An important part of any learning process is the concept of chunking.
The purpose of chunking is to divide tasks, whatever they may be (cognitive or physical) into smaller tasks or chunks. Researcher Jordi Fonollosa points out that chunking or “[s]equence learning is a critical component of human intelligence".
Fonollosa emphasizes that the brain’s ability to generate ordered sequences is a key component of cognition and performance. This includes behavioral sequences, thought processes and speech organisation.
According to Fonollosa, sequence learning or chunking follows a hierarchical process. This means that each chunk of information and/or skill needs to have a direct and meaningful link to the previous chunk of information.
Meaningful chunks of information
This concept of having meaningful chunks of information adds significant weight to the importance of that well-known maxim: ‘a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.’ It is imperative that each link, ie each cognitive and/or physical skill practiced, holds meaning so there are no weak linkages in the chain.
Information is easier to retain and recall if it is presented in small chunks
For more than fifty years, research has revealed that when meaningful, directly linked and authentic cognitive processes and/or physical skill based action takes place, it becomes easier to retain and recall if it is presented in small chunks and in the correct order.
According to studies undertaken in the area of imaging and behavior, Fonollosa found that chunking learning also extends to language processing, visual perception habit learning and motor skills.
Other research has shown that action sequences are also organized as chunks of information-carrying items.
Learning is often a sequence of mistakes and successes
Irrespective of what one is trying to achieve, mistakes are bound to happen. This positive insight and positive attitude, of knowing and accepting that mistakes are inevitable, creates a powerful mindset where difficulties will not be seen as threats, but challenges that need to be worked at until success and/or mastery is achieved. Overcoming mistakes requires resilience, mental toughness and repeated practice.
Chunking is not a magic elixir which eliminates mistakes. Learning is often a sequence of mistakes and successes. These mistakes become successes, with repeated purposeful work, that focus on making the necessary adjustments and changes. These adjustments form a neurological network and cognitive framework which leads to advancements in learning.
The process of learning involves an internal and external action, i.e., where focussed and intentional cognitive, physical, or a combination of both actions are purposefully initiated.
Once the necessary alterations are known, the next step is to then regularly repeat the action. This brings about neurological, cognitive and/or performance-based proficiencies, boosting knowledge, understanding, insights and creativity.
Repeated practice is more than simply repeating an action
Repeated practice is more than simply repeating an action. The action needs to be focussed. It needs to be directed at making deliberate changes that focus on the mistake. This turns it into an action that leads to success.
Repetition is valuable and important for short-term (or working) memory. Repetition is also valuable for recall and long-term memory, which aids learning. Repetition allows for additional neurological connections and pathways to form and faster neurological processing to take place.
Hard goals and stretch goals
The process of chunking also requires hard work on the part of the learner. This is where hard goals and stretch goals come in.
According to Kevin Linderman, from the Carlson School of Management, University of Minnesota, “hard goals are specific, clear, difficult and challenging.” The intention of hard goals is “to focus attention, mobilise effort and increase persistence at a task”. Stretch goals are more ambitious, requiring the application of hard work, personal discipline, dedication and determination. This is all about self-motivation.
Creating living circuits of learning
Neurologist Dr George Bartzokis from the University of California found that all skills, language and movements are made of living circuits, and all circuits grow according to certain rules. These rules state that if one is to achieve success in any discipline, one must continually practice, practice, and then practice even more.
This is epitomised by the words of Ambrose Palmer and the actions of Johnny Famechon.
Famechon is the former Featherweight Champion of the World, World Boxing Hall of Fame recipient and Australian Boxing Hall of Fame Legend inductee. In his book The Method, Famechon describes the ‘get to the point’ instructions of Palmer, his trainer and mentor.
Palmer was the former Middleweight, Light Heavyweight and Heavyweight Boxing Champion of Australia. By following and applying Palmer’s instructions, with total commitment and passion, Famechon became the Champion of the World, or as Ambrose would say 'The World Champeen!'
His advice was to “First listen. Work, work, work. Harder, harder, harder. Faster, faster, faster. Think, think, think, Learn, Learn, learn. Practise, practise, practise. Perfect, perfect, perfect".
Essentially, personal effort leads to results. Considerations such as money, social status, political status, cultural mores, which school you attend, who your friends are, what type of clothes you wear, what celebrities you follow, what you read on the internet; none of these personal, social, financial, technological or cultural values means anything.
Rather, what matters is what you do. Achievement and excellence is not an accident, it is crafted. You have to constantly work at being the change you want to be.
Fonollosa, J., Neftci, E., & Rabinovich, M. (2015). Learning of Chunking Sequences in Cognition and Behavior. PLoS Computational Biology, 11(11): e1004592. doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1004592
Linderman, K., Schroeder, R. G., Zaheer, S., &Choo, A.S. (2003). Six sigma: A goal-theoretic perspective. Journal of Operations Management 21: 193-203. In Sadler, D. R. (2009). ‘Grade integrity and the representation of academic achievement’, Studies in Higher Education, 34:7, 807-826.