autumnsoliloquy90: (straight through the heart)
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TOEFL Vol 1 Official Practice Test #4

Do you agree or disagree with the following statement?

People learn things better from those at their own level, than those at a higher level.

The idea that people acquire new knowledge and skills from peers at the same level more efficiently than from superiors does not make logical sense, for it is crucial that a mentor of higher skill level is able to check for errors, give prudent advice and demonstrate practical skills from experience. While it is indeed more comfortable for us to learn from someone who is on an equal footing as us, the challenge that comes from being judged constantly by a superior is indispensible in attaining the required competency in any skill. In fact, learning from peers with similar competencies would actually be risky, as there is no one to guarantee the accuracy of the knowledge or skill based on experience.

As the old adage goes, experience is the best teacher. However, learning things from own experience also comes with a lot of pain, disappointments and failures. Therefore, teachers, supervisors and other superiors in the field are the best personification of experience, for they are well equipped with the knowledge acquired from their own experiences. From this basic fact alone, it is clear that a person with more years of experience is a better source of knowledge and skill than someone who is just about the same level as the learner. Having learnt through experience what works and what doesn't, mentors with superior abilities are able to impart tips and knowledge that one may not be able to read from books, or learn from peers of the same competency level. Therefore, I still believe that people gain skills and knowledge better from others who have seen it and done it all through the years.

Nevertheless, there are many who would argue that learning from superiors may actually be counterproductive, despite all the fund of knowledge they have at their disposal. The traditional way of imparting skills to trainees which the older, more superior generation in most fields generally employ, usually involves harsh criticism and callous treatment that may sometimes border on verbal and emotional abuse. Such an atmosphere of dissent would be unconducive and thus counterproductive to learning. I would however counterargue that it takes a lot of grit and an armoury of thick skin and stubborn determination to be able to truly acquire a skill, and such a method of teaching is just one way of testing that in students. While I do not approve of such harsh methods because they are indeed counterproductive, I still believe that the advantages of learning from superiors still outweigh this minor disadvantage.

Furthermore, learning from peers who are at the same level of ability would be at best, redundant, and at worst, actually detrimental to one's competency. Because peers usually have the same amount of experience and knowledge, they do not have the capabilities to supervise another's work, nor the ability to check for mistakes and provide constructive criticism for improvement. Such a situation would be akin to the blind leading the blind. Thus, one can virtually argue that it is difficult to actually learn anything at all from someone who has the same competency level. Worst of all, there is also a high chance that one learns the wrong way of doing things from someone who is just as new to the field. This would indeed be detrimental to one's learning curve, and hence, it demonstrates how essential it is to learn from someone who is at a higher level than the learner.

In conclusion, I believe that it is useless or even unwise to learn from fellow students or colleagues who are at the same level, especially as a beginner. By default, skill-building requires the learner to have a mentor who is in the position to truly have the learner's interests at heart, to be able to provide a conducive and positive learning atmosphere while at the same time imparting necessary constructive criticism of the learner's skills. Otherwise, by learning from other greenhorns, it might mean the stagnation of the learning curve, or worse, the development of bad habits and poor skills.

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December 2016

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