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Most of us—or at least our parents—recall how education used to be in the 20th century, before technology made acquiring information super easy. We learned in institutionalized settings: the classroom, the laboratory, the workshop, and out in the field. We might have learned additional skills at trade schools or night classes. If you wanted to learn something, it required a lot of effort.
The Science of Self-Learning PDF Book by Peter Hollins
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Consider that encyclopedias used to be popular and widespread—because there was literally no other way of looking up information or learning by yourself. It almost feels like the dark ages when you realize how difficult it was to simply acquire knowledge and learn about what you’re interested in.
In all of those stuffy traditional environments, someone else decided what we should learn beforehand, whether it was a school board, a private instructor, or family. Learning conferred a top-down relationship with someone else who had the knowledge we sought. Selflearning—in most, but not all, areas—wasn’t considered as legitimate as getting an education from a known or accredited source.
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To enter professions or be considered in any positive light, you must have gone through the proper channels and received the pertinent pieces of paper that told people you were knowledgeable. Gatekeepers were everywhere and designed to keep you from rising. That said, there are some elements of traditional education that could be considered impediments to true learning.
These elements aren’t always negative, and their being obstacles has a lot to do with the student. But several well-respected, learned individuals—including Mark Twain and Albert Einstein, both legendary autodidacts—have expressed skepticism about the limits of traditional education.
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While their criticisms aren’t always true across the board, they’re definitely valid in certain cases, and they’re legitimate arguments in favor of selfeducation. It’s psychologically restrictive. In a traditional education setting, you’re expected to always be attentive and on point. Most if not all of your mental resources need to be applied toward the topics you’re studying.
To the extent that grabbing just a few reasonable minutes of free time could make one feel guilty or irresponsible. How can you enjoy the rare two-hour movie when you’ve got a chemistry final breathing down your neck? This is one of the many problems with a one-size-fits-all approach. It often uses fear as a motivator.
If you don’t study hard and achieve success according to the standards of your school or university, supposedly you’ll have no future. Beginning when we’re children, we’re told that if we don’t follow the demands of traditional schooling—if we don’t keep our heads down for 18 years, plug away, and get that degree —then we’ll wind up destitute, unsuccessful, and live a terrible life out on the fringes of society. The Science of Self-Learning PDF Book
The problem with using fear as a motivator is that it flat-out doesn’t work—we’ll explain why in a bit. Sure, children might not understand motivation in many other ways, but there are indeed other ways. When we receive information of any kind, it travels up the spinal cord toward the neural networks of the brain.
The first part of the brain to get this information is the emotional center—before the analytical or interpretive parts. Predictably, this causes some problems in our daily life. The job of the emotional center is to determine if the information we get poses a threat to our security. If this part of the brain perceives a threat, then it saps chemical resources from the rest of the brain to deal with the threat.
Of course, you know this as the fight-or-flight response, in which our bodies are triggered into arousal to avoid bodily harm in one way or another. The emotional center doesn’t distinguish between physical threats or personal ones, which means it perceives insults, harsh criticism, and condemnation with the same level of alarm that it would with a fist, a bear attack, or an oncoming truck. The Science of Self-Learning PDF Book
It’s responding to a danger to our well-being, and to do so, it hoards the chemicals we’d normally use for other brain-driven activity—such as learning. So motivating someone to learn by threats or reproach isn’t just ineffective—it’s impossible. If one is feeling hurt or mistrusted, or if they’re dealing with depression, stress, difficult personal issues, or fear, they don’t have any resources left to help them learn.
Therefore, it’s important to establish a real sense of confidence that we have the ability to learn. If you’re running low in this area, be kind to yourself and take steps to affirm your learning abilities. You’ve learned everything in your life thus far from scratch. You may feel ignorant or that you’re not good enough—and that might be true, but it’s only a temporary condition.
There’s not a single subject you can’t understand with perseverance and the occasional stretch of hard work. For the self-learner, this process means organizing yourself and your materials to facilitate gathering information, studying, comprehending, and testing yourself on what you’ve learned. How will you schedule your reading time? The Science of Self-Learning PDF Book
What resources will you use to track your progress and determine where your knowledge gaps are? How will you produce what you’ve learned—writing, video, a project, or some other means? Think of this step as sort of a lab report. Before a scientist gets started on an experiment.
They write down their hypothesis (or whatever they want to accomplish or prove) and the methods and materials they’ll use to arrive at their conclusions. After each stage of their experiment, they record results and indicate what kind of adjustments they might need to make for future trials. Finally, at the end, they write out the overall results and explain what the conclusions actually mean.
Applying this mindset to self-learning, this means putting a framework in place at the beginning that details how you’re going to execute. If you’re teaching yourself a foreign language, you’d want to make a list of books and online audio resources you’ll be using. You might want to make a list of how you’ll practice and test yourself— maybe with an online sound recorder or a smartphone. The Science of Self-Learning PDF Book
And at the end of the course, maybe you’ll translate a hefty amount of English text into the language you’re learning. This step might seem a little laborious, especially when you just want to jump into the material. But it will save a huge amount of time down the road and help you learn infinitely more.
