Science today is advancing at a mind glowing speed. New industries are being developed every day, new technologies are emerging. Today more than ever, organizations, schools, and businesses need more avid quick learners who can adapt to this current surge of change at an ever-increasing pace.
In today’s world, the ability to learn faster may be the only competitive advantage you have over your peers in a market that’s highly competitive and very challenging. Businesses are no exception to this also. It has become so obvious that the ability to adapt faster, and learn can set you apart from the competition.
In this article, we are going to talk about learning how to learn, and avoid learning stuff the wrong way. We’ll discuss expert talks, and research done on this area.
To Understand How To Learn, We Need To Understand Our Brains
In her book, Learning How to Learn, Dr Barbara Oakley, a professor at Oakland University in Michigan, demonstrated the science behind learning a new subject or mastering a new skill.
When you are learning a new subject, some changes take place in your brain, including forming new connections between neurons, the more practice you have, those connections get stronger, solidified, and faster, allowing you to easily recall them, this is how you learn anything, where it’s a subject, a skill, or even learning to play a new game.
Learning rewires your brain, and your brain can be rewired this way. Once a piece of information is processed in short-term memory, our brain carries that information to the long-term memory, making connections, and comparisons to already existing memories there. That’s
Our brain’s neural pathways carry these memories to the structural core, where they are compared with existing memories and stored in our long-term memory. That’s why metaphors, examples, and analogies are important in any learning process.
Two Modes of Thinking: Focus Mode vs. Diffused Mode
Extensive research done on how we learn, have shown that we have two main ways in which we process information when learning a new topic or a new subject; diffused thinking, and focus mode.
Sometimes at some point some students, even the top ones, find it difficult to focus, while other times brilliant ideas come to you while having a shower, and yes, shower ideas are true, and supported by scientific evidence.
Two main modes for thinking; focused and diffused, your ability to understand them can tremendously help you with your teaching, or if you’re a parent, you can incorporate some activities to help maximize your children’s learning.
Focus mode or focused thinking is a highly attentive mind state, when your brain uses its most power to focus, it’s like a laser beam being directed on something. In this mind state, your brain zooms in the information you read to be able to focus and learn subject matter. This is the best mode for studying, memorizing, and learning a hard topic.
When you’re in the focused mode, you’re brain in on one track, one thread at a time. You might have experienced this before while studying something without any source of distraction.
Diffused mode of thinking is basically a mind state that is more into the big picture, where things fit it, rather than focusing, and getting into the details of something. Diffused thinking is when you let your mind wander freely to make connections between things already there in your mind. This explains why creative thoughts always come while doing relaxing activities, like showering for example. Diffused mode helps you understand a subject, or find a solution to a problem you’re trying to solve.
This is why taking a break from time to time is important, we remember we were told to sleep after studying, and we never understood why. Diffused thinking is the answer, when you sleep or go for a walk after studying you allow for diffused learning to take over your brain and do the magic.
There’s a trending topic in learning right now that might be interesting to you, which is gamification. Read this on what gamification is, why it’s important, and how to incorporate it into your teaching, all this and more in this article, Gamification in Education: Theory and Practice.
How to Incorporate These Thinking Mode in Your Learning?
You may be wondering which one I should use, which one is better, and the answer is NEITHER. You can’t maintain complete productivity over long periods using one mode. For better learning, and to maximize your understanding of a subject you need to go back and forth between those modes. You can list some relaxing activities to do with your students after class, or after long hours of studying.
For better results we need to take advantage of both thinking modes in our learning, the key is to find the balance between both modes. Too much focus thinking will only get stuck, or frustrated while you’re trying to bruteforce your brain into something. On the other hand, too much diffuse thinking will prevent you from understanding a topic in depth, and make your knowledge shallow and weak.
Here’s a list of relaxing activities you can do to make your brain switch from focus to diffuse mode:
- Take a nap
- Go for a walk
- Listen to relaxing music
- Have a shower
It’s important for this activity not to require any extensive brain activity, you don’t need to stay in the focus mode for a long period of time.
Our brain stores information by creating connections between neurons, the more you think and repeat, the easier it is to recall information. When we learn something, we have two modes of thinking; focused and diffused mode. Switching between them allows for creativity to flo