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AU News

Deep Learning: Beneath the Surface from Memorization to Understanding (part two of a series)

July 17, 2018

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By L. Dianne King, Ph.D., Dean of Student Success, David Larson McPhillips Center for Student Success at Anderson University

In order to embrace the challenge of learning in college, it may be helpful to get a basic understanding of how we learn. Even a rudimentary understanding will help us get a better grasp on what is happening and how we can help the process along.

How Do We Learn?

It isn’t like this! 

Students too often come to college as passive learners, thinking that their professors will just pour knowledge into their heads, sort of like in this illustration. Fortunately, it doesn’t work that way. I say fortunately, because the process of learning has added value to the learning we do, and because, if you let it, learning can be lots of fun.

Rather than waiting for your professor to impart knowledge to you, become active in the learning process. Pay attention to things like the learning outcomes written in the syllabus; the topics and how they are laid out throughout the term; the textbook and its table of contents.

When you go to class, get in the game, rather than sitting there, glazed over, texting, or working on something for another class. You (or someone) is paying a lot for you to be here (and remember: if you have student loans, you will be paying for this for a long time!)  Don’t waste a minute of learning that’s available.

Whatever knowledge is in your brain acts like “hooks” to which new information can attach itself. These hooks gather to form “concepts,” or networks of connected ideas. Rather than just having disconnected facts in your brain, you begin to see the whole.  What happens when you begin to see the whole, rather than individual parts? You go beyond remembering to be able to apply the information, to analyze it, evaluate it, and even to create new things.  

This actually leads to neurological (physical) changes in your brain – your brain itself changes when you are deeply learning.

Do you want a more expansive, “bigger” brain?  Engage in deep learning!

Next time: the Learning/Memory Process

Read part one of this series here.

For more information on services available at the David Larson McPhillips Center for Student Success at Anderson University, click here

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