We learn lots of things throughout our lives. We learn how to read, how to write, how to ride a bicycle or how to swim.
Then, as we grow older, learning gets more complicated – we learn Mathematics and Science, and the Mathematical Theory and Physics and Chemistry… and then we’re studying for a Degree in Applied Engineering Studies or some such long name.
But in the midst of all this learning, did we learn… how to learn?
This isn’t some pseudo-philosophical question, but a very practical one. If we can refine our skills in woodworking or painting, it is only obvious that the skill of learning can be refined as well.
So, we’ve compiled some tips that help you learn good. (And if you already learn good, as you probably do, you can now learn even better!). Read on:
1. Learn in multiple ways
No two people learn the same thing the same way, so make sure you keep your mind open to new ways of learning. Perhaps memorisation isn’t really your thing – try visualising your notes or reciting them aloud instead, and maybe something will click! The more ways you learn, the more likely the knowledge is to ‘stick’ in your head.
According to researcher Judy Willis, “The more regions of the brain that store data about a subject, the more interconnection there is. This redundancy means students will have more opportunities to pull up all of those related bits of data from their multiple storage areas in response to a single cue. This cross-referencing of data means we have learned, rather than just memorised.”
2. Avoid multitasking
Studies have shown that multitasking reduces your efficiency and performance. This is because your brain can only focus on one thing at a time – so when you try to do two things at once, your brain lacks the capacity to perform both tasks successfully.
Multitaskers may appear to be getting more work done, but it’s being done in a slipshod, haphazard manner. Also, very little of the information you’re trying to absorb will actually be retained, as your brain is jumping from task to task.
3. Look up answers
When you’re quizzing yourself and stumped for an answer, just open the book! The longer you spend trying to remember, the longer your brain remembers your ‘error state’ rather than the answer.
Also, this will help you get through your studies more efficiently, as you will see the information again and again as you look it up – great for retention!
4. Test yourself
Reading and reciting is not enough. After every chapter or chunk of material, be sure to test yourself. This ensures the knowledge is being used by the brain, which increases retention.
Yes, this is the reason your mom bought you all those assessment books back in Primary School. Constant and repeated testing keeps what you’re learning fresh in your mind, ready to be used when needed.
5. Teach someone else
Teaching someone else is a great way to cement the knowledge in your own mind, as well as identify knowledge gaps. Importantly, when you teach someone else, you will have to rephrase and reframe the knowledge in your own words. This will deepen your understanding of it and ensure it is not forgotten.
So organise a study session (perhaps online), or volunteer to tutor! If you’re shy, you could use an App to provide anonymous answers to questions posted, and learn along the way. These are great ways to spread the knowledge around. And you will also end up learning from those you teach, as we all do.
Now, do you know how to learn good? Go forth and learn even more!