Geeks With Blogs

Technical Writing by Mark Metcalfe, Publications Professional

There are two fundamental reasons why people learn about something:

People learn to accomplish a specific task.
For example, a recipe for baking a chocolate cake contains specific instructions.

People learn to acquire knowledge, which can be applied in more than one way.
For example, a reference for baking techniques (perhaps at different altitudes) will contain concepts related to baking (the textures of certain breads, the right way to use yeast, and so on).

When the information professional understands ways that people learn, a number of methods are available to accommodate the various ways of learning. The following examples describe two ways to teach a person:

Progressive disclosure teaches a person by building concepts on the foundation of other concepts. For example, learning to count comes before learning adding numbers, which comes before learning to multiply numbers. Calculus cannot be taught without first laying the foundations of fundamental mathematics.

Rote reinforcement teaches a person through repetitive action. For example, an assembly line worker becomes more productive as repetitive action improves the skill.

Note: Both methods of learning may teach a person that 7x7=49. One person may add 7 seven times while the other looks up the answer on the multiplication table. If 7x7 is referenced with sufficient frequency, a person can “learn” that 7x7=49; the answer is available without needing the fundamentals of mathematics. But this kind of learning does no good if the equation changes to 17x8 or needs to be related to higher mathematical functions.

Comments on this post: Types of Learning

# re: Types of Learning
I heartily agree. One has to do Step 1 before Step 2.
Left by Jim Farris on Jun 15, 2009 5:16 PM

# re: Types of Learning
Hey, Mark,

That is a great subject for a post. Thanks for blogging about it.

There's nothing in the post that I disagree with, but I don't know if it is complete. There are so, so many ways to learn other than the ones you mentioned, although, admittedly, those are the defaults.
PJ
Both disclosure and rote are a subset of the "show-and-tell" method, any variation of which can be expedient, maybe even efficient, but never really as effective as it could be.

God, I just read that and it sounds like I think I know what I'm talking about. Please excuse. I just wanted to put it out there for consideration - it's not a criticism. I'm glad to have found your blog and I think it's very good.

Brian (a.k.a. Professor Homunculus at MathMojo.com )
Left by Brian on Jun 15, 2009 9:01 PM