Learning Never Exhausts the Mind – Leonardo da Vinci

Throughout the last five decades learning has evolved as our world has developed new technologies. Yet, do we truly understand what learning is, how to learn and the benefits of ongoing learning?

While researching information about the learning process, I have contemplated my own learning experiences and determined that regardless of age, intellectual capabilities, cultural mores or learning techniques one common thread remained constant – you have to want to learn.

The author of How We Learn: The Surprising Truth about When, Where, and Why It Happens, Benedict Carey, offers well-tested techniques that help people learn more effectively with less effort. He writes, “forgetting is good… using memory changes memory – and for the better… change is also good for learning… changing the routine of learning enriches the skills being practiced and reinforces the learning itself…”

Benedict’s list of how we learn include:
  • Self-motivation to learn is essential. Self learners learn better.
  • You will naturally learn better when you’re truly interested in the subject.
  • The achievement of learning something new is reward in itself.
  • Learn with others. Collaborative learning is easier and more fun.
  • Tell others what you’re learning – it will enhance your learning and understanding.
  • Change your learning style and learn in different environments.
In grade school, we followed the traditional ‘reading, writing and arithmetic’ model that included memorization, conversation, and examination. Basically, after each lesson we were tested, resulting in a percentage grade that rolled into the A, B, C, D and F’s achieved in each subject. I would never say that this learning model came as easy to me as it seemed to others, but my father’s offer to get ‘straight A’s’ and earn $5, motivated me to put in whatever effort it took to achieve that goal and I did. So there is much to say about motivation and reward. I applied the same effort throughout junior high and high school, but noticed quickly that there was a disconnect between what I memorized for tests and what I actually learned and retained.

There are many different learning styles

David A. Kolb’s model, which is explained in his book Experiential Learning, is based on his experiential learning model. He outlines two related approaches: Concrete Experience and Abstract Conceptualization and Reflective Observation and Active Experimentation. According to Kolb, “the ideal learning process engages all four approaches.
  1. Accommodator = Concrete Experience + Active Experiment: strong in “hands-on” practical doing (physical therapists)
  2. Converger = Abstract Conceptualization + Active Experiment: strong in practical “hands-on” application of theories (engineers)
  3. Diverger = Concrete Experience + Reflective Observation: strong in imaginative ability and discussion (social workers)
  4. Assimilator = Abstract Conceptualization + Reflective Observation: strong in inductive reasoning and creation of theories (philosophers)
This aligns with the Personality Filters model by Dr. David Hartman in his Color Code Interpersonal Skills Workshop, where attendees learn that people process information differently – random vs. sequential thinking and concrete vs. abstract. What this tells us is not only do we have unique personalities, we also have unique learning styles.

What about learning modalities?

Walter Burke Barbe and his colleagues proposed that there are three learning modalities (VAK).
  1. Visualising – Picture, Shape, Sculpture, Paintings
  2. Auditory – Listening, Rhythms, Tone, Chants
  3. Kinesthetic – Gestures, Body Movements, Object Manipulation, Positioning
Barbe reported that “learning modality strengths can occur independently or in combination, they can change over time, and they become integrated with age.”

My husband has from time to time forced me to sit on my hands when I am communicating or trying to learn from a conversation. I have found without the ability to gesture while talking and listening, I cannot grasp anything from the learning experience. Now I understand why. What is your learning modality, where do you find it easy to take in knowledge and where are you challenged?

What are the benefits of learning?

“I am still learning.” – Michaelangelo

I recently engaged in the Gallup’s Strength Finder assessment and discovered that in my top five strengths, “learner” was number three. The description for learner states: “You love to learn. The subject matter that interests you most will be determined by your other themes and experiences, but whatever the subject, you will always be drawn to the process of learning. The process, more than the content or the result, is especially exciting for you. You are energized by the steady and deliberate journey from ignorance to competence…” This assessment was ‘spot on’ because I have never found myself shying away from an opportunity simply because I didn’t have the experience, my attitude was, “say yes, and just learn how to get it done!”

5 Benefits of Lifelong Learning

Jeff Cobb, author of 10 Ways to Be a Better Learner writes about 5 Key Benefits of Lifelong Learning:
  1. Economic – “…we now live in a learning economy… most of us will end up switching jobs numerous times. Many of us will switch careers at least once. To thrive economically, you simply have to keep learning.”
  2. Intellectual – “…lifelong learning increases your knowledge and just as importantly your ability to use that knowledge in diverse and meaningful ways. Lifelong learning opens up and enhances your mind… it fuels creativity and innovation.”
  3. Cognitive – “cognition is a group of mental processes that includes attention, memory, producing and understanding language, solving problems and making decisions.”
  4. Social – “a huge percentage of what you know came from watching and listening to your parents, experimenting with and testing out new ideas or skills on friends, family, colleagues, and strangers… all of this is part of the process of lifelong learning and it is and always has been highly social.”
  5. Spiritual – “learning feeds the spirit. It gives us purpose, it gives us focus, and it fuels our sense of fulfillment. 
Why Embrace Lifelong Learning?

Lifelong learning helps give your life meaning and reward.

"We now accept the fact that learning is a lifelong process of keeping abreast of change. And the most pressing task is to teach people how to learn.” – Peter Drucker