Learning With Understanding

by Win Wenger, Ph.D.
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Many great methods already exist for ingenious creative problem solving. Now you can use these methods to improve your learning because they can be used to understand situations, both for study and for real life.

It began with creative problem-solving: In 1967, Win Wenger was teaching in a small college and, looking for a way to stimulate his students, got into the then-new literature on creative problem-solving (CPS). It then occurred to him to propose: that if you have a good method, any good method, for solving problems, one of the best problems to work it on is on the problem of how to create better methods for solving problems.

And, of course, one of the best problems to work those better methods on is on the problem of how to create still better such methods.

Thus was born the simple principle of re-investing your best methods into creating yet better methods. There appears to be no end to this process. We in Project Renaissance have been pursuing this principle now for nearly half a century.

There are now more than a hundred effective methods for creatively and ingeniously solving problems of all kinds, for innovating, inventing, and making discoveries—methods which are now in successful professional use around the planet.

Note—Help yourself NOW!  This shows you how to solve your own challenges, be they economic, work-related, personal or interpersonal.  FREE— no strings, no ID required. These are like kitchen recipes:  easy step-by-specific-step practical instructions on how to use them are waiting for your ready use.

Free:   An annotated Directory to a dozen or more such self-taught methods, in a form which almost anyone can readily use, wholly accessible from anywhere in the world that you can get onto the Internet. Free individuals are thus empowered to solve their own challenges. See this unique free Directory.

What makes all this relevant to our topic here is our discovery, a few years later, that every one of those hundred effective methods for creatively solving problems serves also as a powerful learning method. And that many of the better methods for learning, including the original Socratic method, after whose miraculous seeming effects all of education and educators were named, can also serve as excellent methods for ingeniously solving problems and challenges. In either case, problem-solving or learning-with-understanding, these are methods for figuring things out.

One way to turn any good problem-solving method into a powerful accelerated learning method, is to “brainstorm” and/or “buzz-group” (in very small groups) answers to such questions as these—

  • What, in my experience or in my whole life thus far, does the main point of this lesson somehow remind me of? I wonder why that main point somehow reminds me of that…?
  • What are the ramifications of the main point in this lesson?
  • How do the various points in this lesson relate to one-another?
  • What more do I need to know here to fully grasp and understand this lesson?

—or any of many other possible such questions, including those more directly tailored to specific subjects or topics.

Here in our 30-minute session we will attempt to survey some of the methods and a few of the principles behind them. That, and maybe one or two recommendations and some Q/A, is about all we can shoehorn into these 30 minutes, though we hope we can slip in a tiny demonstration or so along the way. Nearly all our demonstrations involve having people describe in some detail their respective perceptions to each other in order to develop those perceptions and to understand what it is that these are showing them— and such describing does eat up minutes even if in the long run a great deal of time is saved in the classroom.

Principle:  what you describe TO someone, in detail, WHILE you are examining it, you discover more and more and more about. While describing some of what you are looking at, more aspects of it come into your notice for you to describe also. This we refer to as the Principle of Description. This principle in turn derives from Behavior’s Law of Effect, our short version of which is that “you get more of what you reinforce.”

With Google’s help, you are likely to find that a number of very different procedures are described as “accelerated learning.” Our own methods revolve around acquiring, or imparting, or discovering, learning-with-understanding, more easily, rapidly, and in better depth. Half of our methods provide a synergistic blend of maieutic Socratic Method (a good topic to Google for) and CPS—Creative Problem-Solving techniques, another good candidate for Googling. On our own website, one good place to start reading is the Teaching & Learning Techniques section, and especially the article on test results, together with the linked articles it refers to.

Several obvious and overlooked principles are behind our Project Renaissance methods, but one of the most major is this:  nearly all learning, and especially all human learning, is by association. Every learner has a different life history and background from which to make associations, and especially the most meaningful associations, with current learning materials and contents. It is better for students to make their own associations with current learning, than for teachers and texts (with their own predisposed differences) to try to be everything to everyone instead. Teachers should provide some content but then mainly facilitate students to make their own associations. Students should in any case engage in such procedures and techniques as will cause them to draw upon more of their own resources in making their own most meaningful associations with what they are trying to learn.

