To take a deep approach to learning you need intellectual curiosity. This implies asking questions, conducting relevant research and not being trapped in a world of hearsay and storytelling. Questions like how, why and why-not must be in the forefront of your mind. In addition, you must be mindful not to suffer from premature curiosity satisfaction. Don’t accept an explanation or a claim if it’s unsubstantiated. If you read Ben Goldacre’s Bad Science you should have a good idea about the importance of research and using the scientific method in creating knowledge. The scientific method is an attempt to address problems and claims with the aim of clarifying myths and memes, separating the effective from the ineffective or the safe from the dangerous. Booth et al in: The Craft of Research provide a basic overview of how to research. However, you will probably draw cold comfort from the conclusions of using a scientific research method because science is a system that does not pander to our beliefs or assumption. It simply reveals there are no absolute truths. Our understanding and comprehension change as we ask new questions and gather new evidence. The truth, as it is revealed through a scientific method can only be represented in a given moment, in a particular context.
The role of reading
I have previously referred to the importance of reading good literature. But, reading is only one of the inputs to creating competence. Jim McGee in mcgeemusings.net writes about your circle of knowledge and your boundary of ignorance. He claims that he began with the simple notion of learning as expanding one’s circle of knowledge and quickly realized that expanding the circle of knowledge was simultaneously expanding the boundaries of one’s ignorance. The more things he learned learnt, the more he became aware of that he didn’t know. In his teens, he read everything he could lay his hands on in the quest for the “right answer.” He claims he wasn’t smart enough to realise early on that books had limits or could be wrong. He was so engrossed in the world that books opened up for him that it took him quite a while to grasp their limits. His dad used to say that he could always tell when McGee had finished a book by his fervent belief in some new world view.
McGee concludes by saying; “In retrospect, I suspect my ignorance was growing faster than my knowledge. But I was more focused on the inside of the circle than on its contact with the rest of knowledge. So, the more you learn the more you know, but also the more you know that you don’t know. Depending on your temperament, this can be either encouraging or discouraging to your efforts to continue learning.”
If you don’t read the newspaper you are uninformed, if you do read the newspaper you are misinformed. — Mark Twain
Do you accept the importance of research or are you trapped by hearsay and storytelling? Do you really have intellectual curiosity? Do you read sufficient of the right things?
Dr Steve Harris – Mind Doctor