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How Humans Learn

Home Up HHL - Pattern Recognition HHL - Repetiton HHL - Virtual Cognition HHL - Association HHL - Themes

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  The Basic Learning Techniques  
  (of how humans learn)

by LIFE-Master A.J. Goldsby I

April 2002

I have taught hundreds of people how to play chess over the years. I think the correct way to learn anything is by
grasping the basic ways we learn and then using ONLY those techniques that are tailored to this knowledge.
I also want to do this in a manner that anyone can understand it - I have no use for egg-heads who cannot 
convey an idea plainly and simply ... or shroud their ignorance in a fog of pseudo-intellectual terms.

WednesdayMay 26th, 2004:  These pages - on my thoughts of how humans learn - have generated a tremendous amount of interest and e-mail. (I estimate in the last 2-3 years, I have gotten around 300 e-mails concerning this material.) And I remain very interested in the subject. 


About 2-3 days ago, I got an e-mail from a college professor who is writing a book on this subject. He asked for permission to quote me at length! 

If ... or, when ... this book is published, I will sure to be give you the title here, and possibly a link to where you can purchase it. 


Wednesday; August 03rd, 2005:  I just had a very interesting discussion with my wife, it started with my playing a game of "FreeCell" on Windows. (I do this almost every day, I feel it is like push-ups for the brain, especially when I first wake up.) 

I was telling her that the game teaches a moral lesson, i.e., the value of persistence. (I have played hundreds of games, there is never been a game that I could not solve if I stuck with it long enough.) Surely here is a game - like chess - which can be used to teach our children useful life lessons! (Maybe, maybe not?) 

Another aspect is that I often let her play the exact, same game that I have played ... she will often solve it in an entirely different manner than I will solve the same puzzle. This lead to an interesting (and lively) discussion, that women use one side of their brains more than a man, or at least this is what scientists believe. Perhaps {some} women make better managers than men, exactly because of the capability of greater use of the right side of the brain. 

----> This {now} led me to have an interesting thought. What about a scientific study? People could spend all day solving puzzles - like FreeCell - that maybe have more than one method that leads to an acceptable solution. Could anything valuable be learned, about how humans think ... by studying our thought processes while we solve such problems? Another aspect of this train of thought ... it is exactly this type of thinking, (how humans solve problems); that led to the creation of the first chess programs. It may also be a useful step in the eventual creation of true ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE! 

You might think this is a strange page for a chess player to have.  But it is one I am interested in and one I have always wanted to do. Many of web pages are designed by using this technique. I also have my own children, so I think it is VERY important to get these ideas out there. (I was also an older brother who observed my siblings very carefully. Additionally, as a youngster growing up, I had literally dozens of cousins and very young children 'under foot.')

A lot of people have the misconception that I am ignorant, because I talk like a country boy, but most of the time it is more of an act than anything else. It is also pretty well-known (fact) that I never finished my education. A lot of people thinks this makes me stupid. (I actually have taken college classes at many different places.) And a lot of people think I read only chess books. (I have read hundreds - if not thousands! - of non-chess books. One of my favorite topics is psychology. But I have my own thoughts, - and a completely different model - for the human mind than standard psychology!!) Actually, just the other day - my room-mate threw a bunch of books out. I picked one up and read it in like 20 minutes. (I am a speed reader.) That book prompted into action to do this page. These ideas are necessary - even critical - to teaching. (And not just teaching chess!!!) 

(There are only a few ways a human being learns anything. There might be
more basic methods than the one I have given here. And I may write on these
ideas later. But for now I plan on developing a web page for EACH of the five
ideas expressed below. Of course this will take time, energy, and a lot of
thought. "Nothing good gets done in a hurry.")

The Five (5) Basic Ways A Human Being Learns 

  1. Pattern recognition. -  (One of the first ways we learn anything!) Just about all professional educators recognize this one. Oh, they give it fancy names (terminology), and steep the whole thing in the stupidity of Freudian mysticism; but they all recognize this is one of the basic ways that we learn anything. One of the ways I use this fundamental technique in chess is to insure all my students first learn, ... "THE BASIC MATING PATTERNS." There are only 20-30 really basic checkmates. These basic patterns form the foundation for EVERYTHING that comes later. (See the book,  "Basic Middle-Game Techniques,"  by ... International {Chess} Master / and Dr. Danny Kopec.) (More on this later!)

  2. Repetition. - (Not a favorite of modern educators, to say the least!) This is a fundamental technique to learning. It needs to be brought back into the mainstream of teaching and vastly improved. I have personally found this can be both fun and very educational. It does not have to be the bore that we think (it was/is). More on this later!

  3. Virtual cognition. - Fundamental understanding of certain ideas. Certain things do NOT have to be taught, they are instinctual. But there are correct methods for enhancing and bringing out an understanding of ideas that are placed deep within our brains before we are born. This is the one area most professional educators don't even understand, - and for the most part - have failed miserably in any attempt to craft this into an intelligent teaching tool. (A little more on this topic later. I primarily understand how this idea relates to chess ... how this method can be used in other teaching fields will be for someone else to discover.)

  4. Association. - Cross-referencing in the brain. Taking things (and ideas) an individual already knows and relating them in such a manner that that a learning process takes place. A very good idea - and one I have used when I have taught chess in the schools - is to take a  very foreign  or strange idea, and relate it to something the student already knows or understands. This is just PART of the process of association, not the whole idea! But it takes a very intelligent teacher, who can think fast on their feet, to be able to use this particular technique. 
    (A LOT More on this later.)

  5. Themes. - (The "Building Block," or "Chaining" technique.) A lot of people will think this is the same as number four above, but it is not. I cannot be very eloquent outside of chess, so I will confine myself to an area of knowledge that I am an expert in. First you lay the 'groundwork' of (a both a very simple AND a very complex) an ending, say a KNIGHT + BISHOP (and King) versus a lone King.  You insure that the basic student has a fairly good grasp of the basic ideas of this ending. (To really Master it can take years!!!)  Then you begin to teach the student a "two-piece" combination. You show the aspiring player a whole series of relatively simple tactical sequences that are grouped together under a general heading of "Two or Three piece combinations." Then you expand this teaching thrust into the idea of using two or three piece attacks on the enemy King. (You are also using association now, the beginner will have to draw on the knowledge you have already taught him - or her! - and expand and draw that knowledge into a relatively new field.) Then you finish this whole conception by ending with several COMPLETE MASTER GAMES where these ideas are clearly evident. This entire process could take 20-30 lessons - or more!!! You would {also} have to gauge your speed on the student's individual ability to learn - and this process might take {perhaps} a span of time of six months to a year. I will be going into this ... 
    "building block/chaining" learning technique in much more detail later on! 

Of course, ALL of these techniques are VERY closely inter-connected, and have to be used at the same time!! You simply cannot use one and try to use another. We simply do NOT learn this way. 

  Copyright (c) A.J. Goldsby I;  Copyright () A.J. Goldsby, 1998-2008.

  Copyright A.J. Goldsby, 2009.  All rights reserved.