Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Learning patterns

Following on from my previous post, I've been thinking some more about how we learn. First there was an interesting conversation with Mrs Heathbank about the differences in our upbringing, and then a further nudge from Kimberly's little dig about a lapse of memory on my part. Now, it would be easy to dismiss such a lapse as a consequence of advancing years, but in this case it simply wouldn't be true.

I have always had trouble with remembering bare facts. I remember earnestly staring at vocabulary lists, committing them to memory only to have forgotten them by the next morning. Yet I gained such good marks in unseen Latin translation in my second year at Uni that I was given an exemption from this paper in the degree exam. You would think from that that somehow the laboriously learned vocab had stuck, but no. It was the ability to see the words in context and to make the imaginative leap to the meaning of a whole sentence, a whole paragraph, and the added facilty in reaching for an acceptably lucid and idiomatic expression of same that piled on the marks. Obviously using language in context was what I needed - and what makes me an inspired guesser when faced with a torrent of French in a restaurant.

And this is part of what we were discussing today. The difference between the kind of linear thinking that moves methodically through the stages of something to reach a conclusion, and the thinking that, as it were, makes a jump into the new idea and, having grasped its essentials, finds a means to convey it as cogently as possible. The latter is how I have worked in the past, and is still how I explore new ideas. I have a feeling that's why I write poetry rather than prose when it comes to imaginative writing: poetry is the keeper of the space between the words where the truth lies. And when I'm reading rapidly, I know I don't read from right to left, but focus on the middle of each line so that I take in the whole line in a one-er. This is not to say that this is in any way a superior way to acquire learning, but it's the one I'm stuck with.

So it's unlikely that I shall ever be able to remember J and P in a vacuum - though I may manage with Q....


  1. Anonymous1:23 PM

    Christine, I thought Kimberley's comment was feedback as opposed to a dig. You should refelct on this and learn...

  2. Nah - nature red in tooth and claw in the depths of Argyll. We have to have our fun, you know ...

  3. Chris, I am reading your eucational posts with great interest. Our children are homeschooling and it is enlightning to read insights from professionals. I always feel as though I have inadequately served our Ben as I see him struggling through Language Arts. However, he stymies me as he whizzes through Math assignments. Michelle, on the other hand, is totally opposite. I can so much relate to her...much more inclined to explore language than MATH! ugh!!! And, I happily nod my head a hearty "YES!" to remembering jots and tittles one day and totally being clueless the next!

  4. EGADS! Perhaps you might get out your red marker and check my spelling errors....I really am a fairly good speller...just a miserable TYPIST!

  5. As we discussed, I think I have to go through different hoops to learn things and I remember best aurally, so hearing something said, or saying it myself helps me to retain things longer than the usual five minutes. Also, I do need some of those baby steps towards full understanding until light dawns, when I'll suddenly rush ahead - not always correctly, but nevertheless, impatiently!

  6. Whilst I am a linear thinker, A to Z via the other 24 stopping points, although, because of all the drilled in 'facts' of my youth, I sometimes seem to leap directly from A to Z. Mayhap that's why I'm maths inclined.

    It takes all sorts thank goodness.