On Understanding, Comprehending and Learning

  • Explain it back: using your own words, what’s the idea and its implications? That also helps the instructor to understand where you stand.
  • Take the idea to the limits: if X is true, then at the one extreme, this must be true, on the other — that; X is somewhere in the middle — definitions by limiting. Doing that also allows to check how well does instructor understands the topic-bad instructor won’t be able to articulate clearly the effects and implications once the X is extrapolated beyond the textbook example.
  • Draw testable hypotheses — this a hallmark of good science in general, and is applicable to learning in particular: if X is true, and given A, B and C, we should expect to see Y in such and such situation. Is that so? Extrapolating the X is useful because it allows to test our intuitions as well as finding the failure modes of X. No idea is absolutely perfect, every idea, or a model, has a limitation. By knowing the limits we can better understand the applicability of each idea, and without applications the ideas or knowledge can only give us so much.

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Alex Salo

Alex Salo

What's life without a little adventure?

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