“Best Learning Rhythm”

“Learning consists of taking things that are strange and unnatural, such as reading and algebra, and absorbing them so steadily that they become automatic. That frees up the conscious mind to work on new things. Alfred North Whitehead saw this learning process as a principle of progress: ‘Civilization advances by extending the number of operations which we can perform without thinking about them.’

Automaticity is achieved through repetition… It is far better to go over material for a little bit, repetitively, on five consecutive nights than it is to cram in one long session the night before an exam.

“Ms. Taylor wanted Harold to slip back into the best learning rhythm. A child in a playroom instinctively understands how to explore. She starts with Mom, and then ventures forth in search of new toys. She returns to Mom for security and then repeats her ventures forth. Then it’s back to Mom and out again to explore.

“The same principle applies to learning in high school and beyond. It is a process of what Richard Ogle, the author of Smart World, calls reach and reciprocity. Start with the core knowledge in the field, then venture out and learn something new. Then come back and reintegrate the new morsel with what you already know. Then venture out again. Then return. Back and forth. Again and again. As Ogle argues, too much reciprocity and you wind up in an insular rut. Too much reach and your efforts are scattershot and fruitless. Ms. Taylor wanted to slip Harold into this rhythm of expansion and integration.”

Brooks, D. (2011). The social animal: The hidden sources of love, character, and achievement (p. 87). New York, NY: Random House, Inc.

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