How We Learn (And, Thus, How to Teach)

Published on September 13th, 2012 | by

September 13th, 2012 by

Education is critical to our mission to help the planet (or help us from killing ourselves and driving our species and countless others to extinction). So it’s rather important for us to know how optimal education works, how people learn best, and how we can most effectively teach others what we know.

This post below from the site Life of Light has a pretty clear and convincing explanation on how people learn. So I’m reposting it in full. What do you think? Does it give you some good tips on how to spread important messages? Does it trigger more ideas? And, rather importantly, how do we get people to love our climate, other species, and our planet as a whole?

Image Credit: brain tree via Shutterstock / Christos Georghiou

How Do People Learn Best?

This seems like one of the most important questions we can ask. We need to learn for everything in life — it greatly affects our life from beginning to end. We also need to learn in order to transcend life. This learning is perhaps of a different nature a bit,… but maybe not. And this learning is certainly the most important thing in our life.

So the question is, how do people learn best? How do we learn best?

Quite simply, we learn best when we have love for something. When our learning is driven by love, we will get much further on each glass of water, we will get much further on each slice of bread. When our learning is driven by love, we will absorb much more, we will remember much more.

This is why one can learn a language better when in love with a person who speaks that language.

This is why kids can learn the ins and outs of complex video games on their own, but might have trouble learning simple math in a boring math class.

This is why people with a passion for life, learn more about the world around us.

Clearly, if we want people to learn a lot and learn well, we need to help them discover why something is worth loving (not just why it’s worth learning about).

If we want to instill a lifelong love for learning in them, we must instill a love for the creation around them in them.

There are some other tips for helping people to learn. Good use of the figures of speech is also helpful (though, one might simply say that the reason for that is our natural love for cleverness, patterns, analogies, dichotomies, pleasant sounds, and other qualities they clearly employ.)

As is the use of songs — we are drawn to music, tend to love it (when we don’t hate it, that is — but then again, some say hate is just another form of love).

Additionally, it’s hard to beat repetition. As you’ll notice in the figures of speech listed below, repetition is very common, used in a variety of different ways.

One more thing I’ll note about the figures of speech, and learning in general, is that many of them purposefully turn things around from how we’d normally talk or think. Doing so requires us to think more. I think this is key. They make us think harder… yet in a way we enjoy (getting back to that issue of love). As thus, the meanings expressed sink in more than they would otherwise.

Now, some useful figures of speech that help people to remember and learn (and their short descriptions from Wikipedia):

