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August 24, 2006

Openness in learning

I have always been fascinated with the human learning process. Especially since starting beginners classes on a regular basis, I am even more interested to understand how to facilitate or even speed up the learning process.

From my own experiences, I believe one of the important ingredients in ensuring efficient learning is a willingness on the part of the students to receive new ideas. Simple, direct, and may almost too obvious, no? Otherwise, you may ask, what is then the point of attending a lecture, seminar, etc., if not to learn new ideas? Well, contention comes when the “new ideas” seem, at first sight, to be contrary to previous knowledge? Or when we feel we know it all? Or we know of a better way for doing certain things, etc.? It is too uncommon to see people attend a class with a fixed agenda and unwilling to change their mind-sets even for a little while.

While past experiences are useful and valuable, I suggest that during the learning it’s much better to give the instructors your “full trust” for the duration of the class, in order to soak in the entire experience. Interpretation and integration can come later, but, firstly, an understanding of what is taught must be acquired. I think it’s critical to have an unimpeded flow of information from the instructor, minus the coloured lenses we are prone to put on, especially when we have reached an “intermediate”* stage where we felt we know a lot.

To paraphrase an old (Chinese?) saying, it’s pretty difficult to add more water when the glass is already full? Perhaps it’s recommended to tip out some, at least temporarily?

The challenge for the day is: How open we are to foreign ideas? How much of screening can we stop ourselves from doing?

*Read: neither here nor there. Not “beginner” enough that obvious mistakes can be written off, and not good enough that we can do everything we wish to do.

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