With Socratic Method, students are challenged by argument or question into a thoughtful and perceptive search of their own resources and experiences in their press to find good answers. Bringing these uniquely meaningful individual resources and experiences into the context helps students (or anyone) to make their own and most meaningful associations with the matter at hand. Classical Socratic Method was too expensive to be widely used, because you would have one instructor working with but one or two students. Do that with today’s modern-sized classes and the other 48 students—or the other 348 students—would get restless and disruptive. See our solution to this numbers problem with Dynamic Format.

Using that systematic steering system to have students “buzz” in small groups of 2, 3 or 4, in efforts to answer your Socratic questions, and any reasonably competent instructor can easily give as intensive and totally involving a Socratic experience to everyone in even a lecture section of 500 at a time, as was formerly reserved only to an elite few.

Instead of forcing someone with inescapably leading questions to but one only right answer, as classical Socratic Method has often been used in law schools, maieutic forms of Socratic Method are open-ended and exploratory, with the emphasis on the drawing-out phenomena for which Socratics are famed and after which the education profession itself is named.

More than half of Project Renaissance methods, of learning-with-understanding, can be described as a combination of modern maieutic Socratic Method with creative problem-solving technique.

Principle: Feedback Upon One’s Own Actions
We mentioned earlier the Law of Effect, that you get more of what you reinforce. One principle which derives from that was expressed by the following great pioneers:

  • John Dewey—one should best “learn by doing.”
  • Maria Montessori—learn best through feedback upon one’s own actions.
  • Omar K. Moore—rig the environment so that one’s own actions will necessarily bring about the feedback which will make for that best learning.

It goes way beyond that point:

  • Santiago Ramon y Cajal, father of neuroanatomy—not only learning, but sheer raw physical brain growth and development derives mainly from feedback upon the organism’s own activities.
  • Marion Diamond, a leading neurophysiologist researcher in our time—the need to be directly engaged so you will in fact get that feedback on your own actions which literally grows your brain.

Note:  If anyone is still stuck on the losing side of the 100 years of the “nature vs. nurture” argument regarding the buildability of IQ and intelligence, try this little experiment: Google for “brain plasticity” or “neural plasticity” to see where science has massively landed on that topic for the past dozen years.

For our own refinement of this principle of feedback upon one’s own actions, see Feed-the-Loop rapid flow-with-feedback model.

We provide here an annotated catalog of Project Renaissance methods of accelerated learning. And here is a short-cut, smaller specialized catalog of such methods, especially for college and graduate students, especially in topics and subjects where understanding is more important than rote memorization.

Tip of your tongue/Tip of Your Mind principle:  “Oh, I know such-and-such, it’s right on the tip of my mind….” That familiar experience reflects the fact that most of your best thought, perception and understanding is just outside of where you have your attention focused. In a holographic world where everything relates to and affects everything else to a greater or lesser degree, some here can begin to appreciate the useful strategy behind Project Renaissance’s Principle of Description as cited above.

Part of what’s made it harder than it has to be to bring sought-for understandings and perceptions within our focus of attention, is the false-to-reality subject-predicate relationship in our grammar, which the English language has in common with its sister IndoEurasian languages. That leads us to see and think in terms of single, one-way cause-and-effect relationships so that it takes an informed effort to see beyond that.

Nearly all of your perceptions, knowledge, experience and understanding are beyond where you have your conscious attention focused. Our language is what focuses our consciousness and attention—it makes a wonderful magnifying glass, but it surely tunnels our vision. We need to use both our verbal-conscious focus and our Beyond-Conscious. These are like two feet of the mind. We CAN hobble on one foot only and ignore the other, but you get rather less accomplished for rather more effort that way.

