Avoiding a plateau LO10008

Mon, 16 Sep 1996 20:12:44 -0400

Replying to LO9932 --


First, some comments on your list of suggestions for avoiding a plateau:

> 1) Avoid practising complicated theories.

(Simple mental models are easier to articulate and remember. Once a simple
model is well learned, though, it can be used as a piece in a more
complicated model.)

> 2) Follow a teacher who deeply reinforces your belief that learnings can be
> accomplished.

(Another person can serve as an external representation of a mental model,
and can provide reinforcement for attainment of sub-goals (see #3).)

> 3) Break your desired learnings into miniscule but achievable steps.

(Smaller steps are usually simpler (see #1), and the connection between
action and reinforcement is usually more direct. Also, smaller steps, once
well learned, are easier to access in real-time.)

> 4) For the moment, forget all your past learning modes and achievements.

(This is related to #3: "forgetting" the context for the moment allows a
focus on the present small step. This also reminds me of the "Unlearning"

> 5) Keep on trying.

(This is easier said than done. And sometimes, the best thing to do is to
stop trying, and reassess the situation for a better course of action. An
important question here is, How does one discriminate between times to try
and times to reassess?)

One way to think about your list of suggestions is as a general mental
model of the process by which individuals obtain functional abilities
(such as swimming), a mental model of learning, as it were. Your
suggestions are good ones, but systematizing things always helps me
remember, so I'm trying to put them into a structure (i.e., a mental model
that has different levels of connection).

To have a functional ability, we have to have:
An articulated mental model (including our own action patterns and what
constitues a situation appropriate for the use of the model), and
A real-time ability to access and act on the appropriate mental model.

Learning a functional ability, then, is enhanced by whatever helps the
formation and persistence of mental models and whatever helps real-time
access to mental models.

I keep coming back to the idea of "coherence", or self-reinforcement.
When I say, "well learned", I think I'm talking about a
concept/action-pattern/whatever that has somehow achieved a certain level
of coherence, i.e., become "automatic" to some degree, so that the
concept/action-pattern/whatever is available as a whole whenever part of
it is activated.

I'll stop for the moment - this is getting to be too complicated for me to
keep straight!

- Jeff


Jeff Brooks (BrooksJeff@AOL.com)

Learning-org -- An Internet Dialog on Learning Organizations For info: <rkarash@karash.com> -or- <http://world.std.com/~lo/>