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How Do You Learn - What Does This Really Mean?

Updated on April 12, 2015
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Dallas W Thompson was born in Bakersfield, California to "Grapes of Wrath" descendants. First born son of three siblings of a preacher

Learning is a Learned Skill

We get to decide what "tools" we need as life learners...
We get to decide what "tools" we need as life learners...

Know the Difference Between Knowledge and Information

How Do You Learn - What Does This Really Mean?

Learning is personal. We each learn differently. My style of learning works for me. It may not work for you. I was the sort of learner that was “lucky” in terms of I did not have to study. I once had a schoolteacher that gave me an “F” because it was not fair I could pass the test and not do homework, or study.

In the Air Force, I was confronted with the challenge of learning a huge amount of material within one year, eight hours per day (972 hours). I could not take notes; I could not discuss what I was learning with anyone. It was Top Secret. I was told if I did not learn the required information, I would become either an Air Policeman, or a cook. I respect each career path, but it is one I would not choose. I hate cooking and I do not enjoy seeing the “bad” side of people. I enjoy my rose-colored glasses. My glass is almost full!

Most Effective Instructional Method is Drill and Kill

The curriculum was detailed and delivered in a “drill and kill” manner. Drill and kill in its purest essence is a throwback to behaviorist theories of learning. The curriculum is centered primarily on an end assessment. Teaching to the test activities emphasize rote memorization and discouraged critical thinking skills. I learned to NOT ask “what if.”

It was magical when I stopped thinking if an idea or concept applied in different context, or environment was still true. I accepted as presented. When given tests, I simple repeated what I had been told. I was among the 50% that passed.

Working in a classified environment where people live or die based upon ideological perspectives and you do not know who the “bad guys” are – today's good guys are tomorrows bad guys, or they may be working both ends against the middle (double agents, triple, or an opportunist for the highest bidder) – you quickly learn to ONLY do as instructed. This may be to your detriment. You learned never to ask questions. The epitaph of a dead soldier applies: “Mine is not to question why, but to do, or die.”

Given the above, when I was assigned to the Joint Chiefs of Staff – Far East and assigned to work in an underground bombproof facility in Hawaii, I managed to attend the University of Hawaii and Chaminade University at the same time while I was engaged in Top Secret activities. It was not for the faint-of-heart.

Transferred Learning Skills to Civilian Life - College is a Piece of Cake!

With the learning skills, I had acquired. College was like taking candy away from a baby. Too easy, it almost seemed to be wrong. I enrolled into two universities and attended both University of Hawaii and Chaminade University at the same time completing both summer sessions, fall and winter semester and the next summer two sessions and graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree from Chaminade University of Honolulu. It took 15 months of college classes to graduate.

Armed with this success and experience, I enrolled in University of Phoenix Accelerated MBA Program. It took one year to graduate and be the only one to achieve “With Distinction.”

Was this a “Fluke?”

I applied the same skills to another Master Degree program from Chapman University. I obtained a MAE-Administrative degree in nine months from start to completion. I passed my private license test without the benefit of attending ground school. There are other examples, but you get the point: I was using my acquired learning skills.

What underlying Learning Principles Worked? What I learned about “learning” is the following:

  • Active listen
  • Stop the conversation in your head
  • Remember the context subject matter was presented
  • Do not ask why!
  • Asked questions seeking to clarify your understanding of what was said
  • Never be afraid to appear stupid by asking questions
  • Convert information to knowledge
  • Apply what you learned to what you know
  • Life learning is a pyramid – apply new knowledge to old knowledge
  • Practice and apply what you learned!

The above brief summary is predicated you know and understand what constitutes knowledge. One must know the difference between knowledge and information. There is a huge difference. When one understand their “knowledge,” it is much easier to apply their newly acquired knowledge, rather than “information.

Know the Difference between Knowledge and Information

Information may be meaningless “stuff.” Information is like having an alphabet of plastic letters. Unless the letters are arranged in an ordered fashion, there is no “intelligence,” or knowledge learned.

Knowledge is the systematic synthesis of contextual information. Knowledge is built from information.

If you are like my sister who is smarter than I, but struggles to get her “A’s” because she must understand every nuance, every application of every idea, or concept and why… There is a place in heaven for you! J I have learned an “A” is an “A” and in the process of life the understanding of the “whys” and “what's” will be integrated into your acquired knowledge. Seems much simpler to me…

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    • dallas93444 profile image

      Dallas W Thompson 6 years ago from Bakersfield, CA


      Ahhh! You remind me of my past as an instructor... You have experienced the "Aha!" of learning. Each of us learn differently. Your needs dictate how YOU learn. Perhaps the key is to learn your "learning style."

      Your conversation "in your head" perhaps needs channeling to an "active listening" phase. Active listening is not thinking, listening... Really listening. Most of us do not do this...

      Your last paragraph addresses the "nexis" of my concern: "listen."

      Simple, but complex...

      If you had a loved one telling you they loved you... Would your mind wonder to such topics of, but his, or that, or simply accept what they said was valid?

      You know when to deferentiate between the instructors "monologue," or the classes interaction. YOU know and have the choice to accept what was presented.

      Your mind as you have indicated has a "filter." You know what is valid and what is not.. Life is like a cafeteria: take what you need/want...

    • profile image

      femmeflashpoint 6 years ago

      Dallas, in rereading this, I noticed some points in the "Learned Principles" section.

      1. Do not ask "why".

      2. Stop the conversation in your head.

      The not asking why bit, seems impossible, lol.

      The stopping the head conversation bit: are you referring to the instructor's monologue, or the classes interraction, or the mental conversation produced inside the mind of a listening student, that may or may not have to do with the class/instructor's conversation at all?

    • dallas93444 profile image

      Dallas W Thompson 6 years ago from Bakersfield, CA


      "Smart" is what you do, not know! :-) Your learned life skills results in you being productive. We all have "handicaps." Some us do not display them, or they are not seen by others.

      I was an educator and I had the opportunity to "sort things out" because I wanted to make a difference in student's lives and make a positive difference. The students taught me much more than I taught them. I learned anger management, I learned about what I call the "female side of me." I learned to nurture. I learned to care. I learned commitment...

      As a prior businessman, I was good at achieving success by being competitive... I studied my competitors. My success was measured by numbers in my bank account. I achieved success in business. I was good at "warefare." I took no prisoners.

      Education caught me off guard. I experienced tears in my eyes when a student "got it." I still am embarassed if others see me cry, or get emotional.

      The military had really conditioned me to be stoic. The students changed my life for the better! Even when I was an Assistant Principal, I made a positive impact when I expelled students. I followed their progress, or lack of progress... Some learned an adult cared for the first time (per their statements anyway).

      Be all you can be and make a resounding difference today!

    • TheManWithNoPants profile image

      TheManWithNoPants 6 years ago from Tucson, Az.

      Wow. You b smart dude. I've had A.D.D. all my life. I just had to learn some tricks to get through, because my Mom couldn't afford the drugs, and anything less than B was not accepted. I never really sorted out my little self taught tricks, but I'm going to let all this sink in and see if they line up. Very interesting. Good job here Dallas.