A Basic Outline on Learning

“Children do not need to be made to learn”, Holt maintains, because each is born with what Einstein called “the holy curiosity of inquiry”. For them, learning is as natural as breathing. _John Holt in “How Children Learn”

There are many types of learning, most of which take place without thinking about them. Here are some of the things we learn:

  1. Knowledge that we can express verbally (episodic and semantic)
  2. Skills (motor and cognitive)
  3. Behaviours (often learned unconsciously)
  4. Values (also acquired largely unconsciously)
  5. Preferences and tastes (a complex combination of conscious and unconscious learning)
  6. Emotional reactions (closely related to most of the above

Most of us would prefer to be skilful and knowledgeable, with cultured tastes and a range of behaviours which bring us good results for our efforts. But that is largely up to our parents — both their genes and the environmental red carpet which they roll out for us.

Most of our early learning takes place unconsciously, via conditioning, observation, and automatic enculturation. But early on, we typically learn from “play,” beginning with simple imitation — first unconscious, then more conscious with time.

There are five types of play: 1) sensorimotor play aka functional play, characterized by repetition of activity. 2) role play occurs from 3 to 15 years of age. 3) rule-based play where authoritative prescribed codes of conduct are primary. 4) construction play involves experimentation and building. 5) movement play aka physical play.[12] _Wikipedia “Learning”

Play is generally underrated by most educators. But no one who has watched a “slacker” turn on his learning power to master a challenging video game will make that mistake. From very early in life onward, the “play instinct” is a powerful motivator for learning.

Another underrated-but-powerful learning method is “episodic learning.”

Episodic learning is a change in behavior that occurs as a result of an event.[15] For example, a fear of dogs that follows being bitten by a dog is episodic learning. Episodic learning is so named because events are recorded into episodic memory, which is one of the three forms of explicit learning and retrieval, along with perceptual memory and semantic memory.[16] _Wikipedia “Learning”

The Wikipedia reference to episodic memory uses the highly emotionally charged experience of being bitten by a dog, as an example. Such a highly charged memory is likely to last. But even less charged experiences that take place in an apprenticeship training, for example, can stick in one’s memory for a very long time — long after purely semantic memories would have likely faded. The same is true for episodes of foreign travel, or episodes of social occasions such as weddings or funerals. There is no substitute for being there and doing things.

Here is a list of methods for learning taken largely from the Wikipedia article linked above:

  1. Rote learning (repetition)
  2. Formal learning (formal teacher – student relationship)
  3. Active learning (the student taking control of the learning experience)
  4. Informal learning (learning from life)
  5. Tangential learning (accidental learning while doing something you enjoy)
  6. Dialogic learning (learning from dialogue)
  7. Multimedia learning (using combined forms of sensory input to learn such as audio + visual)

Such lists are always a bit arbitrary and overlapping — to say nothing of incomplete. It is probably best to make one’s own lists, in order to clarify and prioritize the ideas for oneself.

In the context of Dangerous Child training, most all of the above forms of learning come into play at various times, depending upon the child’s level as well as interests and aptitudes. The Method is carefully sequenced, graduated with integrated rites of passage, and exquisitely individualized.

It can be difficult to understand how children too young to walk or talk can be given foundational skills for later complex learning and multiple competencies. And yet, we all know that such things take place by accident with every child. Sometimes for good, and sometimes not. Wouldn’t it be better to emphasize the positive?

For example, exposing an infant to multiple spoken languages and finer forms of musical, verbal, and behavioural expression has been shown to give the child a potential advantage in multiple areas in later childhood. And that is barely touching the surface of those sensitive periods of development.

We are beginning to touch on the main theme of this blog. Some readers will find an emphasis on “The Dangerous Child Method” to be boring, and not what they had come to expect from reading most of the original Al Fin family of blogs. But we at The Institute, including both Valerie and Alice (Institute director of communications) feel that this particular topic is particularly timely and important.

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