The Best Method For Learning

A student in a Business School where I teach, asked me a pointed question: “what is the best method for learning?” Just then, we had finished a long conversation on learning, change and culture. He quickly added, ‘Please tell me what works for you”. Now, I had to give him an answer. And the answer came to me effortlessly. In fact, so effortlessly, that it got me thinking.

Of course there are several methods that aid learning. There is reading, listening, writing, discussion and so on. Each has its place and merit. There are others as well. But the ones that I have listed there are particularly endearing to me. And there is one more that sits atop all these that perhaps offers lustre to all these, and therefore gets the tag ‘The best method for learning’ in my books!

The Best Method For Learning

The best learning method is teaching! A quick disclaimer. I come from a family of academics and teaching runs thick. But that’s not why I think the best method for learning is teaching. I have four clear reasons for you.

1. Teaching Destroys Illusions Of Knowledge

If there is one thing that I wrestle with on a continual basis, it is to distinguish between what I actually know and what I think I know. In the modern day world where access to content is quick and easy, it is easy to mistake this access for actual knowledge.

That’s exactly when teaching comes in handy. Many a time, I have been ashamed of how little I knew of something whilst thinking that I was an expert. It is easy to construct a pithy sentence on social media and earn some recognition. But teaching, especially to a bright young minds, is a different ball game altogether.

2. Teaching Forces Thinking Beyond Just The Concept

Many years ago my father sat me down and told me a few things about teaching. One of which I remind myself of, often. He said something to the effect of “teaching is not simple communication. You are not going to rattle out what’s there in the books. A good teacher is not required, if all he or she is going to do is just act as a conduit of information. You have to make knowledge accessible and inviting.”

For making knowledge accessible and inviting, a good teacher connects dots that are visible only to the learners. To straddle into a different world with what I know tests me to the hilt.

3. Humility

No matter how many times I have taught a concept, or how much I know (or think I know), I am invariably foxed by questions from bright young minds. They make me go deep into a subject. Sometimes wider. At other times, I am forced to rethink for application in a different context.

All in all, it is a humbling learning experience. An experience that keeps me on my toes. That’s one reason I teach. No matter how tough my schedule is. It keeps me grounded and gets me learning!

OWL Despatch
OWL Despatch

The OWL Despatch

Every fortnight I put out an edition of The OWL Despatch with a short essay like the one above and five reads that I found interesting. Here are this edition’s five pieces.

  1. Here’s an irresistable interview with Paddy Upton, the coach from the cricket world. The concept of a leader who knows it all is redundant.”

2. Who owns the smiley face? Nearly 50 years ago, one man ‘invented’ the modern smiley face. Then, another man halfway across the world made it into a multimillion-dollar cash cow.

3. Twenty five thinking tools abstracted from professions that exemplify them best.

4. An analysis of 21 billion Facebook friendships, covering 84 percent of U.S. adults aged 25 to 44, puts cross-class relationships at the heart of income mobility.” Read More

5. Are you one of those who hated the ‘mandatory fun’ in the office? “The pandemic put an end to required birthday cupcakes, team happy hours and forced ‘fun’ activities. Many workers are deeply relieved.” Read on

That’s that for now. Until next time, try teaching something to someone. Something that you want to get better at. Or maybe, something that you think you are expert in. And then let’s talk about the best method for learning.

Take care and stay safe.

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