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The Second Barrier to Study:
Too Steep a Study Gradient

The word gradient means how steep something is, such as how much a road slopes upward or slopes downward or how steep the side of a mountain is.

In the subject of study, a gradient is a way of gradually learning new information or skills little by little, step by step and level by level, with each step or level being easily learned by itself. This would be a light gradient. Done on such a gradient, even complicated and difficult subjects and actions can be studied, understood and carried out quite easily.

The word “gradient” also applies to each of the steps that are taken in this way of learning.

Let us take, for example, a young person learning to ride a bicycle. There is a usual gradient of steps that are followed when learning the art of balance, steering, pedaling and all the actions that need to be taken to be able to ride a bicycle.

The first step is usually to have the person learn how to ride a tricycle, a vehicle with one large front wheel and two smaller back wheels. It does not require any balancing and is very easy to ride.

Once he has learned how to ride a tricycle and can do it well, the second step in the gradient might be to have him learn to ride a balance bike. This is a vehicle with two large wheels and two smaller rear wheels. The smaller wheels just assist him so he does not have to concentrate on balance yet. It’s a little harder to ride, but is still quite simple.

Then, as a final step in the gradient, he learns how to coordinate all needed actions and can ride the bicycle without any assistance.

Studying or learning how to do something is best done on a gradient. But it doesn’t always go that way and that’s when you can run into trouble, unless you know how to spot and handle this barrier.

The second barrier to study is: Too steep a study gradient.

Going too steeply or skipping a step on a gradient is different to any of the other barriers. The physical and mental reactions from this barrier are very easy to see when you are learning to actually do something or perform some action or activity.

When you run into too steep a gradient in studying something, it produces a sort of confusion or reelingness (feeling dizzy and unsteady).

Here’s an example. Let us say you were installing or learning how to use a new program on your computer. You read the first few steps and you understand them and you follow them and are doing well.

What you are doing continues to go well until you realize you aren’t doing well anymore. Let’s say you have started feeling confused and you experience a sort of reelingness (feeling dizzy and unsteady). This reaction tells you at once that you hit too steep a gradient. You went past something you did not fully grasp and went over the gradient.

What will happen is that you will think the trouble you are having started when you began the new step of the computer program, when you first started feeling confused and experiencing the reelingness. But that isn’t where you jumped the gradient. You skipped the gradient on something earlier. There was something that you were doing on the computer program earlier that you didn’t understand. You went past it and you hit too high a level. You went too fast into a higher gradient.

The barrier of too steep a gradient is most easily recognized and most often used when you are involved in doing some new action—in other words, when you are physically going through the motions of something that is new to you.

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