What is Write to Learn
In an excellent post by Mikael Cho on Medium titled Create more than you consume, Cho talks about the best ways to learn something. The best way to truly consume information in a way that will allow you to retain the information.
He says “If you make yourself available to focus deeper on what you’re consuming, you’re giving yourself a better opportunity to connect at an emotional level, retain more of what you consume…When you consume in a passive way, by skimming and moving to the next thing, you’re at a learning disadvantage.”
When you consume in a passive way, by skimming and moving to the next thing, you’re at a learning disadvantage. – Mikael Cho
The Learning Pyramid
In his article he explains that the learning pyramid states that people retain:
90% of what they learn when they teach someone else/use immediately.
75% of what they learn when they practice what they learned.
50% of what they learn when engaged in a group discussion.
30% of what they learn when they see a demonstration.
20% of what they learn from audio-visual.
10% of what they learn when they’ve learned from reading.
5% of what they learn when they’ve learned from lecture.
Now while I would take the exact percentages with a huge grain of salt, I find(as applied to me) that the hierarchy speaks to how well I can stay engaged in a topic and subsequently learn. It’s for this reason that I have published my own website. To give me a way to practice what I’m learning and then attempt to write in a way that imitates teaching.
Of course I do not mean to say that reading is useless but doing so actively, with purpose, will be far more effective. I already consume a lot of content, both books and online. I read about things that I care about, topics in fields I want to work in or material that will help me complete quests ( things that I want to accomplish in life) but the intent to write and/or apply what I’m learning in a more permanent form right away will really help me retain and learn even more about any given subject. This goes back to the overall message that Cho is trying to deliver.
A great example is the learning pyramid itself. While initially reading Cho’s article I accepted the inclusion of the learning pyramid but because I am now putting it into this article I had to make sure to double check what I was about to publish. It was through this that I found out the lack of scientific evidence behind the Learning Pryramid.
Write to Learn
The Write to Learn concept is pretty straight forward. It is a way to help me focus deeper on what I am consuming. Writing out the topics will help me really explore what I’m reading and/or thinking about. I will be able to do it at a slow pace so that I can take my time and really think about what I’m writing.
Each chapter in a book, each section in a chapter or any article that I read can be explored deeper.
In fact, I can combine ways of learning to help me retain even more. Cho mentions an article that takes quotes some research on an effective learning practice:
Research shows that people who follow strategy B [read ten pages at once, then close the book and write a one page summary] remember 50 percent more material over the long term than people who follow strategy A [read ten pages four times in a row and try to memorize them]. This is because of one of deep practice’s most fundamental rules: Learning is reaching. Passively reading a book—a relatively effortless process, letting the words wash over you like a warm bath—doesn’t put you in the sweet spot. Less reaching equals less learning.
On the other hand, closing the book and writing a summary forces you to figure out the key points (one set of reaches), process and organize those ideas so they make sense (more reaches), and write them on the page (still more reaches, along with repetition). The equation is always the same: More reaching equals more learning.
This will help me create topics to write about and so long as I am interested in the material it will also be something that I will enjoy researching and writing about. At least that’s the hope 🙂
Peter Bregman is a successful author and leadership coach. In an article he wrote for the Harvard Bussiness Review he makes the point that you need to practice being the your future self. He writes, “If you want to be productive, the first question you need to ask yourself is: Who do I want to be? Another question is: Where do I want to go? Chances are that the answers to these questions represent growth in some direction. And while you can’t spend all your time pursuing those objectives, you definitely won’t get there if you don’t spend any of your time pursuing them.”
This writing process fits into what the whole foundation of this site, to help me become my future self and to help me define what I want my future self to be.
If you want to be productive, the first question you need to ask yourself is: Who do I want to be?
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