Thoughts on Concept Orientated Learning

The past few years have probably been quite strange for everyone. As a freelancer I have found a great deal of my work completely dry up. It took a long time for any government support to be announced for the self-employed and staff employed on short-term contracts.

Whilst in lockdown, I spent time reading a great deal of books and studying things that interest me. I read books on mental models, productivity, learning. As well as books on computer science and photography.

Concepts are the Key

I have discovered that the best way to learn anything is to drill down to the core concepts of the topic.

When reading a text about something that you wish to learn, it is important that as a reader you are constantly asking questions about the text. As you hold these questions in your mind, it is also your responsibility as a reader to answer them. C. Van Doren & M. J. Adler Discuss how to be a demanding reader in their book How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading.

Whilst asking these questions, we also need to make the book our own. By writing notes, underlining and highlighting on the page. Digital books are great for this, I love reading papers and chapters on my iPad using GoodNotes to highlight and scribble down ideas.

Connecting Concepts

Once we have isolated the concepts of the topic that we are wanting to study, we can the write our notes.

By writing your notes based around the concepts of the topic that you have read about. It frees you from the constraints of grouping your notes by book title or author.

The benefit from this, is that your notes are much more open and inclusive to other ideas from different writers. As you study a topic you will extract another authors concepts and different ideas will interconnect. As your notes grow you will start to see a bigger picture of the subject you are studying.

This does make note-taking and studying harder, but the rewards are greater. When writing our notes, we have to think deeply about how they fit with what we have already written. We are forced to look back over our writing and explore the connections.

By making the connections in our notes, we are creating connections in our mind. The repetition involved when doing this helps to cement the ideas into our memory, and we feel like we are truly understanding a topic. By connecting the unexpected we are also planting the seeds to grow new ideas, that could expand our levels of understanding even further.

Howard Colin @hdc_digital