What skills do you need to learn easily?
I have created a model that shows you what happens during
the act of learning. It will assist you in pinpointing the
areas where your skills are weak.
If any one of these skills is not adequate, it can affect
one or more academic areas, as well as the ease and speed
of learning. In that way, learning skills are like the members
of a team. If, for example, a team has a poor quarterback,
it is extremely hard to effectively use an excellent receiver.
Follow along with me as I review the steps we take to learn,
the role learning skills have, and the problems created when
individual learning skills are not adequate.
Sensory Input is the gathering of sensory
information by sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell. Of
course in academic learning, sight and hearing are predominant.
This sensory information must be received easily and clearly
by the processing system.
The Active Processing System is the part
of the learning system that does something with what is seen
or heard. It works just like your computer processor with
a program loaded. It attends to new information, analyzes
it, links it with past experience, and determines the value
of the information entering. It's in this area, that most
learning problems occur.
Motor Output is the response to the information
that we have both received and processed. It include actions
such as running, writing or speaking.
Studies point out that only 10 to 15 percent of learning difficulties
are due to input or output problems and approximately 85-90
percent are due to poor processing skills. Let's examine this
system more closely.
The skills most needed for good learning
In the model below, the lower section is called the active
processing system, which represents what the mind is occupied
with at any given time. The upper section represents additional
mental skills that are available to be used and interact with
any incoming information.
The active processing system includes attention
and working memory (the ability to retain the information
until it is further analyzed). It is the work center. As the
incoming information is worked on, other mental skills come
into play and interact with it.
For example, long-term memory is used to
compare incoming information with past experiences, so that
we can determine if it is new, old, or a modification of information
we have stored in the past.
Visual information requires visual processing skills
to discriminate and analyze information. Likewise auditory
input requires auditory processing skills
to analyze and process sound information. Problem solving
activities require logic and reasoning skills
and listening and reading will also require comprehension
skills for understanding.
This whole process is governed by a planning function, which
may tell us that the information coming in is useless, and
thus we should ignore it and not attend to it. It may determine
that the information is useful, and something we should pay
particular attention to.
The degree to which all these individual mental skills are
developed and the efficiency in which they work and integrate
with each other, will play heavily in the overall ability
of the active processing system to handle information accurately,
quickly, and efficiently.
How deficient skills affect specific learning tasks
Although this learning system is far more complex than I
have described in our model, it is helpful in describing how
deficiencies in any of these skills will affect learning.
Results if poorly developed
||If attention skills are deficient,
then the ability to stay on a task for long periods of
time or ignore distractions would limit the ability of
other mental skills. This can affect all areas work.
||If you cannot retain information
long enough to properly handle that information, learning
||If the speed of processing
is slow, then the information held in working memory may
be lost before it can be used, requiring to start all
||If visual manipulation or
visual imagery is poor then those tasks that require seeing
in your head ( math word problems, and comprehension,
etc.) will suffer.
||If the abilities to store
and retrieve information easily are poor, then wrong conclusions
and answers will result.
||If blending, segmenting and
sound analysis are poorly developed, then sounding out
words when reading or spelling will be very difficult
and result in errors.
|Reasoning and logic
||If these abilities are poor,
then problem solving, math, and comprehension will be
||If comprehension is deficient,
understanding and making sense of new information will
It is also important to note that these skills do not work
individually. Most work on every input, so the strength
or weakness of one skill affects the effectiveness of other
For example, reading comprehension is dependent
on many skills, including; the ability to create mental pictures
and images, attend to what is read, and the fluidity of reading
(which itself is dependent upon the auditory processing system).
Yes, learning is a complex process...
However, by evaluating these underlying mental skills, it
is possible for us to determine the real causes of learning
difficulties and what skills need to be improved to make learning
Let's look at how we do that by looking first at testing
and then at the training.