How to learn

2012-03-08 09:53

Georgina Guedes

I was recently exposed to a group of adult learners who, quite frankly, couldn’t give a … well, they couldn’t care less. As far as I could make out, they took no particular joy in what they did, weren’t interested in the tools of their trade and had no interest in expanding their knowledge.

What was interesting to me – who does, am and have – was that this manifested in completely different ways in each individual, so that as a group, they showcased the flaws of any learner like a gallery exhibition. Simply put, these are the behaviours to avoid if you want to learn something:

Showing off how much you know
No one likes to feel a fool, but the purpose of training or learning is to transfer knowledge from someone who hopefully knows more about a topic than you do to you. If you’re asked a question and you know the answer, by all means provide it, but don’t use the time as a forum to try and exhibit the breadth of your knowledge. This is a lesson in how to miss something.

If you truly feel that the training session is something that you know the ins and outs of like nobody’s business, quietly take the trainer aside and explain this to them.

Conveying your disdain
Sometimes you have to be in training simply because your company is fulfilling its mandate or because everyone else in your department is there. You may as well go along for the ride, rather than letting everyone know what a useless waste of time you think it is.

Lack of respect
The person up there doing the training was presumably selected because of some level of expertise. It’s not your place to cut them down to size or run the class for them. Even if you’re just going through the motions, it displays far more emotional intelligence to allow them to conduct their training unfettered than to undermine or ignore them.

Lack of manners
On a similar note, be on time, be polite – it’s good manners. Displaying a lack of these shows simply that you’ve failed to learn another of life’s basic lessons.

Being the comedian
Laughter is a fantastic tool, both in the classroom and out. It can relieve tension, help a message to penetrate and foster a sense of understanding in a group. However, it’s not all that you should be doing in a training session. Don’t try to hog the limelight or find a joke or witty one-liner in everything that’s discussed.

Not truly listening
Listening is one of the greatest tools for learning. This may seem obvious, but very few of us are actually good listeners. I know I have a tendency to finish people’s sentences if they’re not getting to their point quickly enough. Practice listening – truly hanging on to a speaker’s every word and trying to understand every level of their meaning – the next time you’re in a situation where you’re trying to learn or communicate.

And it’s not just listening to the trainer that may prove valuable; listen to the questions asked by everyone around you to gauge how learning can be assimilated and understood by others.

Focusing elsewhere
In today’s world, we are constantly distracted by cellphones, laptops, e-mails, watch alarms and countless other bells and signals linking us to elsewhere. I’ve observed a woman on a date apologising profusely for being perpetually on the phone, but seemingly physically unable to put it down. If you’re in a space of learning, turn it off and put it away. Yes. Seriously.

Falling asleep
Even the most engaging lecturer gets boring after they’ve been talking for two hours.  They should be working in variety and breaks to make sure that they retain your attention for the full duration of the session. If they’re not doing this, and you feel your attention beginning to waver, ask for a short break to stand up, stretch and walk once around the room. It will work wonders for everyone.

Those who are truly committed to getting value from a learning situation will find that most of these behaviours are naturally avoided. For the rest of you, if you see yourself in any of what I’ve mentioned, work on it, and learn something next time.

- Georgina Guedes is a freelance writer. You can follow @georginaguedes on Twitter.

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  • jason.dutoit - 2012-03-08 12:25

    nicely put. 1, 4 and 5 really spoke to me.

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