Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Super-Efficient Learning: Part I

Efficiency, in general terms is usually taken to mean using the minimum of effort to achieve the desired effect. In quantitative terms: 100% efficient means without any waste.

So what is efficient learning? Is it picking up a new concept without wasting any time making mistakes? Perhaps, but there’s truth in the old saying that you learn more from your mistakes. How can that be reconciled with the notion of efficiency?

To better define efficiency in learning let’s take a step back and consider what the desired effect is in learning. Presumably it is to acquire or refine a skill, attribute, ability, or understanding.

To oversimplify: In conventional teaching I might set out to teach a new skill – say teaching young children to tie their shoelaces – and ¾ of my class might “get it”, giving my teaching of that skill an efficiency of 75%. No matter how brilliant my teaching is, the best that I can aspire to is 100% efficiency, and mostly I’ll fall a bit short.

Super-Efficency Defined
But what if instead of teaching an exercise with one benefit, I was able to find a set with multiple definable benefits? In simple numerical terms we could say that the efficiency can now exceed 100%. This type of teaching and learning could be justifiably termed super-efficient. The more benefits that are encoded in the exercise the better!

Do super-efficient exercises exist? You bet. The foundational training of several martial arts consist of super-efficient exercises, and I suspect that they may be found in other disciplines too.

In this day and age I believe we need to recognise super-efficient exercises as a time-effective way to develop and maintain high levels of health and skill. The more benefits an exercise has, the greater its:

  • repeat value
  • suitability for use with a non-homogenous training group
  • potential for training with different emphases
Super-Efficient Learning is not the same as ...
Perfect performance: Super-efficient exercises have many aspects to master, so they are more about learning and developing lots of things over time, rather than perfect execution and the absence of mistakes along way.

: Juggling while riding a unicycle and singing opera is impressive, but it is about doing lots of things at once, rather than using one thing to develop many capabilities.

Moving with awareness can transform any exercise -- from running to cleaning the dishes -- into a form of meditation. While undoubtedly a valuable mind-body practice, but moving with awareness is about making the most of any exercise, while super-efficiency involves making a particularly smart choice of exercise. The two practices are complementary.

Super-efficient learning is all about using learning exercises that develop many purposes at once. They are highly beneficial, flexible, and time-efficient.

In Super-Efficient Exercise: Part II I show how the break-falling exercises of Judo & Jiu-Jitsu constitute a wonderful (and super-efficient) set of exercises.


Grant Haroway said...

I'm really enjoying reading and learning from this blog Sensei Dan - i look forward to reading the following parts of super efficiency. The blog is a really good idea.

Thinkfeldie said...

That's actually a really good way to look at it; which reminds me to do a post on what it means to be efficient vs effective.

But yeah - more bang for your buck = win :)