and improve throughout your life? I’m pretty sure you do, which is why you are reading this right now. I’m asking you today to commit now to a lifetime of learning. If you were one of those who hated school, please don’t think I just sentenced you to a lifetime of boredom. Learning is SO much different than most of what we experienced in school (unfortunately) and is SO much more interesting.

So why is school so boring? There’s no simple explanation, but I think it has a lot to do with quantification of progress. That is, we need to know whether the students are learning, and the most objective way to assess this is to test rote memory. That makes it easy to compare the progress of children across a school district or a state but is a measure of only the lowest level of learning.

Enter Bloom’s Taxonomy of the Cognitive Domain (He also developed similar taxonomies for the Affective and Psycho-motor domains, but those are topics for a different day). Here’s a handy chart, courtesy of Jessica Shabatura and uark.com:

Think of this like a layer cake. Everything up top rests on the lower levels. You need those in order to be able to experience the higher frosting-to-cake ratios at the upper level. (You know that cake is just a hand-held device that allows you to shove icing into your mouth, right?)

The lowest level, “remember” is the easiest to test for and everything else is built on that. It is a simple recall of the facts. Memorizing anything means repetition and this can get tedious. This is where kids start tuning out. But if one does not master at least a good number of the facts, they will be lost when the teacher attempts to move to higher levels of learning.

Don’t worry about school any more (unless you are IN school of course). Let’s just focus on getting to the higher levels. Let me give you a real estate example:

  1. Remember: You can recall all of the data points we collect when developing comparable sales, e.g. bedroom bathroom count, square footage, year built, distance from subject, and so on.
  2. Understanding: You know that if the houses fit most of the criteria but one has a half bath or some other minor difference it can still be counted, perhaps with an adjustment.
  3. Apply: You use this information to gather a list of potential properties as comps and arrive at a value for the subject.
  4. Analyze: Working with your ARV you just developed, you use another combination of knowledge, understanding, and application to develop a repair estimate. Then you plug into a formula to decide whether this property is one to pursue.
  5. Evaluate: Using criteria important to you (such as the Property Grade App), you can compare properties with each other to choose from a pool of qualified candidates based on your capacity, your financial position and other external factors.
  6. Create: Using all of these skills, you create systems to speed the analysis of multiple properties and scale your business.

Note that not every process follows this hierarchy precisely because the types of problems we solve can vary significantly. It is also important to note that you cannot operate at the higher levels without some mastery of the lower levels. If you are struggling to understand something, go back to the previous level and honestly ask whether you have master it. You can’t evaluate or create without a solid understanding of the facts, which also means you have to know some facts. A general cannot devise a battle plan without some knowledge of the history of warfare strategy and tactics. A Congressperson may wish to provide a good life for all, but without any knowledge or sense of the 20th century, may propose policies of socialism that echo the policies of totalitarian regimes that led to two world wars and the loss of more than 100 million lives.

Ok, that’s this week’s political pot-shot. Moving on.

So you really do want to learn. And you want to get beyond mere knowledge to the higher levels of thinking. We don’t all learn the same way. Some people do fine with auditory learning. They listened well in school, took notes, behaved in class, studied those notes, and did well on the low level exams. There is almost no correlation between their success in the classroom and success in life afterwards. Life isn’t about remembering something for a test. Life is about taking what you know, combining with other stuff you know, and solving the problem in front of you. Many people are NOT auditory learners, but do better with visual input (they might be readers or watchers — this is me). Other are kinetic learners – they prefer to learn in a more hands on way. They will dive in, take something apart and figure it out. These last two groups tend to be either bored or lost at school and many times end up hating it. But their chances for  “success in life” are every bit as high as the auditory learners.

Recently the scholarly literature has started debunking this notion of styles of learning because they can’t find strong evidence to prove anyone is inherently wired to learn one way or another. I’m aware of that research but point out that they are making conclusions based on the absence of evidence which is shaky logical ground. I also would point out that whether or not it’s genetically coded, people clearly DO develop learning preferences.

I’d like for you to know yourself. This includes understanding how you learn. I for one don’t do as well listening to books on tape. Why? I’m a visual learner. When I’m listening to the book, I’m usually unable to NOT be doing something else and guess what? If I’m answering email while listening to a book, I’m not remembering what the speaker said. I know I know, it’s a little sad I even try. When I read, the text has my attention as almost much as anything else ever has. I’m not going to say my TOTAL attention, but I do get pretty engrossed in what I’m reading sometimes. If it’s good enough I won’t hear people talking to me, I won’t hear my phone, I might forget to eat. That’s just me. You are likely different.

Once you understand how you learn, go with it. Fortunately today there are limitless ways to spoon knowledge into your melon. Listen, read, do – it matters not. You can find a way to learn what you need. Just PLEASE DO NOT allow any negative experiences from your school days to keep you from the beautiful quest for knowledge, beauty, wisdom, understanding, and truth.

Resources on this subject

http://psychlearningcurve.org/learning-myths-vs-learning-facts/

https://www.webtools.ncsu.edu/learningstyles/

https://poorvucenter.yale.edu/LearningStylesMyth

http://sourcesofinsight.com/five-thinking-styles/

https://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/blooms-taxonomy/

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bloom%27s_taxonomy

https://tips.uark.edu/using-blooms-taxonomy/

Books from this past week:

PrayerBook, by Ari Wajnberg. Yes friends, OUR Ari. I get the sense that this touching story is somewhat autobiographical. It’s a powerful message of understanding, acceptance, and a desire for lasting peace. The book tells a relatable and gripping story but weaves the message of peace throughout. Peace within, peace with families, peace between religions, peace between countries. Good stuff. You should get it and read it.

The Hero Factor, Jeffrey Hayzlett with Jim Eber. The writers advocate a corporate culture where the people in the company are valued as much as the clients, the stakeholders, and the bottom line. Their view is this not only benefits the employees, but the company is stronger as well. I like the title and the premise but didn’t find anything groundbreaking new information here.

Mindfulness, Mark Williams and Danny Penman. There’s a lot of buzz about mindfulness these days with surprisingly contradictory research that show that mindfulness may not improve focus or performance. But that’s not what this book is about. It’s about using the concepts of mindfulness to consciously improve your focus and move you toward unpleasant tasks or relationships. The authors provide a framework of 8 weeks of meditations that should do the trick. I haven’t decided whether to give it a try, but 8 minutes a day to improve my ability to get things done would be a good trade. If I try it I’ll keep you posted.

$10 Tip:

Resist the shiny object syndrome. Master one technique before branching out to others. It’s better to grow and scale the one technique than to get stuck trying to do too many things. But always keep your eyes open because opportunities are everywhere and constantly changing. The “thing” you’re doing will no doubt change over time and you need to be ready to adapt with the times.

Until next time,