Learning by Thinking: How Reflection Aids Performance

Knowledge is an important element of productivity. If follows that the acquisition of knowledge is equally important to your long-term success. But how do you learn? And how do you find time?

A new research paper called Learning By Thinking: How Reflection Aids Performance offers some keen insights. Basically, there are two types of learning: learn by doing (‘experience’), and learn by thinking (‘reflection’). Based on the UNC and Harvard professor’s research, it turns out that the most powerful way to learn is a combination of both.

The authors define ‘reflection’ as an intentional attempt to synthesize, abstract, and articulate the key lessons taught by experience. Reflecting on what has been learned makes experience more productive. Here are a few highlights from the paper.

  • The automatic, unconscious process of learning generated by “doing” becomes more effective if deliberately coupled with the controlled, conscious attempt at learning by “thinking.”
  • A person learns through developing different interpretations of new or existing information, that is, through developing (consciously or unconsciously) a new understanding of surrounding events.
  • Reflection builds one’s confidence in the ability to achieve a goal, which in turn translates into higher rates of learning.

Maybe we’re on to something with this Weekly Wrap thing. What do you think? Does reflection help you learn? Does learning from your experiences make you more self confident?

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