January 10th, 2006

self portrait

The hazards of accellerated learning

So I'm in class for using our new Word tools on the Hartford work we do. The class is broken down into four days of work. I finished the first day's work about half-way through the first day. I would have finished earlier, except the class materials that were handed out didn't have the location of the data files we're working on in them. Once the class caught up to that point, I'd read the rest of the first day's information and whipped through the exercises.

Looking through the next three days' agendas, I'll likely whip through those as well.

I think this mode of learning that I have (Read, Do, Understand, Move On) was ingrained in me early in my education when I was identified as "gifted." It was expected that I learned things quickly so things weren't often repeated. In this, what I assume is more "normal," training class, we went over a lot of material that I think is unnecessary like what are these documents we're typesetting? who is The Hartford? why move to these Word tools? I would be OK without the class at all, really, as nothing we're doing is particularly new or difficult. Run some different macros, use a bit more of Word's capabilities that we typically do. Piece of cake.

At the same time, sitting just behind me in class is someone for whom this class is perfect. She's not as comfortable with Word as I am and doesn't have the experience with the tools we've grafted on to it that I do. So the slower pace suits her and I can see where it makes sense that she has the difficulties she does. The instructor's instructions sometimes assume pieces of knowledge that she doesn't possess. My presence in class may be causing her to rush, because I look bored most of the time and that pace would be too much for my co-worker. And it's not that she's unintelligent, she participates in competitive Scrabble, for example, so it's just a difference in style.

So it leaves me wondering: how much of my learning style is learned? Could it be that I deal OK with less information because that is how I was taught after scoring well on standardized tests at an early age? Would identifying learning styles and catering instruction to match them throughout primary and secondary education lead everyone to deal with new information as quickly as I do? That is, if people become aware of their learning style, can they adapt to information presented in non-optimal modes so that they can absorb it at higher rates? (Are there learning styles for which speed of absorption is a bad thing?)