Director The Learning Architect
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Adult Learners' Week: Learn and grow

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17th May 2012
Director The Learning Architect
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To tie in with this Adult Learners' Week (12 - 18 May), we are publishing an article a day from L&D practitioner and workplace wellness guru Liggy Webb. Today, Liggy tells us how to learn and grow.
I have outlined here a few tips and advice that can help you to learn better and more easily.

Understand how you learn

The best strategy for improving your learning efficiency is to recognise your learning habits and styles. As I have already outlined there are a number of different theories about learning styles, which can all help you gain a better understanding of how you learn best. Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences can help reveal your individual strengths.

Multi-learn

Focus on learning in more than one way. There are loads of different ways of learning, for example instead of just listening to something which involves auditory learning, find a way to rehearse the information both verbally and visually. This might involve describing what you have learned to a friend, taking notes or visualising it in your mind or making a collage of what you have learnt. By learning in more than one way, you're further cementing the knowledge in your mind. The more regions of the brain that store data about a subject, the more interconnection there is. This cross-referencing of data means you have learned, rather than just memorised.

Improve your memory

If our brains were computers, we'd simply add a chip to upgrade our memory. The human brain, however, is more complex than even the most advanced machine, so improving our memory isn't quite so easy.
A strong memory depends on the health and vitality of your brain. Whether you are a student, a working professional interested in doing all you can to stay mentally sharp or someone looking to preserve and enhance your grey matter, there are lots of things you can do to improve your memory and mental performance.
Working on improving your memory can be a very useful skill to acquire. Basic tips such as improving focus, avoiding overloading yourself and structuring what you are attempting to learn is a good place to start, however there are many more lessons from psychology that can dramatically improve your learning efficiency. Explore the different techniques that are available. This does take time and patience, however once these skills are learnt they can help save you lots of time in the long run.  

Teach someone else

One of the best ways to learn something is to teach it to someone else. You can apply the same principle today by sharing your newly learned skills and knowledge with others. Start by translating the information into your own words. This process alone helps solidify new knowledge in your brain. Next, find some way to share what you've learned. Some ideas include finding a willing pupil, writing an article or writing a blog post. Participating in group discussions can be useful too.

Put it into practice

Putting whatever new knowledge or skills or behaviour into practice is one of the best ways to improve learning. When you are trying to acquire a new skill or ability, focus on gaining practical experience. Create a plan that helps you to be able to do that. If it is a new sport or athletic skill, perform the activity on a regular basis. If you are learning a new language then practise speaking with another person. Whatever it is, do something with it. You might learn a lot of information about something but if you don't put it into practise then what is the point?

One thing at a time

Trying to multi-task can make learning less effective. The danger is you lose significant amounts of time when you switch between multiple tasks, and you lose even more time when the tasks become increasingly complex. By switching from one activity to another, you will learn more slowly, become less efficient and make more mistakes. A good way to approach this if you have a lot of things that you are having to process is to allocate yourself predetermined amount of time to focus your attention on the task at hand. It is also good to try to complete tasks rather than leave too many things half-done as this will create extra mind clutter and make you less able to focus.  

Help yourself

Learning is by no means a perfect process. There will be times when we forget the details of things that we have already learned, which can be frustrating. If you find yourself struggling to recall some information you are better offer simply looking up the correct answer. The longer you spend trying to remember the answer, the more likely you will be to forget the answer again in the future.
We are very fortunate these days to be able to access the internet to find the answer to anything, however we also need to be selective because as useful as the internet can be it also has a lot of false information. My advice is never rely on one source unless you are absolutely sure it is reliable. It's amazing how many false 'facts' fly about and how the truth can end up becoming somewhat distorted. 
Liggy Webb is widely respected as a leading expert in the field of modern life skills and workplace wellness. She is the founding director of The Learning Architect a consortium of niche industry experts. For more info visit www.liggywebb.com and www.thelearningarchitect.com. For access to more toolkits and information you can email Liggy here

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