A year ago I went to a great seminar organised by the Berkshire Masonic Education Team on the topic of Learning the Ritual. It was not a cramming session on a particular part of the “little blue book”, rather it was a discussion on the science of learning. I was intrigued to find out that we don’t all learn in the same way. There are different methods which influence the way a person takes in, understands, expresses and remembers information. The other part of the course was learning when not to attempt to learn. It may seem like common sense but sometimes it has to be said before people realise it.
Trying to learn when you are tired, stressed/upset, hungry, or have consumed alcohol will typically make the learning less effective. The problem with this list is that most Masons are busy people anyway and so they will frequently be tired or stressed which will make it particularly difficult. As for being hungry or having consumed alcohol, well that is more personally controllable.
The session established in my mind, not only the need to foster the right environment for learning, but also to learn in the right way for me. But what is the right way for you? People can be divided into five categories:
Visual learners learn through seeing. They’re the ones most likely to drift off during a long lecture. Masons in this category are more comfortable with images, than working with words. Visual learners generally find tools like diagrams, flowcharts, pictures or symbols key to learning the ritual. A good trick for visual learners is to develop a system of images to replace the written word. It can be useful for visual learners to colour code their notes, to create more visual stimulation. Another trick is to associate parts of the ritual with a mental image of a part of the Lodge or the particular Working Tool.
Auditory learners learn by listening. Lectures, tutorials, and group discussions are essential, for these learners. Auditory learners can focus better on text passages by reading them aloud, so they can hear how the words sound. Masons in this category may benefit from recording themselves delivering the ritual. The advent of the MP3 and iPod/iPhone devices allow auditory learning Masons to play the ritual over and over in the car or on the journey to work.
Reading and writing are the main methods, here. Masons who are read/write learners may find it helpful to write out the piece that they trying to learn. They should read it, then create a new, condensed set of study notes. Masons categorised as read/write learners often benefit from the creation of mnemonics, for example as children we were taught to remember the sequence of the colours of the rainbow with Richard Of York Gave Battle in Vain (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet). It might therefore follow that you could create a mnemonic for the seven liberal arts and sciences or the five noble orders of architecture.
Kinaesthetic learners learn by doing. These Masons will get an enormous amount out of the Lodge of Instruction by rehearsing the piece over and over again. Learning exercises should aim to bring all their senses into the experience. This will provide multiple cues to aid their recall of the ritual. For example, walking to the Junior Warden’s chair should trigger the memory of the specific part of the ritual.
Masons who are multimodal learners will display two or more of the above learning preferences equally, or near equally. This is more of an ideal condition, as combining elements of different learning styles can be beneficial, regardless of your predominant preference. Learning styles can and do change, over time. This is often influenced by changes in your life and learning environment.
Personally, I have tried auditory and kinaesthetic learning as I find that I need to learn the words and then practice the associated floor work.
Which type(s) of learner are you?
This questionnaire uses 16 questions to determine your learning style. The test presents a variety of learning or explaining scenarios, and asks how you would best make a decision, or give advice, or integrate this new information. It’s a good idea to retake the test annually. That way, as you change you can adapt your learning style to meet your current needs.
This thinking can be applied to all forms of learning, not just Masonic ritual. I hope this post helps you to find the best way for you to learn the ritual and as a result it takes some of the stress out of the process.
You may also want to listen to this podcast from In The Chair where Robert Bone interviews Rick Smith author of the great book “Learning Masonic Ritual, the Simple, Systematic and Successful Way to Master the Work”. He has also written a companion book “Learning Royal Arch Chapter Ritual”.
© Hungerford Lodge 4748