We consume a lot of information daily, from print material to online blogs and sites. Our lives revolve around the ability to access and use these ever-increasing information sources. However, the information cannot stand by itself unless accurately processed and applied. In other words, how does information (ideas and concepts) become knowledge (useful resources)?
The answer is simple: You adopt a wholly different, more active approach to learning.
Learn through active information processing and teaching!
Back in the sixties, the learning pyramid was conceptualized. It suggests that we only retain 10% of information we get from passively listening to a speech or lecture, but that this becomes 90% when we try to teach what we’ve learned to someone else. The learning pyramid emphasizes how active engagement with knowledge results in better knowledge retention.
This huge gap between the results of the two types of learning illustrates how important the approach to knowledge is, and whether that approach is passive or active. When we actively engage with knowledge we immediately recognize when we make mistakes or misremember information, and so we go back to correct ourselves.
This back-and-forth process helps turn the basic facts and information into active, useful knowledge that is retained in memory. On the other hand, when we’re passively and absentmindedly taking in information, whether we’re reading or listening, our chances of retaining that information drop sharply.
Therefore, for any sort of information to become knowledge it needs to be somehow further processed by you to go from mere idea to knowledge.
For all the important things you learn throughout the day, take active steps to turn that information into real knowledge that you can recall and use in the future. Write things down, discuss them with a friend, elaborate on that idea based on your own emotional and other reactions, ask others their opinion about the information. To sum up, process information actively to make it yours.
No matter your own personal learning style – kinesthetic, audiovisual, or based on reading and writing – the act of writing down new information helps you remember more of what you learn.
It doesn’t have to be long-winded summaries. Use bullet points, sketching, mind-mapping, or anything else that helps you actively understand and learn new information so that you can later use it as personal knowledge.
By processing information through writing things down, you break down the barriers between learning and memory, and allow information to be turned into knowledge.
Connect the dots!
Most “new” information is never truly new. It always relates to previous knowledge. With that in mind, each time you come across new information make sure you find ways it connects with things you already know.
Making all those connections between existing and new knowledge helps your brain better process and understand new knowledge while making it easier for you to recall it when necessary.
Of course, there will be times where entirely new knowledge is received, but it’s still possible to connect it with already-acquired knowledge. It’s just that the connections will be far-reaching and more imaginative than usual.
Always look for the bigger picture. Information is never isolated, dry pieces of facts. They are always part of a bigger pool of knowledge. Concentrate and make the effort to see how everything new you learn will and can be associated with your existing knowledge.
Use your senses to help create these connections. Whenever possible, push yourself to experience new knowledge with your other senses to help connect them to past memories. Imagery and metaphor is another good way of to create mental connections that allow you to remember what you learn. These help form vivid pictures in your head that immediately show up once you try to retrieve that information.
What’s your approach for retaining more from what you learn?