“The act of writing is a good example of metacognition because when we think about composing sentences and paragraphs, we’re often asking ourselves crucial metacognitive questions: Who will be reading this? Will they understand me? What things do I need to explain? This is why writing is often such an effective way to organize one’s thoughts. It forces us to evaluate our arguments and think about ideas. […] some describe writing as a form of “applied metacognition”.
In “Learn Better” by Ulrich Boser
When I was a kid, we played football (the European version; I hate the word soccer) all day and must have been well over 10K hours. None of us got near even semi pro football. My son could do sprint training for 4 hours every night but he's not going to be Usain Bolt. There are thousands of musicians who have put in the practice but they're all on the 9 to 5 as well like myself (well, I’m more on the 08:30 to no-end-in-sight schedule, but that’s just me being my usual obnoxious self…). Are we supposed to believe a la Gladwell that if we put in 10K hours we’ll become experts at something? I don’t believe this number, and neither does Boser. I think it’s just a number which Gladwell thought would look good in one of his books (I forget which).
What about thinking about learning? Is there something there?
I don't think there are universal rules for "learning better", as not only it depends on the individual, it also depends on the subject you'd like to learn. If you want to learn a language for example (which I did back in the day), what works (for me), is seeing a set of rules, a grammar table, the exceptions, etc., and then practice, practice, practice (read, write, speak and be corrected). But that's just me and that's because of my extremely intuitive nature of my personality (lol); I'm basically just too impatient to memorise each individual word and I like to just "get on with it", and add it to my vocabulary in its context straight away. I find it made me better at learning languages than other people who prefer to be more prepared. I’ve used this approach over and over again.
However, when it comes to improving an already learnt skill, this kind of extreme impatience and inability to narrow down and make selections and stubbornly insisting to everything in its entire context can be a “massive” handicap. Other people have beautiful sketchbooks with pretty images and traces of meticulous practice, while mines have very little in them because I prefer working on my idea straight away. I just get bored practicing on the same thing and I see it as a waste of time. I seem to have been getting away with it and I haven't produced too many failures because of that, but I haven't become particularly successful either, and due to not having learnt to be patient and to narrow down my interests, it can make my work (and my entire career - lol again) a bit too wide-ranging and all over the place, which is not necessarily a good thing, because there is a presumption that a person who's an expert of many things is an expert of none. It's a total trap lol. :(
On the other hand, because of this I'm able to see things in their wider contexts and that did get good results at exams too. I still remember my CPE exam at the British Council. We were given a list of topics we might be asked to speak about. What all the students usually did was to write down what was necessary to talk about for each individual subject and then learn your things to say from those notes. Everybody did it, my whole class did it like that, my sister did it like that, it's how you do it apparently, we were even given guidance on how to bullet point when doing this. But what's the point of all this extra work, I thought, when I need to learn everything anyway and they're all written down in my notes already anyway? So I just learnt everything in its own huge mass, and when I arrived in the morning of the exam, some people mentioned topics I didn't even remember seeing on "the list". I still got a distinction though, because I was able to explain everything. I never even used a highlighter…I just spoke my heart out! You might be thinking: “what a bunch of bullshit!” Not really. I’ve always been like this. When a lot of my fellow students where busy taking notes I was paying close attention to what was being explained in class. I even had a teacher in college who “doubted” this method…The class was Mechanics 101. He kept asking me over and over again: “Mr. Antão does not take notes in class?” to what I’d reply: “I don’t need them. I always pay close attention to what my esteemed professor says in class.” It goes without saying that he thought I was making fun of him, which I was in a way. When the time for Exam taking came, can you guessed what he did? He sat by me during the duration of the frigging exam!!! I couldn’t care less. I just did what I usually did back then. I aced the exam. “19” was my grade (in a scale from 0 to 20). Until this day I’m not even sure he always believed in my method. This long preamble just to say that most of what Boser advocates is not really new to me. But it was damn refreshing reading about it through someone else’s eyes.
So, it works I guess when it comes to just straight-on knowledge, or something ingenious, creative or inventive that requires experiments if the outcome is a one-off piece or skill or gaining practical knowledge of how to do something, but less so for learning routines with repetitive outcomes where an improving quality of outcomes is expected, needless to say I have always sucked at learning stuff by rote and regurgitating it afterwards.
10,000 hours? That makes me expert in only one thing - sleeping...I also went to the University of Life. I've already clocked up more than ten thousand hours. That means I must be a Professor of Something....