Leaving education, be it sixth form or university, you’ll find the amount of information you’re digesting and applying dramatically decreases. You might have the odd workshop in the office or read an inspiring article on Twitter, but the actual process of ‘learning’ or ‘teaching oneself’ is something that we should all cut a little more time out of our lives to practice.
Jumpstarting your ability to learn gets harder the longer you’ve spent away from textbooks or a library. During schooling years your brain is hardwired to absorb an inordinate amount of information in a short amount of time. Since then, not to say you’re less intelligent, but factors like self-consciousness and brain readiness alter. This is why children have a much easier time learning new languages and instruments.
In a piece for the New York Times, the story is told of a teacher explaining the theory of evolution through the lens of prominent racial tension in an inner-city school. The kids responded to this method of teaching because it related to them and their identity. What she witnessed and documented was “her students’ shift from apathy to engagement and, finally, to deep, meaningful learning”.
What we can take from this is that emotion is essential to learning. As the Times piece states: “it is literally neurobiologically impossible to think deeply about things that you don’t care about”.
So how do you spark this emotional investment in things you want to know more about but don’t care about right now. A lot of young people have trouble keeping up with current events because of the dry manner in which they’re presented. However, research has shown that repeated exposure to source materials (newspapers etc) results in an ease of learning.
The ‘ease of learning’ vs ‘general knowledge’ graph is an exponential curve. The trick is to find an angle or perspective that interests you personally. Mainstream sources of information tend to be written neutrally so it’s up to you to develop your self-teaching ability by re-phrasing subjects into moulds that you have an emotional attachment to.
Dig deep into your feelings and you’ll find that your ability to teach yourself about new topics will bleed over to your work life, personal life and beyond.