  • accumulation: Summary of previous arguments in a forceful manner
  • adnomination: Repetition of a word with a change in letter or sound
  • alliteration: Series of words that begin with the same consonant or sound alike
  • adynatonhyperbole taken to such extreme lengths as to suggest a complete impossibility.
  • anadiplosis: Repetition of a word at the end of a clause at the beginning of another
  • anaphora: Repetition of the same word or group of words at the beginning of successive clauses
  • anastrophe: Inversion of the usual word order
  • anticlimax: Arrangement of words in order of decreasing importance
  • antimetabole: Repetition of words in successive clauses, in reverse order
  • antistrophe: Repetition of the same word or phrase at the end of successive clauses (see epistrophe)
  • antithesis: Juxtaposition of opposing or contrasting ideas
  • aphorismus: Statement that calls into question the definition of a word
  • aposiopesis: Breaking off or pausing speech for dramatic or emotional effect
  • apposition: Placing of two elements side by side, in which the second defines the first
  • assonance: Repetition of vowel sounds, most commonly within a short passage of verse
  • asteismus: Facetious or mocking answer that plays on a word
  • asyndeton: Omission of conjunctions between related clauses
  • cacophony: Juxtaposition of words producing a harsh sound
  • chiasmus: Word order in one clause is inverted in the other (inverted parallelism).
  • climax: Arrangement of words in order of increasing importance
  • commoratio: Repetition of an idea, re-worded
  • consonance: Repetition of consonant sounds, most commonly within a short passage of verse
  • ellipsis: Omission of words
  • enallage: Substitution of forms that are grammatically different, but have the same meaning
  • enjambment: Breaking of a syntactic unit (a phrase, clause, or sentence) by the end of a line or between two verses
  • epanalepsis: Repetition of the initial word or words of a clause or sentence at the end of the clause or sentence
  • epistrophe: (also known as antistrophe) Repetition of the same word or group of words at the end of successive clauses. The counterpart of anaphora
  • euphony: Opposite of cacophony – i.e. pleasant sounding
  • hendiadys: Use of two nouns to express an idea when the normal structure would be a noun and a modifier
  • hendiatris: Use of three nouns to express one idea
  • homeoptoton: in a flexive language the use of the first and last words of a sentence in the same forms
  • homographs: Words that are identical in spelling but different in origin and meaning
  • homonyms: Words that are identical with each other in pronunciation and spelling, but differing in origin and meaning
  • homophones:Words that are identical with each other in pronunciation but differing in origin and meaning
  • hypallage: Changing the order of words so that they are associated with words normally associated with others
  • hyperbaton: Unusual or inverted word order
  • hyperbole: Exaggeration of a statement
  • hysteron proteron: The inversion of the usual temporal or causal order between two elements
  • isocolon: Use of parallel structures of the same length in successive clauses
  • internal rhyme: Using two or more rhyming words in the same sentence
  • kenning: A metonymic compound where the terms together form a sort of anecdote
  • merism: Referring to a whole by enumerating some of its parts
  • non sequitur: Statement that bears no relationship to the context preceding
  • onomatopoeia: Word that imitates a real sound (e.g. tick-tock or boom)
  • paradiastole: Repetition of the disjunctive pair “neither” and “nor”
  • parallelism: The use of similar structures in two or more clauses
  • paraprosdokian: Unexpected ending or truncation of a clause (Colbert: “I am America, and so can you!”)
  • parenthesis: Insertion of a clause or sentence in a place where it interrupts the natural flow of the sentence
  • paroemion: Resolute alliteration in which every word in a sentence or phrase begins with the same letter
  • parrhesia: Speaking openly or boldly, or apologizing for doing so (declaring to do so)
  • pleonasm: Use of superfluous or redundant words
  • polyptoton: Repetition of words derived from the same root
  • polysyndeton: Repetition of conjunctions
  • pun: When a word or phrase is used in two(or more) different senses
  • sibilance: Repetition of letter ‘s’, it is a form of alliteration
  • spoonerism: Interchanging of (usually initial) letters of words with amusing effect
  • superlative: Declaring something the best within its class i.e. the ugliest,the most precious
  • symploce: Simultaneous use of anaphora and epistrophe: the repetition of the same word or group of words at the beginning and the end of successive clauses
  • synchysis: Interlocked word order
  • synonymia: Use of two or more synonyms in the same clause or sentence
  • tautology: Redundancy due to superfluous qualification; saying the same thing twice
  • tmesis: Division of the elements of a compound word
  • zeugma: The using of one verb for two actions

And some more (these are ‘tropes,’ the above were ‘schemes’ — there is some duplication):

