Lifelong learners shared how they organize learning and track their progress
Research shows that lifelong learners spend more time planning their approach than new learners (novices). (Chi te al., 1989). Novices often struggle to recognize what they need to learn from the beginning. An experienced learner can assess the goal and utilize their problem-solving skills to come up with a plan.
“ My digital notebook has an events timeline section. That’s basically where I keep track of anything and everything by when it happened.” — Senior Designer (35)
I talked to five lifelong learners to discover their strategies. This is what I learned:
1. Assess goals, plan strategies, and evaluate your performance
“I am very explicit about what needs to get done and I make a plan containing the main concepts. Then I study in 30 min to 50 min intervals.” — Software Developer (58)
“ I use Kanban boards to store info about my learning progress. I use Anki cards for spaced repetition. I find it easier to focus on goals if I modify my environment around my goal. My idea is to always get strategy out of the way and always spend more time on what I am learning” — Pharmacist (49)
2. Learn when is best to utilize linear vs non-linear methods
“For linear learning I use Excel, putting individual ideas in each cell (keep each idea as brief as possible yet clear) and using color coding of cells to help with navigation. I open different tabs in an Excel file for different knowledge areas: Timeline tab, Entity tab, Concept tab, Thoughts/Questions tab, References tab, and other tabs as appropriate for the subject.” Naval Professor (61)
For non-linear notes, use different mind mapping software.
“I use Inspiration software when I want to highlight the relationships between concepts when making concept maps. I am a big fan of concept maps as they help me see what I don’t know and also give me the pleasure of watching my knowledge grow for a given subject/domain.” — Senior Designer (35)
“Right now I am using XMind software for mind mapping. I like how this software allows me to bundle and unbundle a mindmap branch with one click. Here’s a picture of one of my mindmaps on Coronavirus with most branches bundled/hid and one branch unbundled (see all sub-branches). This software also makes it easy to add notes to a given branch and to add internet links, which is useful. Eventually, you need a mindmap of mindmaps — easy to do.” — Naval Professor (61)
To conclude …
Lifelong learners are beyond the mindset of ‘either you know something or you don’t.’ In fact, lifelong learners are aware that knowledge is shown in four different dimensions:
- Ability to remember a fact or theory (declarative knowledge)
- Knowing how to apply it (procedural knowledge)
- Knowing when to apply it (contextual knowledge)
- Knowing why it’s appropriate in a particular situation (conceptual knowledge)
Consider those four types of different knowledge dimensions to help you define your learning objectives and to successfully enhance and create a more efficient plan to help you learn.