The sandpaper learning method

2020-08-18 2 min read

    When gluing two pieces of wood it’s useful to use sandpaper to improve the effectiveness of the glue. Learning follows the same pattern: you want to struggle a bit and get yourself ready so the knowledge sticks.

    Imagine you have two people who each encounter a problem they don’t know how to solve. The first immediately goes and asks for help from a peer and quickly get it resolved. The second person tries to solve it themselves, does research, tries a few different approaches, struggles throughout and then ends up getting help from a peer. The first person gets to the solution quicker but it’s the second person who actually learns. The struggle for the second person made it easier for them to both understand and retain the resolution. It’s the second person that will have that faster rate of learning and will be able to apply their knowledge more broadly than the first.

    It may feel that others are moving faster than you by going straight to the answer but that is very much “teaching to the test” rather than actually getting a deep and comprehensive knowledge of the matter. Doing things the right way may feel more difficult but it’s the way to truly attain knowledge and pays off in the long run.