Learning Process

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    Keywords: Culture & History

Table of contents

A. Learning is a circular process

Progress to a reasonable level of competence requires the learning of many fundamentals. Interestingly, progress to the higher levels requires the learning of the very same fundamentals. Why is this? It seems to me that learning is a circular process: one learns many ideas, which provide an understanding that enables one to interpret these concepts afresh, thereby producing a deeper understanding. To state things simply, in the beginning it is enough to know what the fundamentals are, but at later stages one begins to appreciate why these concepts are regarded as fundamentals.

To break through barriers, which every go player has to do from time to time, it is usually necessary to revisit a fundamental principle, and to seek to comprehend it more deeply and completely. Examples from my own experience include these: a) refreshing my knowledge of tesuji and techniques; b) doing many life and death problems and revising living and dead shapes; c) making efforts to apply the The ABC's of Attack and Defense.

B. Improvement is not a straightforward process

Typically, one learns a new technique and emphasises it in performance. This causes the other aspects of one's overall technique to suffer, at least in the short term. Over time, however, the new technique is mastered and assimiliated into one's overall technique. When this happens, one's performance really improves because the overall technique has been enlarged. Having learnt singing as an adult, and having taught singing, I have had the opportunity to see this very clearly.

The same goes for go: I have often heard people say that people tend to get weaker temporarily while they're improving. It is because they are grappling with new ideas, which tend to upset their understanding of more familiar ones -- but when everything falls into place, well then their opponents had better watch out!

C. Learning Barriers and Leaps of Faith

Learning sometimes requires a "leap of faith". This is often a cure for barriers. What do I mean precisely? Sometimes one has to abandon cherished ideas and tendencies to try something different, even something directly opposed to one's tastes. This might mean seeking to take influence when one's normal preference is to take profit, or to play tenuki in situations where one has always replied. It takes real determination and courage to do something different: it requires one to trust in something unfamiliar -- thus, a leap of faith.

Many people who do not improve do not improve because they cannot bring themselves to make a leap of faith. These are the players who follow white around the board in a handicap game, or who cling to corners in situations where they have the chance to build magnificent outside thickness, because they simply cannot make themselves trust it.

D. Study requires dedication and imagination

It is unreasonable to expect to accomplish much unless one is prepared to do hard work, going over concepts again and again. Repetition is often boring, but it remains a very effective way of learning. Imagination, however, can help greatly: the more different ways one finds to present material and to revise it, the more interesting and varied study seems, even when it incorporates much repetition. Effective ways to study include these: a) the use of flashcards (for example, you can make a flash card for each living or killing shape, or for every kind of tesuji); b) the use of a Palm Pilot to record games and josekis; c) the use of mnemonics (for instance, the phrase "Di, Dick and Ed" tells me how to reply to a 3-3 invasion in certain hoshi formations). Please see StudyTechniques for more ideas.

E. The Importance of a Teacher

To facilitate rapid learning, it is important to have a good teacher. Sometimes a student cannot see what it is that they most need to address, because they are so closely involved with their studying, that is "not being able to see the woods for the trees". A teacher can often pinpoint a student's blind spots and provide the necessary "spectacles". If you are interested in finding a go teacher, but have not got the funds to pay a professional (or do not have access to one), then please check out Go Lessons Online (GoLo).

See Also:

Author: Tamsin: I spent eight years of my life as a student, earning a BA and a PhD in music. Aside from all the interesting stuff that I learned about music (I specialise in 17th-century German composers), I gained many insights into the process of learning. I try to apply these insights to my go studies.

WME: Jared

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Learning Process last edited by willemien on May 30, 2011 - 13:52
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