  • allegory: Extended metaphor in which a story is told to illustrate an important attribute of the subject
  • alliteration: Repetition of the first consonant sound in a phrase.
  • anacoenosis: Posing a question to an audience, often with the implication that it shares a common interest with the speaker
  • antanaclasis: A form of pun in which a word is repeated in two different senses
  • anthimeria: Substitution of one part of speech for another, often turning a noun into a verb
  • anthropomorphism: Ascribing human characteristics to something that is not human, such as an animal or a god (see zoomorphism)
  • antimetabole: Repetition of words in successive clauses, but in transposed grammatical order
  • antiphrasis: Word or words used contradictory to their usual meaning, often with irony
  • antonomasia: Substitution of a phrase for a proper name or vice versa
  • aphorism: Tersely phrased statement of a truth or opinion, an adage
  • apophasis: Invoking an idea by denying its invocation
  • apostrophe: Addressing a thing, an abstraction or a person not present
  • archaism: Use of an obsolete, archaic, word (a word used in olden language, e.g. Shakespeare’s language)
  • auxesis: Form of hyperbole, in which a more important sounding word is used in place of a more descriptive term
  • catachresis: Mixed metaphor (sometimes used by design and sometimes a rhetorical fault)
  • circumlocution: “Talking around” a topic by substituting or adding words, as in euphemism or periphrasis
  • commiseration: Evoking pity in the audience
  • correctio: Linguistic device used for correcting one’s mistakes, a form of which is epanorthosis
  • denominatio: Another word for metonymy
  • double negative: Grammar construction that can be used as an expression and it is the repetition of negative words
  • dysphemism: Substitution of a harsher, more offensive, or more disagreeable term for another. Opposite of euphemism
  • epanorthosis: Immediate and emphatic self-correction, often following a slip of the tongue
  • enumeratio: A form of amplification in which a subject is divided, detailing parts, causes, effects, or consequences to make a point more forcibly
  • epanodos: Repetition in a sentence with a reversal of words. Example: The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath
  • erotema: Synonym for rhetorical question
  • euphemism: Substitution of a less offensive or more agreeable term for another
  • exclamation: An emphatic parenthetic addition that is complete in itself, exclamation differs from interjection in that it usually involves an emotional response.
  • hermeneia: Repetition for the purpose of interpreting what has already been said
  • hyperbaton: Words that naturally belong together are separated from each other for emphasis or effect
  • hyperbole: Use of exaggerated terms for emphasis
  • hypocatastasis: An implication or declaration of resemblance that does not directly name both terms
  • hypophora: Answering one’s own rhetorical question at length
  • hysteron proteron: Reversal of anticipated order of events; a form of hyperbaton
  • innuendo: Having a hidden meaning in a sentence that makes sense whether it is detected or not
  • inversion: A reversal of normal word order, especially the placement of a verb ahead of the subject (subject-verb inversion).
  • invocation: Apostrophe to a god or muse
  • irony: Use of word in a way that conveys a meaning opposite to its usual meaning
  • litotes: Emphasizing the magnitude of a statement by denying its opposite
  • meiosis: Use of understatement, usually to diminish the importance of something
  • merism: Statement of opposites to indicate reality
  • metalepsis: Referring to something through reference to another thing to which it is remotely related
  • metaphor: Stating one entity is another for the purpose of comparing them in quality
  • metonymy: Substitution of an associated word to suggest what is really meant
  • neologism: The use of a word or term that has recently been created, or has been in use for a short time. Opposite of archaism
  • onomatopoeia: Words that sound like their meaning
  • oxymoron: Using two terms together, that normally contradict each other
  • parable: Extended metaphor told as an anecdote to illustrate or teach a moral lesson
  • paradox: Use of apparently contradictory ideas to point out some underlying truth
  • paradiastole: Extenuating a vice in order to flatter or soothe
  • paraprosdokian: Phrase in which the latter part causes a rethinking or reframing of the beginning
  • parallel irony: An ironic juxtaposition of sentences or situations (informal)
  • paralipsis: Drawing attention to something while pretending to pass it over
  • paronomasia: A form of pun, in which words similar in sound but with different meanings are used
  • pathetic fallacy: Using a word that refers to a human action on something non-human
  • periphrasis: Using several words instead of few
  • personification/prosopopoeia/anthropomorphism: Attributing or applying human qualities to inanimate objects, animals, or natural phenomena
  • praeteritio: Another word for paralipsis
  • procatalepsis: Refuting anticipated objections as part of the main argument
  • proslepsis: Extreme form of paralipsis in which the speaker provides great detail while feigning to pass over a topic
  • proverb: Succinct or pithy expression of what is commonly observed and believed to be true
  • pun: Play on words that will have two meanings
  • repetition: Repeated usage of word(s)/group of words in the same sentence to create a poetic/rhythmic effect
  • rhetorical question: Asking a question as a way of asserting something. Asking a question which already has the answer hidden in it. Or asking a question not for the sake of getting an answer but for asserting something (or as in a poem for creating a poetic effect)
  • satire: Use of irony, sarcasm, ridicule, or the like, in exposing, denouncing, or deriding vice, folly, etc. A literary composition, in verse or prose, in which human folly and vice are held up to scorn, derision, or ridicule. A literary genre comprising such compositions
  • simile: Comparison between two things using like or as
  • snowclone: Quoted or misquoted cliché or phrasal template
  • superlative: Saying that something is the best of something or has the most of some quality, e.g. the ugliest, the most precious etc.
  • syllepsis: Form of pun, in which a single word is used to modify two other words, with which it normally would have differing meanings
  • syncatabasis (condescension, accommodation): adaptation of style to the level of the audience
  • synecdoche: Form of metonymy, in which a part stands for the whole
  • synesthesia: Description of one kind of sense impression by using words that normally describe another.
  • tautology: Needless repetition of the same sense in different words Example: The children gathered in a round circle
  • transferred epithet: Placing of an adjective with what appears to be the incorrect noun
  • truism: a self-evident statement
  • tricolon diminuens: Combination of three elements, each decreasing in size
  • tricolon crescens: Combination of three elements, each increasing in size
  • zeugma: A figure of speech related to syllepsis, but different in that the word used as a modifier is not compatible with one of the two words it modifies
  • zoomorphism: Applying animal characteristics to humans or gods

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