Why People Can't Learn
By Moshe Katz
Israeli Krav International

April 2, 2018, Herzlia, Israel

I spent many years in university. As a young man I had no idea what I wanted to do for a living/career. I went for advice but the only good advice I received was that life was a series of trial and errors, you get hit a little here and a there, you get banged up a bit, and eventually you find your way. That advice came from a master martial artist. 

After successfully completing eight years of university I worked at several jobs in my field until I landed in my true field, my true calling, as a Krav Maga instructor. At first I felt that my years of academic study were a waste of time in retrospect. Imagine if instead of spending all those years in university I was in the military or training full time in martial arts, imagine how much further along I would be in my career. 

But that thinking was incorrect. As it turns out my university years were in fact vital and essential in my becoming the teacher I am today. For a teacher is a teacher first, the specific field of study is secondary. That is why I am always excited to welcome school teachers to our program as IKI Krav Maga instructors. 

My many years as a student helped me understand what works and what does not;most methods of education do not work, are outdated, do not suit the students and ultimately very little is learned. 

As a teacher there is no satisfaction whatsoever if the students are not getting it. And even if they understand it at the moment it is useless unless they can retain the information in a useful way. 

So I would like to discuss why people do not learn and what can be done about this.

The Material is Dry, Boring:

If the information is presented in a boring way, no matter how much people try it will be difficult to learn anything. Even a dedicated student will find it challenging to focus. Certainly the majority of people will tune out at once. When I was in the music business I learned that if you did not get a person hooked on the song within the first few seconds, forget it, he is gone. He will not stick around to see if it becomes more interesting later. 

I discovered early that people like stories, a story keeps people's attention. If you can tie in the material to a story people are more likely to pay attention and actually learn the material.

The Material appears irrelevant:

A lot of important basic material will appear irrelevant and only the very few and most dedicated will stick around long enough to see the relevance. What we must do is make every relate-able at once. Students must be able to connect to the material.   

People cannot focus for long periods of time:

I see it all the time, the speaker begins, most people actually make an attempt at following but within minutes most are totally distracted and lost. To keep people's attention the speaker/teacher must keep the audience entertained. To be a good teacher you must also be an entertainer of sorts. The tendency is for people to drift away, you must involve them and keep them active in the class. 

The Material is overwhelming:

Most courses are way too ambitious.The teacher knows the material but he forgets what it is like to be a beginner, so he just keeps piling on the material. But people will drown and lose focus.  

What we must do is begin with the basics, the bullet points, teach it by concepts not by memorization. Do not bite off more than your students can chew. Do not be overly ambitious in what can be achieved in one course. Remember, it took you years to master this material. Give them the foundations, later on you can take it further. 

The Material is too complex:

If the material is to complex most people will drop out. (I am not talking about university graduate school but popular courses, language courses, martial arts etc)

If you begin with simplicity, people will understand it, feel confident and want to continue. Once they have mastered the basics they will gain confidence and be ready for more complex material. But if you present that material too soon you will destroy their confidence. 

The Material is not Graduated:

Most courses are random, one topic is not related to another, when teaching a language or martial art for example each topic must be built upon the foundation of the previous topic. Each new topic must reinforce the previous one. Thus when you are learning part two you are actually also reviewing and reinforcing part one.  

Repetition is essential but it must be done in a way where it it just doing the same thing over and over again, most students will lose interest and drop out. One must find a way to repeat the same movements and concepts but in a different context so that it does not lead to boredom. 

The vast majority of people who begin training in martial arts or learning a new skill or a new language drop out before gaining anything of value. This is a system failure that must be addressed. 

Most schools are not interested in addressing this as it is not to their benefit. Huge amounts of money are made from people who sign up for a course and never complete it, join a gym but never attend, by a membership and then disappear. 

We believe differently. The goal of being a teacher is to make a difference in this world. 

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