Studying versus learning

While watching people trying to explain the credit crunch last night (talk about a market in search of a few good metaphors), I saw a commercial in which a father raved about all the possibilities available to his school-age daughter because of the cable system her computer was hooked up to.

The daughter looked up and said, “Dad — I’m trying to study.”

I started tossing “study” around in my head, along with “learn.”   What’s the difference between studying and learning? (Not in that origins-of-philosophy way, in case you’re wondering… just playing with the notions.)

I see at least four areas — not categories, more like tendencies:

  • Explicit studying: this is the usual, nose-in-the-book studying.   I see this as essentially one-on-one (the individual and the “body of knowledge”).   It’s inbound, reflective.   You’re trying to acquire facts and figures — explicit knowledge.   In Bloom’s taxonomy, you’re pretty much at the knowledge and comprehension levels.
  • Tacit studying: this is more like an artist’s figure studies, or like traffic studies.   It’s where the explicit knowledge moves to action.  You’re engaged; you’re connecting to the outside world.   Benjamin Bloom might says you’re at the application level.
  • Tacit learning: you’re farther away from the books now.   You’re integrating facts with their context.   If tacit studying’s question is “can this?” then tacit learning’s questions is “what if?” or “how can?”   I’d say this involves a lot more analysis and synthesis.
  • Explicit learning: one outcome of tacit learning is better understanding, and that includes additions to explicit knowledge.  We’re starting to see that so-called “junk DNA” isn’t really junk; we just didn’t know enough about it before.

Why the messy arrows in my chart?   Because these aren’t discrete categories, and because each of the four areas influences the other.   The typical progression might be from studying facts to studying possibilities to learning in a broader sense, but you can begin anywhere, depending on your interests and your own situation.