The More You Struggle With New Information The More Likely You Are To Learn It

The More You Struggle With New Information The More Likely You Are To Learn It

Trying to learn new skills or new information can be really frustrating, but as Time Magazine points out, the more you struggle with taking on new information the more likely you are to retain and recall that information later.

Image: Evil Erin.

Nobody likes to fail when learning a new task, but it’s an essential part of the learning process that’s often left out when we’re offered up information in a neatly packaged, structured way. While much of the research into the learning process is concentrated on children, it’s a lesson adults can learn from as well. As Time notes, employers use the same process as many teachers:

[W]hile the model adopted by many teachers and employers when introducing others to new knowledge — providing lots of structure and guidance early on, until the students or workers show that they can do it on their own — makes intuitive sense, it may not be the best way to promote learning. Rather, it’s better to let the neophytes wrestle with the material on their own for a while, refraining from giving them any assistance at the start.

It’s a healthy reminder that struggling through a difficult problem — whether it’s learning Photoshop, getting used to a new webapp, or picking up a new skill — is a necessary part of the learning process. It also works out in the long run because you’re better able to recall the information you learned.

Why Floundering Is Good [Time]


  • Completely agreed. I’ve been in a new role for 2 months, and whilst they pointed me to a comprehensive static testing and build team website on day 1, I’ve found that I don’t actually learn the test and build tools by following their written procedures. I only learn where to look up the procedures. I learn the tools by trying what seems logical to me, and then adjusting what I tried to work better if I run into difficulty. Local builds are something that I can do without disrupting others’ work, so they make for a great activity with which to experiment.

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