This is an article following another one - Making Sense of Learning - inspired by Prof. Eric Mazur from Harvard University.
The 2 most important points in my opinion out of the learning from Prof Mazur are:
Do you connect your knowledge to your experience while learning?
The true learning is, after you learned in one context, you're able to apply it to a new context.
This is where learning connects to real-life, and this is how people say make-sense in my opinion, even though most people cannot really explain what make-sense is.
This article focus on the context of a school or university context, but it may also apply in many other scenarios in real life business too. This probably explains one of the phenomenon some people get very good results in schools, but not necessarily the best worker in a real environment. This leads me to re-think about our learning, about DIKW.
The DIKW Process
DIKW represents a process Whether something is D, I, K or W is no longer important in this context. Let's dive into the learning process.
When we attend a class, listen to the teachers, reading books, these are all information. It is a process by the teachers or authors transferring codified knowledge, which is something that is organized to be expressed verbally or textually, and formatted in a way suitable for learning. But that's just one end of the process.
On the other end are the learners - the receiving end. As learners what we receive on the other end is actually just information, and these are not really knowledge. In particular, some people just copying notes, or memorizing them in the brain which is another form of copying. Going back to the statement right in the beginning, if we can't apply it to other context, it is not learning. It is just copying, or recording.
The Danger of Memorizing without Understanding
As we know, some students are very good in examinations. They know how to win in exams. They know how to get high marks. There is a methodology - by memorizing them, probably in a hard-coding manner.
By remembering pieces of information, forming patterns to match examination questions, then copying from memory is the way to go. The worse thing is, probably the amount of memory is not enough, and copying is not 100%, or copying the wrong thing, it becomes a problem.
This is particularly serious in the subjects where students do not have the right methodology or approach to handle. In simple terms, they don't know how to study these unfamiliar subject. Memorizing them becomes the natural and obvious way for them to overcome the requirement of passing the exam.
I had experience to be a private tutor years ago. I have experience some students tried to guess an answer without really understanding it, analyzing it. When things come to this stage, it is a disaster, and not easy to handle. Probably the student had not catched up with too much necessary knowledge in between, but forced to move on to face more difficult knowledge.
By the way, this is a typical example of going after just the results. In this example, the results is to pass the examinations so that the student can move on. In reality, this similar situations also apply in life too.
When Information Becomes Meaningful
There are cases, including the author, that learning in class, from teachers, or reading from books or internet can become a habitual process of collecting information after years and years of practice, and becomes an addiction. People just follow what they have been doing in the past, accepting it as the way to go without challenging ourselves.
This type of learning becomes a passive learning. Slowly it develops the needs and hence the skills of searching. By searching information collected in the brain, in the notes we have written down, or even by searching from Google. It still might work sometimes, but not really effective in applying the knowledge in real life to another context. Things will continue in the old and traditional manner even though new knowledge and methodologies are learned. Then can I ask:
Is this information or is it knowledge?
People are talking about connecting dots in the brain. This is something intuitive, but I shall continue to explain intuitively. Under this model, Information collection becomes a collection of the dots, but these dots are isolated but not necessary connected with each other or with the context. That means they are not structured, or not organized.
This comes back to my experience in knowledge structure, which can be found in another article Knowledge Structure and KM.
The Make Sense Process
In order to be able to apply the knowledge flexibly and suitably to another different context, obviously is the real purpose of learning. When the knowledge can connect to context in real life, this starts to make sense.
The author is not academic, nor a researcher. He is just an ordinary business person, perhaps with some experiences in life. It is the instinct intuitive feelings that govern most people's thinking and behavior in real life in my opinion.
One of the ways to make-sense of learning is hands-on practice, particularly in a real-life context of business needs, or solving real-life problems. In fact, it is exactly this same process that makes us learn, allowing us to address and utilize the dots of collected information, and verify it in real-life context through our experience. It is also this process helps us to connect the dots into different context or scenarios. Then we are able to include the necessary dots when we come to such a context, and select which one to apply.
In addition, the success in applying one dot in one context builds our confidence, and we probably to start thinking can the same dot be applied in other context too.
Practice in Real Life Makes Real Learning
This hands-on applying process in real-life context is one of the way for real learning. Another way to achieve the same or similar result of real-learning is probably teaching other people. When you teach, you put yourself in a different real-life context, and also serve a similar make-sense process and results.
Through these processes, the dots can really becomes part of the structure in the brain, and we can remember and apply easily in different context. It is about structure of knowledge and organizing them in the brain. If I put together the key elements for real life make-sense learning, I would say they are hands-on practice and real-life.
Of course, in real life there are just too much to learn. We still have to make choices which are important and relevant to what we need, which however are also affected in different context, or under different scenarios.
Coming back to D-I-K-W model, if what we are going after is the real true knowledge in the sense described right in the beginning:
The true learning is, after you learned in one context, you're able to apply it to a new context
then some concepts need to be clarified:
- Attending classes, trainings, workshops is not real learning. It is a collection of information in our brain. Therefore there are still information.
- The real learning will happen afterwards. Only after we learn how to apply in real life in different context, it is knowledge.
This actually match what Prof. Eric Mazur said in his video too.