As we look at another learning practice of great leaders, you can see the full list in my overview post as well as links to each practice. Today’s post builds upon the previous practices as it explains the secret to moving from passive to active learning. Passive learning requires minimum interaction like listening, reading, and certain types of writing. Active learning begins when an individual engages with the content and makes it their own. This small shift has huge benefits.
Benefits of Active Learning
Improves Your Insights: When you actively learn you create, analyze, and evaluate content. It allows you to refine good ideas into great ones and identify flaws in bad ideas. Engaging with content also allows for theoretical ideas to become practical and for seemingly surface level ideas to find depth. Active learners will gain more insight from an average idea than a passive learner will gain from a great one.
Improve As A Learner: Like any muscle, the more you use it and stretch it, the stronger it becomes. The same is true with learning. As you move past passively receiving information and engage with the content, you grow as a learner. You begin to identify inconsistencies and strengths and are able to articulate them. With practice, your ability to do this increases over time.
Increases Retention: Studies are varied on how much greater your retention is when you actively learn, but all studies conclude that when you make the shift, your retention of the material increases significantly (as much as 400%).
4 Ways To Actively Learn
- Discuss It: Ideally, you want to discuss what you are learning with someone that has read or listened to the same thing so that you can both engage with the content. Even if you don’t have someone who read along, it is still beneficial to discuss what you learned. Find a friend who will listen and interact with the ideas you share. By putting the concepts into your own words, it will solidify your view on the content.
- Write It: Writing is one the easiest and most beneficial ways to actively learn. Not only do you engage with the content, you are able to archive what you learn so that you can access it later. It is important that you do more than just copy over the author’s thoughts, but you think critically by evaluating and analyzing what you read. An easy way to do this is by writing a quick book summary at the end of each book. By answering just a few questions (What did I like, What did I not like, etc.), you can engage with the best parts of the book, thus allowing you to retain what was most important.
- Do It: Another effective way to actively learn is to take what you just read and put it into action. By implementing an idea, it deepens your understanding as you move from a theoretical to practical understanding. In my book summaries, the last section of each post is “1 Action Step That I Am Taking.” This section forces me to engage with at least one idea and move from a theorist to a practitioner.
- Teach It: I believe the single best way to actively learn is to teach. This forces you to not just store your thoughts, but to interact with them and articulate them. This process helps you identify gaps in your thinking and solidify your stances. This is one of the biggest reasons that I started a blog. Before, I was writing summaries for myself and jotting down ideas in Evernote. When I began to blog, it forced me to clarify my thoughts in ways that simply writing for myself wasn’t. There are many different ways you can teach whether through a blog, podcast, or sharing your personal book summary with your team. Whichever you choose, focus less on the content you produce or the audience that follows you, but on the active learning process. Don’t wait to teach until you are an expert in a topic, but start as an enthusiast and see where it goes from there.