52 - Optional Part 2 Learning Something Newدوره: Coursera – Learning How to Learn / درس 52
52 - Optional Part 2 Learning Something New
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Well, let me ask you this now.
When you yourself are faced
with a new concept or
you’re trying to figure out something
brand new and it’s difficult,
what advice would you have in general for
learners to be able to grapple with and
assimilate these new ideas or solve
a new area that they’re first facing?
Well, just like with the test
question that we talked about.
I think there are a lot of different
ways to approach a difficult task.
And in fact, as we were thinking
about talking about this issue.
Rich and I realize that we
approach things differently.
I’m a rather big picture person
more of a global kind of learner.
And so often when I’m looking
at some difficult material,
I’ll take time if I have
something chapter or
if I have some sort of text,
I’ll look through it.
I’ll just skim through.
I’ll read a little at the end.
I’ll pick up a piece here and there and
then begin to dig in a little bit deeper,
but I do better when I sort
of have a general sense of what it
is I’m supposed to be learning.
I might skip to the back and
look at what kind of problems am I
supposed to be able to solve with this.
And so when you’re working in
discipline is where problem solving
is an important part, that can be a way to
get into it to begin to make sense of it.
And the way that I differ from Rebecca
is I’m a strongly sequential learner.
And so I take the first step,
then the next step, then the next step.
But again, I never learned anything
passively, anything nontrivial.
If it’s just a simple fact or
definition of the term, I can read it and
But if it’s really conceptually
difficult whether it’s part of
a problem solving procedure or derivation
that I’m trying to work through or
anything else, the only way I
learn anything is by doing it.
So read this and
then I’ll try to explain it to myself.
When I’ve learned things best of anything
at all is when I’ve had to teach and
I think practically, every teacher
would tell you the same thing.
I thought I knew this stuff.
I got As in all those
courses back in college, but
it wasn’t until I had to explain to these
students that I was teaching that I
found out that I really didn’t understand
it at the level I thought I did.
And so I try to find examples.
I try to find clear ways of
explaining difficult concepts.
And in the course of doing that,
that’s when the real understanding came.
And so this is another strong argument,
among other things for working in groups.
If you’re working with other people and
you’re trying to figure something out and
you get a certain point and
then you try to explain it to the others.
You’re reinforcing your understanding and
they may or may not understand it after
you’re finished figuring out how
to explain it, but boy do you.
And so those two pieces of advice.
I learn by doing things like trying them.
If it’s a mathematical method or procedure
or something in physics or in engineering,
then I try to work out the solution
myself without looking back at the book,
the text or whatever it is.
And when I can do it by myself without
referring back, then obviously,
I know how to do it.
And then to really reinforce
it’s explaining it to someone else.
Put those two things together and
well, at least how I learn.
I think using your resources too,
whatever those resources may be.
You’ve got text, you’ve got things online.
You have people who really understand
that difficult thing that you’re trying
And so not being afraid to just go out,
Work with all the resources you have
to try to find what’s going to work for
you to make it clear, to make you
more confident in how you’re doing.
Playing off that,
one of my biggest problems as a professor
is getting students to ask questions.
They don’t want to do it and
it’s not that well, sometimes they’re so
confused that they don’t know what to ask.
But much more often,
it’s a matter of fear.
If I ask a question in class,
it could be seen by my classmates as
a dumb question and we as instructors
can make all of the pretty
speeches we want about how
there are no dumb questions.
All questions are good,
because they teach.
The students are not buying that and
besides, to be perfectly honest,
there are dumb questions.
And we’ve all heard them.
And so the student is reasoning,
if I open my mouth to ask a question,
I could be perceived as dumb by my
colleagues, my classmates, my professor.
If I keep my mouth shut,
I’m risking nothing.
And so they don’t ask and
I also can’t persuade most of
them to come to my office.
I have office hours every week in which
I tell the students, I’m there for you.
I promise I will be there.
I will be welcoming of any
questions that you ask.
I’ll find out where
you’re getting stuck and
you won’t leave my office until you
have the answer to that question.
Maybe for the same fear,
they don’t want to come.
And so they’re not taking advantage of the
resources that Rebecca was referring to.
And if a student can be persuaded
to overcome that fear and just ask,
either in class or
in the office in five minutes,
they can get things cleared up
that they could spend three hours
at home banging their heads against and
not getting clear.
Let me go back to a couple
points I made before.
The best way to get the illusion
of competence when you don’t
really understand something
is to listen to a lecture or
to read a text like a novel or
to read over old homework solutions and
imagine that you understand them,
because you don’t.
The best way to get over the illusion
of competence is to do it.
Solve the problem again without
looking back at the old solution.
Work out the derivation one step at time
without looking back at the textbook or
your lecture notes, or whatever it is.
And when you can do it by
yourself without looking,
get any reference, when you can reproduce
that solution entirely by yourself,
then it’s not an illusion of competence.
Clearly you can do it, because you did it.
But it’s not until you do it, actually
unaided that you can rest that okay,
I’m ready for the test or
whatever it may be.
This can also be a good time for
working with your peers.
Taking turns, explaining,
perhaps a worked out example
in the text explaining it
step by step to each other.
When you start trying to verbalize it,
then you begin to see.
Well, wait a minute.
I I thought I knew how
they made that step.
But when I try to explain it, I don’t.
So what’s going on?
Let’s look at it.
And so I think that working with other
people can really help you in that
So one of the things that you can do
to make sure you are thinking about
all the different aspects of the subject
that you’re trying to understand and
it’s to set it up,
look at a complex system that might be
used in a problem in your text and
then just think about.
What are the things that a teacher
might ask me to do with this system?
And in working through that,
you begin to think about all of
the elements that need to be in place.
So that’s a great way to study for a test.
It’s also a great way to sort of get
past that illusion of competency.
Because as you’re looking at it and
as you’re working through the example and
what which you think you might be asked,
you’ll uncover some things that maybe you
don’t know as well as you thought you did.
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