Monday, October 23, 2006

Learning Style......

My initial experience with knowledge maps was no different than Dick and Jane's, even though it may have been a different era. And, in general, it began in elementary school drawing simplified cartographic maps for studying history and geography. I created many of those maps; however, there was never any attempt by our teachers to integrate class notes into them or to create new maps for the notes themselves.

Art, history and geography were favourite subjects of mine and I spent a lot of time at home, studying maps and drawing my own. This might have been a clue to someone about my preferred learning style. But my interest in graphics really didn't fit with the system of teaching at the time.

If asked today about my early school years, I tell'em I was taught in 19th century England, although really it was North America and only the primary school was 19th century. Auditory/linguistic predominant methodology, rote transcriptions and memorization were the only way to learn, and God help those who couldn't regurgitate at exam time.

My parents nixed the school's recommendation for acceleration a couple of times in primary school. I had no difficulty grasping concepts and easily took to mathematics and science--a quick study as they say. I was not a poor reader, but I was definitely slow, although this was apparently not evident to anyone. But I hated to re-read anything, including my notes on any subject......too boring. Consequently, my performance on exams was inconsistent.

My teachers thought a move up might be the challenge I needed; my parents, however, thought I must be learning disabled. How could I understand so much and still manage to struggle on exams? If I had really lived in the 19th century, I have little doubt that I would have ended up in the coal mines by the time I had reached 12 years of age.

Note-taking, note-making, copying, outlining and underlining eventually became 'standard practice' in almost every course in school. By high school, any electives, requiring intensive reading and memorization were dropped. History, geography, Latin--gone; I would have dropped English, but society insists that one must communicate in at least one language. And the university I wanted to attend required that I have one other language, so French remained. I concentrated on the maths and sciences.

I knew nothing about knowledge mapping, concept mapping or any other 'mapping' as a learning tool, or its value as it is used today; and it seems very few people, if any, did during my grade school years. We acquired our learning techniques by osmosis, watching and copying our teachers' performances. The actual teaching of good note-making, outlining and underlining did not exist. And so, I continued using the standard practice through university and into the work environment.

As I moved up in school, I was finding that detailed outlining was consuming too much time and I had to resort to paring down what I recorded. And even though outlining and underlining by the end of high school were so ingrained in my psyche that I did them automatically, I knew I was adopting some very bad habits. While I might retain some detail of the overall subject matter, short-term retention of details was elusive.

The situation was aggravated by my tendency to avoid studying material that I had already covered; I already knew it, so I thought. Why waste time going over material that I already knew? I knew very little about short- and long-term memory.

Eventually, I realized some changes were necessary to my study techniques because trying to do more of what was my usual routine, just put my mind sleep. The explosion of self-help publications was only just about to begin. It was around 1971 that I began to discover some of the alternative learning techniques that I still use today.

Come to think of it, that's about the same time that highlighters came on the market!

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