Forum: Effective learning is about mastering how to 'connect the dots'

These days so much emphasis is placed on the need to learn, spawning many catchphrases, such as continual learning on the job, life-long learning, learning how to learn, and so on. But scant attention has been given to what all this entails.

We need to be more specific in identifying the skill sets that contribute to a person's ability to learn. Perhaps, National Institute of Education (NIE) researchers, as well as those involved in social science research, might want to do some definitive studies.

My own hunch is that underlying all these desired characterisations of learning is the notion of transferable learning or skills.

We have to identify the common skill sets and/or the rudimentary knowledge required for understanding a situation to bring about the desired outcome in a particular job.

Basic knowledge involves more than content knowledge; it entails understanding the underlying logic or principles of the subject matter. Put in another way, skills become transferable when we have learnt to connect the dots between the "old" knowledge or skill and the "new" domain to which this knowledge or skill can be applied.

The critical question is: Do we know how to teach this ability to connect the dots in any knowledge base or skill set?

Perhaps, this is the Gordian knot that will determine how anyone can learn how to learn.

Thomas Lee Hock Seng (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 24, 2020, with the headline 'Effective learning is about mastering how to 'connect the dots''. Print Edition | Subscribe