The Best Learning Method I’ve Found

The DSRP Learning Method: Distinctions, Systems, Relationships, Perspective

Developed by Dr. Derek Cabrera PhD

DSRP as a learning method is built upon two basic ideas: Humans build a knowledge base and that knowledge base changes.  

The four structures (Distinction, Systems, Relationships and Perspective) are inherent in every piece of knowledge and are universal to all human thinking. Any piece of information can be viewed using each of these structures to gain a deeper understanding of that information.  

For everyone of the four interrelated structures, there are two opposing elements in the method.

Making Distinctions – which consist of an identity and an other.  
Organizing Systems – which consist of part and whole
Recognizing Relationships – which consist of inter and action
Taking Perspectives – which consist of point and view

The rules governing DSRP:

Each structure (D,S,R, or P) implies the existence of the other three structures

Each structure implies the existence of its two elements and vice versa

Each element implies its opposite (e.g. identity implies other)

These rules illustrate that DSRP is a modular, fractal, nonlinear, complex systems process. 

The four structures do not occur in the mind in a stepwise, linear process but in a highly interdependent, complex way. The deliberate learning and use of this process can improve ones thinking skills.

The characteristics of being fractal, nonlinear and complex systems, like the concept of the mind, share the common property of being difficult to measure, limit and define thinking directly.

Modular: a systems elements may be separated and recombined.
Fractal: a natural phenomenon that exhibits a repeating pattern that displays at every scale.
Nonlinear: the output of a system is not directly proportional to the input.
Complex Systems: The physical manifestations of such systems are difficult to define, so a common choice is to identify “the system” with the mathematical information model rather than referring to the undefined physical subject the model represents.

This learning strategy has several advantages. It encourages synthesizing integrative and wholistic thinking, which is essentially building and strengthening ones intuitive right brain. Instead of unconsciously allowing ones left brains automatic circuitry to assume and adopt beliefs and employ unaware looped behaviors, a deliberate intuitive posture is reinforced.

This method is based on very firm mathematical and philosophical thinking. We learn best when we can visualize, touch and feel and employ as many senses as possible, during experiential learning. When we can relate the concept to another similar knowledge base we have, we can integrate the learning and it becomes easier to learn even the most complex subjects. 

So, the learner draws diagrams or uses physical objects (blocks or colorful shapes) to physically construct concepts and expound upon them. Diagrams and objects can be moved around and manipulated in many ways to help the student understand concepts in terms of Distinctions, Systems, Relationships and Perspectives.

Once a concept has been modeled and explored using at least one of the four elements of DSRP, the user goes back to see if the existing model is sufficient for his or her needs, and if not, chooses another element and explores the concept using that. This process is repeated until the user is satisfied with the model.

This is a Self-directed and Self-guided metacognitive learning process, and as such draws out the students natural creative and unique learning processes. Confidence in ones own thinking abilities and an enhanced willingness to offer up ideas in social and problem solving situations is an intended benefit of this type of learning practice. In this way learning, reaching and the growth that comes with it, can become fun again as it was as a child.

The DSRP Method has several parts, including mindset, root lists, guiding questions,tactile manipulatives, and DSRP diagrams.

Mind set

The mind-set is a shift toward thinking about underlying structure of ideas rather than only the content of speech acts, curriculum, or information of any kind. Experiential, not didactic or informational learning

Root lists

Root list are simply lists of various concepts, behaviors, and cognitive functions that are “rooted in” D,S,R, or P. These root lists show the linkages between the four universal structures and existing structures which users may already be more familiar with. These aid in Interrelating new concepts and integrating them into a ever integrating critical thinking apparatus.

Guiding questions

Users pose so-called “guiding questions,” of which there are two for each structure of DSRP. The guiding questions are:


▪ What is __________?

▪ What is not __________?


▪ Does _________ have parts?

▪ Can you think of _________ as a part?


▪ Is ________ related to __________?

▪ Can you think of ________ as a relationship?


▪ From the perspective of __________, [insert question]?

▪ Can you think about ____________ from a different perspective?
Tactile manipulatives and DSRP diagrams

Users are encouraged to model ideas with blocks or other physical objects, or to draw ideas in terms of D, S, R, and P. This aspect of the method is promoted as a form of a nonwritten or spoken representation of ideas, based on research showing that learners acquire and structure knowledge more effectively when information is presented in linguistic and nonlinguistic formats.

DSPR Example

The U.S. Democratic Party. 


Democratic, the name is a distinction is drawn between it and all other entities. 

Identity: The US Democratic Party

Other: The US Republican Party and everything else.


Point: From the perspective of the Republican Party identity,

View: however, the Democratic Party is the other.


The Democratic Party is also a system—

Whole: The Democratic Party is the Whole of its System

Parts: it’s Consituent parts; membership, leadership, values, etc.


When viewed from a different perspective, 

Point: the Democratic Party is just a part of 

View: the whole universe of American political parties.


The Democratic Party is in relationship with innumerable other entities, 

Inter: The news media, current events, the American electorate, etc., each of which mutually influence the Party—a relationship of cause and effect. 

Action: The Party is also a relationship itself between other concepts, for example, between a voter and political affiliation.


View: The Democratic Party is also a perspective on the world–

a point in the political landscape from which to view issues.

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