Learning to learn again

Experience doesn’t make us wise. If that were true, there’d be happier people, better relationships, more millionaires, and no broke entrepreneurs in the world today.

“So is gaining experience just a waste of my time?” was my random thought for today. I could just as happily be laying on the couch watching reruns of my favourite Friends episodes while life passes me by.

Of course, I knew that experience wasn’t just a waste of my time.

And also, I’ve spent enough time laying on the couch watching reruns of my favourite Friends episodes. It lightens my mood and I know I can ace a Facebook quiz, but as far as life hacks go, that isn’t one of them.

So what are the deeper questions, then? What exactly is experience? What is its benefit? And what is the elusive gap between experience and wisdom that leaves us making the same mistakes again and again and again?

The thought lingered at the back of my mind while I went on with my day.

Until, while minding my own business over a cheap breakfast at the corner coffee shop, another random thought popped into my mind: “Bloom’s Taxonomy”.

Now this is where you have to bear with me just a little (or not) as we travel back in time.

It’s 2004. Britney Spears is topping the UK charts with Everytime, Typhoon Mindulle strikes Tokyo, and it’s my first day on the job as an Instructional Writer for a company that develops IT courses.

Up until that day, I thought I had a good grasp of grammar and punctuation. I thought I could string together sentences in a way that was clear and concise. I thought I was an Instructional Writer. I didn’t. I couldn’t. I wasn’t. I had to learn everything from scratch.

So there I was for the next two years, rebuilding my self-confidence as an Instructional Writer while getting intimate with Oxford commas, is vs. are, and Bloom’s Taxonomy.

Bloom’s Taxonomy.

That’s something that I haven’t given much thought to since 2006, so why did it make a cameo appearance this morning while I was buttering my toast? Could it be a clue to the elusive gap between experience and wisdom that leaves us lathering, rinsing, and repeating the same mistakes?

First, a quick-ish explanation of Bloom’s Taxonomy.

Bloom’s Taxonomy is the model we used to describe the different learning levels at which we needed to present our course content. It describes a very clear cognitive process in which the learner moves from being someone new to the topic to someone who can actually use it in their everyday lives.

According to the model, the various cognitive steps from newbie to pro go along these lines:

  • Remember
  • Understand
  • Apply
  • Analyse
  • Evaluate
  • Create

As Instructional Writers, we weren’t allowed to ask learners to analyse or apply a topic if we weren’t absolutely sure they first understood it. And we couldn’t expect them to understand a topic unless we were absolutely certain they knew all the facts.

Doesn’t it make sense when it comes to living our lives, too?

If we were to see ourselves as learners in this gigantic course called Life, doesn’t it make sense that we have to know all the facts before we can understand? Understand before we can apply? Apply before we can analyse? Analyse before we can evaluate? And evaluate before we can create?

Doesn’t it make sense to be both the learner and the Instructional Writer in our own lives?

Bloom’s Taxonomy is a topic on its own, one I’m happy to apply. I may even go as far as to analyse, evaluate, and create an even better model sometime in the future! For now, though, I’m eager to play closer attention to the levels at which I’m currently learning.

If I’m consistently remembering past mistakes… Oops, I’m stuck at the basic of basics. Not very wise! There’s no benefit in retelling the same ol’ stories.

But when I understand, then apply what I’ve learnt, analyse the different options available to me, evaluate what would work best, and then create a new, positive experience? That makes me wise.

Based on today, I have a new definition of experience, too.

Experience is the gathering and storing of random information until it is needed to remember, understand, apply, analyse, evaluate, and create new perspectives.

I like it.


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About the Author


"I write because I don't know what I think until I read what I say." Flannery O'Connor

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