Tuesday, August 4, 2009

A Practical Guide to Studentship: Part I

Over the past months, I've found myself in consulting or teaching positions across a variety of environments ranging from starting businesses to developing software to improvising music to writing marketing materials to editing movies. In each instance, someone has brought me a task with which they wanted help. Several people were working on starting their first businesses. Others were writing letters or resumes. Still others wanted to learn to play songs on guitar or piano without the need of chord sheets or sheet music.

I love working with people in situations like this, specially when they're prepared to work hard and learn.

This morning, it occurred to me that, as much as I enjoy any one of these disciplines, what I enjoy most is the process of learning itself. In some ways, the disciplines (e.g., language, business, music, technology, etc.) are just fuel for the learning process; it's learning and growth that I love. Although people might call me an accomplished musician or strong business person or computer wiz, I believe that what I am is an excellent student. Everything else is just a byproduct of studentship.

So, with that in mind, I thought I'd share thoughts on learning and studentship. If you find them useful, I'd love to hear about it; if you find them not useful, I'd love to hear about it as well.

What is Studentship

Before diving into how to become a good student, let's define what studentship means (to me).

For me, studentship refers to one's ability to acquire and put into practice new knowledge and skills.

Note: I didn't include acquisition of knowledge alone as that would refer to memorizing, not studentship. Also, the putting into practice part is essential; for me, a skill not made manifest in practice doesn't exist.

How Do We Measure Studentship?
Using this definition, the metrics of studentship are based on one's capacity to acquire and put into practice new knowledge and skills in a given period of time at a given level of quality. So, we have three factors:
  1. The quantity or volume of skill and knowledge acquired (volume v);
  2. The length of time required to acquire that knowledge and skill (unit of time t); and,
  3. The quality with which the skills and knowledge can be practiced (quality q).
So we would measure studentship in terms of volume times quality all divided by time, or vq/t. Let's call the measurement a learning quotient.

For example, let's say that Iris has the ability to learn one new song (volume) at a level where she feels comfortable singing it in front of an audience (quality) per day (time). Then, the Iris Learning Quotient (ILQ) for songs would be: one audience-grade song per day.

What I like about this model is that it can be completely self-relative to the student. The model is completely based on Iris, what she wants to learn, her definition of quality and how quick she is.

One Wrinkle
To tune up this model a bit, we need to think of volume in terms of a percentage growth, not absolute growth. In the case of Iris' capacity to acquire new songs, we would think of the number of songs acquired per day compared to the number of songs she already knows. If Iris already knew 100 songs, then one new song would represent 1% growth (one divided by 100).

Why is this modification important? Moving from absolute growth to relative growth helps us to account for the things that we already know; it makes our learning metric discipline-independent. For example, as Iris learns songs, she develops her singing skills. As she becomes a better singer, she increases her capacity to add new songs to her repertoire.

Over time, Iris would depend less on her learning ability to acquire new songs, and more on her singing ability. As we measure learning, we don't want to confuse the acquisition of new skills with the use of existing skills. By making the volume relative to what we already are capable of doing, we help avoid this confusion.

Three Legged Stool
Okay, so we now have a definition of studentship:

Definition of Studentship
Studentship refers to one's ability
to acquire and put into practice
new knowledge and skills
with quality.


We also have three metrics that we can combine to measure studentship:

Metrics of Studentship
Volume: Percentage growth of knowledge and skill
Quality: The caliber with which we practice the knowledge and skill
Time: The time it takes to do the above


Caveats...
There are a couple of things I'd like to point out.

First, in this article and the articles that follow, I won't be writing about things that are true. This is a practical guide to studentship; I'm simply writing things that I've seen work. If you're looking for truth, well...

Second, if not everything works for you, then, it might be because some of these ideas don't apply to your situation. Or, it might be that you haven't learned them yet.

Over the coming days, I'll talk about ways to put this model of studentship into effect in your life. I hope that many of you will enjoy and benefit from this series. I believe that you'll find that there are many things you believed depended on talent or native ability, that in fact, simply require good studentship.

Homework
To make this series more useful, I'd like to ask you to each select something in your life that you've always wanted to learn, but have decided was inaccessible to you simply because you didn't have the talent or the skill or the gift or whatever. Alternatively, there might be something you've been doing for a long time, but feel stuck in terms of your development.

In either case, we'll be using your personal quest to put into practice some of the things we'll be talking about through the series.

Have a great Tuesday!

1 comment:

  1. I love it! Looking forward to reading the next one, and already thinking about applying it to the kids...how do I help them develop good studentship?

    ReplyDelete

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