Sunday, September 15, 2013

John Wooden - The Art of Learning

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I'm starting a short series of posts (for now) on The Art of Learning. I'm a slow learner and I think it's because no one really taught me HOW to learn. It was always, "Here's a notebook, here's a pen, listen and take notes. Ask questions if you don't understand." But there is a specific process, or The Art, to Learning. Hopefully these series of posts will help others in their Path in learning how to learn.

I start with John Wooden, perhaps one of the greatest coaches who ever lived. Being a succesful coach involves many factors. I came across two books so far on him and typed up his wisdom on Learning.

Here's to your successful learning!

Wooden:  A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court
By Coach John Wooden with Steve Jamison
McGraw Hill
Copyright 1997

ISBN: 978-0-8092-3041-9

Page 144

The Laws of Learning

The four laws of learning are explanation, demonstration, imitation, and repetition. The goal is to creat a correct habit that can be produced instinctively under great pressure.

To make sure this goal was achieved, I created eight laws of learning; namely, explanation, demonstration, imitation, repetition, repetition, repetition, repetition, and repetition.

Pages 154-155

A Key to Learning

People learn more effectively if information is given in bite-sized amounts rather than everything all at once.

There was a time when I gave all my players a rather extensive, bulky blue handbook of detailed information relating to everything we were going to do as a team. Later I decided that too many of them really did not study and learn it. There was a tremendous amount of information, and perhaps it was just overwhelming. I decided to change my approach.

Instad of a great big heavy book of information, I gave the players individual handouts pertaining to various topics at what I considered to be appropriate times. When I broke the big subject of basketball down into small bits of information, players were much better able to learn what they needed to learn. They were not overwhelmed by the total body of knowledge.

The bite-sized subjects of the handouts included goals, new rules, training suggestions, practice responsibilities , player essentials, attitude and conduct, normal expectations, academic responsibilities, criticism, game competition, shooting, push pass (both one- and two-handed), overhead pass, causes of fumbling, receiving, flip or handoff, rebounding, tipping, stops and turns, pivoting, dribbling (high-speed and crossover), inside turn, and much, much more.

You can see why it would be less effective to put this all in a thick notebook, hand it to a player, and expect him to fully comprehend it. Breaking it down into smaller, easily consumed parts insured it would be read, learned, and used most efficiently and effectively.

I suspect this is true any time a leader, teacher, or coach is attempting to convey lots of information.

The Essential Wooden:  A Lifetime of Lessons on Leaders and Leadership
By John Wooden and Steve Jamison
Copyright 2007

ISBN: 978-0-07-148435-0

Pages 58-59

How to Teach

My classroom was the basketball court. It was there that I taught everything from correct hand and foot movement to values and attitudes, including enthusiasm, loyalty, self-control, and more. (Perhaps correct foot movement isn’t on your list of essentials, but certainly enthusiasm is.)

All of it was taught using the same method – the Four Laws of Learning:

1. Explanation
2. Demonstration
3. Imitiation (correction when necessary)
4. Repetition

These Four Laws of Learning will work pretty well for improving the performance of any team, organization, or group.

Pages 78-79

Teach Lessons in Bite-Size Pieces

There’s a lot more to coaching than blowing a whistle and more to good leadership than telling people what to do . Often things get complicated and cumbersome.

This happened unknowingly to me in the form of a thick notebook with extensive information on my methodology and philosophy – pages and pages of detailed rules, suggestions, dos and don’ts, specifics of execution such as where the eye should focus when guarding an opponent, and more.

I gave this “encyclopedia” to players at the start of the season, and I expected it to be studied and understood. This didn’t seem unreasonable, since I had done the same.

What I didn’t think about was that I’d done it over many years. Now I was asking players to absorb it in a few weeks. They didn’t.

That’s when I stopped piling everything on at once and began to pass out a little information at a time – handouts, mimeographed sheets, notecard reminders on the bulletin board.

Of course, it was important to present the right information at the correct time. It was equally important, though, to cut it up into bitz-size pieces that were easily digested.

Good digestion is conducive to good performance.

Further information:

Other entries in this series:



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