Visualization, especially spontaneous mental imagery not consciously directed, is perhaps the most sensitive way to get insights from the Beyond-Conscious mind into our conscious verbal focus where we can do useful things with them. Hence our emphasis on your ongoing streams of thought and mental imagery, streams ongoing in every living human being. Hence we have published an entire curriculum of instructions on the practice of the phenomenon of ImageStreaming, comprising more than a dozen inter-linked articles:

Beyond all the free information on this website, we offer a number of our books and audio courses. All these are made to be easily self-taught.

Another topic you may wish to explore is in this issue of the Project Renaissance newsletter, The Stream. Scroll down there to Win Wenger’s informative article.

Another major phenomenon, with applications to problem solving, is the use of Calm-Breathing Patterns, which can be used to remove stress and clarify your existence. Discover for yourself some of what can be done with the fact that “You breathe the way you feel, and you feel the way you breathe.” Remove exam anxiety and be at your crystal-clear best when you most need to be. You can see more in the Winsights column.

Go first there to article #106 and try that out; then to article #107. Then #28 and #29. Then #98. Then possibly also Numbers 69 and 82. Lastly, with these patterns learned, turn to article #79 and discover some ways to truly be at your best when taking that GRE or other formal standardized exam upon which so much may ride.

Tested Results:  From second grade through university graduate school, students taught by such methods have made dramatic gains. One school — St. Andrews Country Day School in Buffalo, New York —has all its teachers using our maieutic Socratic Method. That school has been testing the results with the “Cohorts” or “value-added” standardized TerraNova test as published by McGraw-Hill. The earliest results, including a partial year, showed several hundred students there on average gaining 4.4 years per year in academic proficiency, as these results show. Currently the students there are gaining better than 5 years per year, and nearly all the graduates have been winning scholarships.

Three of the very easiest-to-use elements of our version of maieutic Socratic technique have been released for free and open public use in our succinct little book, 3 Easy Tactics To Use In Your Classroom: How to Teach Smarter, Not Harder. Just about any instructor can, after a few minutes of reading, use those three simple tactics to more than double his or her students’ rate of progress in gaining academic proficiencies.

Special note:  In addition to encouraging individuals here and elsewhere to experiment with various of these techniques on their own learning, Win Wenger is interested in finding and working with a special team of three to six members to experiment, not only with their own learning and with each other in some systematic way, but with tutoring some of their classmates, this team to possibly become the nucleus of a tutoring service extending well beyond your University’s campus. He will give free additional instruction to the founding members of this nucleus.

Wanted:  participants here to—

  • Experiment with some of these techniques in their own lives and studies, and write – to us and/or to one-another and/or to the University – about what you observe of the results.
  • Experiment with one-another with some of these techniques, and write up what you observe of the results.
  • Form experimentally the world’s first maieutic/Socratic/CPS tutoring group and/or exploratory group, writing up its observed actions and results.

Another way still is to form your own experimental exploratory group ranging through various of the methods and effects whose instructions are found freely throughout this website.

Finally (for the moment at least) we are approaching an ultimate “easy tactics” configuration for students which will be fully counterpart to the 3 Easy Tactics approach we’ve put together for teachers and professors. We have identified, and maintain for your free use on the web, three procedures—each of which, when used, will likely more than double the value to you of the lesson or reading that it is used in:

  1. At the end of each lesson or reading, a rapid-flow-with-feedback few minutes of review such as with Windtunnel or with Freenoting. This is a close counterpart to an easy Instant Replay tactic for instructors.
  2. Amidst an ongoing reading or lesson: Here definitely is a candidate for one of the final assembly of easy tactics for super-learning students: Frame One: 5 Hot Tips for Little Knacks in Learning
  3. Before the start of a lesson or reading, use the Predictive Imagery tactic, whose results are intriguing enough to justify the tactic’s inclusion here even though for best results with it one should likely first learn Image-Streaming.

We suggest using one or more of these three during every reading, lesson or lecture that has significant content, if possible on a pretty regular basis. With that, as a “wild card” we suggest also once in a while experimentally using some of the dozens of other accelerated learning methods found for free in our website, to keep things fresh and interesting. Also, to get really good mileage, make greater use of whichever of these many various techniques work best for you. Among these wild cards, definitely include at least the main version of our Borrowed Genius methods.

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