What does it mean to learn?

Dr Shekar, my professor of Medicine used to say that there are a lot many levels of learning.


Bloom's Taxonomy helps us talk about learning.

Domains of learning

  1. Cognitive (knowing)
  2. Affective (feeling)
  3. Psychomotor (doing)

I'm interested in cognitive learning. It can be considered as having different levels.

As you go down the above list you realize that the effectiveness of learning increases. So, our learning should always be about preparing us to synthesize knowledge.


When there's a moderate amount of information and there's only one day for an exam, when we are cramming, we improve knowledge.

But two-three days before, if we are reading, we would also be comprehending.

If after an exam we are asked to implement the knowledge in some practical project, we reach the application level. It is not necessary that we actually do a project, we can simulate a project in our mind.

These three levels are usually followed by students in the normal course of their life.

Analysis is breaking down the knowledge into constituent parts and identifying their relations to each other. This is done through analogies, stories, hypothetical "reasons", etc.

Evaluation is when we start thinking about the knowledge and its application to real life. About how effective that is in real life.

Synthesis is when we come up with alternative solutions to problems we discover during evaluation.

By its nature, the latter three takes some time while doing. And that is probably why students avoid these. Time management might help.


I like open book exams. It is difficult for a teacher to create an open book question paper and that is probably why these kind of tests are rarely seen.

I like frequent examinations. Once a week is ideal.