Pubblicato: dicembre 21, 2012 in behaviour, Teaching

città medievaleDuring the Middle Ages, and later still, in the Renaissance, the difference between artist and craftsman was very subtle. The training a potter or a painter received was, essentially, the same. Very young, still a child, you were sent to a Maestro,  as apprentice; you were supposed to stay and study, there, for a period of about 10 years. For 10 years an apprentice lived  close to the tools and the art with which later, he would had earned a living. At the end of the established time, a final examination was required before the apprentice could claim the title of Master and open,  his own workshop. The long training aimed to develop knowdlege of every tool, material and technique required to a Maestro. This knowledge needed to be acquired with Mastery. This term refers to the knowledge that goes beyond to the simple “know how to do” the things. It refers to circumstances when the answers to a problem  arouse “spontaneously” without an actual, conscious control. Primarily indicates the possession of Fluency: the skill to do things quickly and well.

brain 3d grid 2Our minds work on two levels: the first level (which we call “Unconscious”) is hidden in many respects, andit  includes all the behaviors over which we do not have effective control: breathing, walking … We do not know how to walk, simply we think that we want to go to a place and… we go. The second level (which we call “Conscious”) is where lives everything we are conscious of. Learning means -also-to transfer behavior and knowledge from the Conscious to the Unconscious; to give  control of our behaviors to the unconscious part of the brain. The more we learn the less we need to pay  attention to our behaviors. There are several advantages to this outpouring of knowledge:

• Availability of resources

• Speed ​​of execution

• Improved memorization

• Creativity

Let’s see, quickly, these elements.



The ability of doing things automatically, frees cognitive resources of Consciousness which can be used for other things, such as talking with our passengers while we’re driving. From an evolutionary  point of view, the advantages  -from this ability- are obvious. Being able to perform two-or more- behaviors at once, meanwhile focusing to something else, ensure high adaptability to the environment and this, in turn, means a better chance of survival. The same thing has happened to Computer. The first ones, like Commodore 64,C64_10 could manage one thing at a time, one game or one program. If we wanted to change program had to charge the data what we need. Nowadays, computers can easily handle several programs at once, and as I’m writing I can hear the music. [1]


Behaviors are extremely faster when they are automatic. If meanwhile we’re walking we stumble, the motor reaction is fast enough to make we regain our balance before falling (usually …). If we were to perform the same action consciously, the results would be quite disastrous. Among humans, the category that achieves the more spectacular results than any other, thanks to the automatism acquired in behaviors are athletes. Tennis players, football players, gymnasts can express beauty, harmony and power in their actions because they have developed after years of training automatic (uncouscious) skills. If we try to ask to a top performer how he does his most spectacular blow, the answer, probably, would be a “I do not know”. The motor skills are automatic and, therefore, beyond the control of consciousness [2].


We Remember better and longer  automatic behaviors. Although for 11 months a year I do not go to the beach, either we do not forget how to swim. The same we can say for cycling or arithmetic. These are things that we will never forget, it doesn’t matter how many years have to pass before you ride  a bicycle again. To automate behavior means: Practice. To repeat the same action many, many times. The behaviors that go unconsciously have had this kind of training. These are things we have done and repeated because we liked them and found them fun or exciting. In a single word: Reinforcing.


Back to our Maestri, the great artists of the Renaissance, have become such thanks to education, combined with natural talent [3]. The training in the workshops allowed Leonardo, Raphael and Michelangelo to learn with skill everything was possible to learn: how prepare the colors; how to hold a brush or a chisel, how to prepare canvas, plasters and marbles. Freed from the control of those aspects of their art, Maestri’s cognitive resources  were available for creativity that they express creating wonderful masterpieces. Without training, without practice, without skills we would not have the Mona Lisa, the Piety or the Venus of Urbino. To have automatic skills is not opposed to creativity. The opposite is true: the automatic behavior allows us to create, with wit and inventive, new fornarina

What about us that we are not Michelangelo or Leonardo? Automatic means to become plastic and creative. Knowing how to do something more quickly and well, in fact, it frees the resources to express our higher cognitive potential. We must strive to find techniques and methodologies that enable teachers and students to practice gestures, actions and behaviors. To obtain this, the necessary practice must be reinforcing. It has to provide positive and well timed feedbacks. It should allow the student to constantly see the progresses he has made. Only in this way we would like to do, study, learn. It is the only way for us all, to  become Great Maestri.

clickers in cerchio



[1] The computers’ example is even more precise if we think that all the computers, from the primitive to the modern ones, have their own internal systems that make them work (the biological equivalent of “keep alive”) whose activities iare hidden and invisible: exactly what happens in our brains and body.

[2] To this regard Ted DesMasions wrote an interesting post, which you can find here,

[3] I believe, but it is my personal opinion (and, perhaps, it is wrong) that Maestri’s “natural gifts” were not about drawing and painting, but rather were that “Art” for them was the most reinforcing thing of their life. A passion so deep rooted and strengthened to shape the entire life of Michelangelo, Leonardo, Raphael and many others. Who knows, maybeall was needed wasjust  a particular compliment made by his mother to child Raphael for his first doodle …



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