Regulating yourself into learning better is important because once you have led the horse to water (once you have found the resources), the horse must drink the water itself (you must do it yourself). Jorge is mentally depleted at the end of the first chapter because he hasn’t considered anything he’s read.
He doesn’t know what it means or why it’s important. He had to keep reading paragraphs over and over, though he stubbornly refused to consult a dictionary. He still finished Chapter 1 relatively quickly, but he has no interest in moving on to Chapter 2. It’s too depressing and discouraging. So he picks up another book that he got and has the exact same experience. The Science of Self-Learning PDF Book Download
Jorge considers this all a divine sign and decides he wasn’t meant to study archaeology at all. He thinks he clearly doesn’t have the mental resources necessary to pursue the subject. So he closes his e-book, a little depressed and dejected, thinking that he’s too stupid. But Jorge isn’t stupid. In fact, he was one of the best students in his high school class, and he routinely aced tests without studying.
His downfall was his expectations of his own initial abilities and how they would react to new knowledge and reading material. He might be smart, but not in this field. When he failed to immediately grasp it, he considered it his own personal failure. But that’s only because he tried to read a book of knowledge the same way that he read juvenile fiction— or anything that was thrown at him in high school.
He had no plan and wasn’t prepared for what self-learning really requires. Since those styles of writing are completely different, and because you also have a different purpose in mind (assimilation and comprehension of new information and knowledge), they need to be approached in completely different ways. Interacting with information isn’t just about expectations—it’s about planning. The Science of Self-Learning PDF Book Download
Finally, create an analogy for the concept. What is the purpose of this step? It’s an extension of step three. Making analogies between concepts requires an understanding of the main traits and characteristics of each. This step is to demonstrate whether or not you truly understand it on a deeper level and to make it easier to explain.
You can look at it as the true test of your understanding and whether you still possess blind spots in your knowledge. For example, gravity is like when you put your foot into a pool and the fallen leaves on the surface are attracted to it because it causes a barely seen impact. That impact is gravity.
This step also connects new information to old information and lets you piggyback off a working mental model to understand or explain in greater depth. Of course, it’s unlikely that you can do step four if you can’t do steps two and three, but sometimes you can do steps two and three and find you can’t do step four—now you understand the boundaries of your knowledge and better. The Science of Self-Learning PDF Book Free
The Feynman technique is a rapid way to discover what you know versus what you think you know, and it allows you to solidify your knowledge base. When you keep explaining and simplifying to yourself and discover that you can’t, you’ve just discovered that you don’t know as much as you thought you did.
When you started to read, you probably read out loud. Your elementary school teacher wanted you to read the book and say the words aloud. After you mastered this skill, you were told to simply say the words inside your head and read quietly. When it comes to reading, we are often limited by the time that it takes for our subconscious mind to pronounce the words on the page.
We don’t say them out loud, but our mind speaks them unconsciously: this is known as “subvocalizing.” This is where most reading education and skill levels end. To move to a new level you need to stop sounding the words inside your head. Subvocalizing takes time—more time than is necessary to comprehend the words you are reading. The Science of Self-Learning PDF Book Free
It is almost impossible to go much beyond 400 or 500 words while subvocalizing. And even then, it sounds like you are having a heart attack because you are speaking so fast inside your mind. When we speak a word. It should go without saying that reading is not something you can multitask. It requires all of your attention and focus.
Sadly, most of us don’t treat reading with the respect it deserves, and that is why we often find ourselves reading through the same paragraph over and over again. How can we improve our focus when it comes to reading in particular? This final section is about maintaining your focus and not letting these other techniques be wasted if you simply can’t pay attention to your materials!
First, eliminate distractions. There will always be distractions out of your control, but we’re more concerned with distractions that are in your control. Avoid unplanned and unwelcome distractions. For example, if your phone starts ringing while you’re reading, this is a distraction that is in your control and you can eliminate it. The Science of Self-Learning PDF Book Free
Just turn your phone off for the time that you’ll be reading. If you have the constant urge to check your email or Facebook while you read, then try turning your computer off while you read. If other people constantly interrupt you, then you may want to try reading in a different location. These are all distractions that can be controlled.
And if they can be controlled, we should eliminate them to achieve a higher level of focus while reading. What other distractions are within your control? Well, almost everything you surround yourself with in your physical environment. That’s a start. Next, you can proactively tell people not to distract you during a time period—they may not know that you are trying to focus.
So you can prevent their unplanned distracting presence. Second, create a game. How fast can you read a page of text while still maintaining a high level of comprehension? Why not time yourself and try to beat your record one page at a time?Remember what it was like to be a kid? Everything was a game! The Science of Self-Learning PDF Book Free