The Slow Learner’s Advantage

Understandably, it can be discouraging to watch when peers seem to pick up skills, understand concepts and strategies, and appear to just “get it” right away while you seem to struggle; but don’t discount the slow-learning advantage. When training or learning come easily, it can be a great boost for confidence and usually allows quick integration into participation. However, consider that it may also lend to a plateau effect, an interesting phenomenon accompanying the quick learner. The steep curve of performance levels off and can sometimes remain unchanged for long periods of time. On the other hand, we sometimes see a different phenomenon with slow learners.

Slow learners or developers usually have to dig deep and pour in effort to try to keep up with the rest of their group. They spend more time learning the basics and going back to them over and over because the progressions are not coming to them. As such, the slower learner will likely build a very sturdy foundation. A strong foundation can result in better resilience when facing set-backs and challenges. The stronger the foundation, the greater the platform for later development as well.

In addition to the strong foundation, once a slow learner starts to gain ground on the quicker learner, they start to understand concepts and see things that the quick learner may not – because the quick learner could “just do it” without deeper contemplation. In understanding performance at the deeper level, the slow learner will sometimes be better equipped to ask the right questions to move forward even more. At a minimum the slow learner will be able to decipher information (sometimes through extra time spent with literature) and integrate it back into the foundation more efficiently.

Finally, the slow learner will eventually reach the level of the quick learner’s plateau. Here, instead of remaining even, the slow learner will progress further. Why does this phenomenon take place? The slow learner has a fantastic foundation, can understand things at a deeper level, and knows that they can continue to apply their efforts to improve. The confidence of the quick learner can sometimes back-fire and make it very difficult for them to apply more and more effort at this stage because the unfamiliar struggle invalidates the confidence and self-belief they have had thus far (“Why isn’t this easy anymore?”). The slow learner, on the other hand, is used to applying more effort and their slow growing confidence will not struggle as greatly because they are not changing their self-perception — they are, in fact, likely reinforcing it.

Key Takeaways:

Don’t be discouraged if you are a slower learner.

Effort, persistence, and improvement will pay out dividends in the end.

If you are a quick learner, don’t remain passive in your development but instead strive to stay active.

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