On Learning







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122 year old
one room
school house
. The influence of books . . . . Sam Blumenfeld gives lessons


By: Frode Jensen

If someone wants to get good at something, it's time to master the fundamentals. Generally speaking, the learning process falls into three stages.

Stage one: The basic skills are learned and practiced. Good teachers can make some of this fun, but it really boils down to repetition, learning the routine and practicing it, over and over and over again. Yes, it can be dull, and it is work, but it needs to be done if the skill or process is to be mastered.

Stage two: Certain techniques emerge that go beyond the basic stuff. Learning these allows a breakthrough to more sophisticated processes and problems. I well remember when my high school math teacher explained how to use a box to solve a problem with two unknowns. Once I learned how to set up the box for those kinds of story problems, they were a piece of cake.

Stage three: After practicing these techniques, both the simple and the complex, for hours and hours, a point is reached where they become more or less automatic. The student doesn't have to think much. After all, who of you thinks about the intricacies of tying your shoe? It's a learned practice. You just do it. It takes minimal thought.

The real breakthrough comes when a person begins to understand the skills being mastered are really based on a few fundamentals that underlie everything. Even the more complicated processes are based on the fundamentals. The advanced learning is just an elaboration of the simple basics learned long ago.

To simplify it, we can say that mastery of a complicated process is based on a really solid grasp of a few fundamental principles and the ability to perform a few fundamental techniques. The lesson is to focus on perfecting the basics, and the mastery of the more complicated processes will come.

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