Gradual Learning Is Best


Our impatient human nature often leads us to want to get the answers as quickly as possible. That’s why I think all-day training events can be tempting for us. However, research has shown that the best approach to learning is to acquire knowledge in smaller units and to learn to apply it as you go. This gradual approach over time will yield better learning results.


Slow and Gradual Learning Research

There is a wealth of research that supports the idea that gradual learning (using the “spacing effect”) is a better way to learn. In the article The Neuroscience Behind the Spacing Effect” by Helen Santoro, the author describes some of the benefits of spacing out the learning events over time. This can give the brain time to build long-term memories and to build connections on pervious learning events. 


In this article, the author discusses how slower and gradual learning allows students to better absorb and retain information. It allows people to build deeper understanding, and to apply what they have learned more effectively. There are many benefits of spacing the learning activities out over time, as well as the importance of allowing for repetition, reflection and feedback. (This is what we find valuable about leadership coaching). Santoro (and a long history of research and experience) provides a strong case for the benefits of slower and gradual learning.


Learning One Topic at a Time

We have found that one of the main benefits of learning in smaller units is that it allows you to focus on one topic at a time. This can help you absorb and retain the information more effectively. When you try to learn too much at once, it can be overwhelming, and you may have difficulty retaining the information. By breaking the learning process down into smaller chunks, you can better understand and apply the concepts as you go.


I don’t know about you, but I have been to all-day training sessions. Many times we refer to those as “drinking from a fire hose.” If you think about it, that’s not effective or fun — or even safe! You may get a lot of information, but the question is how much of it you can retain and apply. 



By comparison, we prefer to use what we refer to at D4 as the soaker hose method. We like to let the learnings and tools drip out slowly over time so that they can be absorbed.


We may offer a client a two-hour workshop with activities, but then we wait a month or so before offering the next unit. In between workshops with training, we  schedule leadership coaching sessions (group coaching or one-on-one coaching). This allows the leader to process and absorb the content before moving on to new content. 


At D4, our programs almost always include an element of coaching. We have found that a leadership coaching session or business coaching session in between learning modules allows people to think about how to apply the learning before they forget it. We ask questions to make sure people understand what they are learning. Then we ask questions about their current job situation to help them identify where and how they can use the new tools they are learning. 


Application is Key

Another advantage of learning in smaller units is that it allows you to apply what you’ve learned more immediately. When you learn something new, it’s important to put it into practice as soon as possible in order to solidify your understanding and build your skills. By learning in smaller units, you can start applying what you’ve learned right away, which can help you see the value and relevance of the material.


Less Intimidating

Finally, learning in smaller units can be more manageable and less intimidating. It can be intimidating to commit to an all-day training event, especially if you are already busy with work and other responsibilities. By learning in smaller units, you can fit the learning into your schedule more easily and feel more in control of the process.


While it may be tempting to sign up for an all-day training event in order to get information quickly, the better approach is to acquire knowledge in smaller units and to learn to apply it as you go. This gradual approach over time will yield better learning results and allow you to more effectively absorb and retain the material.


Be patient, and be willing to learn little by little. Apply your learnings as you go. Talk about what you are learning with someone else. And you’ll be on your way to becoming a person with more influence in life.


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(Our Altitude Training program is 50 lessons designed to be learned over an entire year. And if you’d like, you can purchase with it access to a coaching group. New groups are starting all the time. Go here to learn more.)

Micah Ray

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