Studying is all about finding the time to get things done. When all is said and done, the washing up will always need done, as will running a hoover around the floor, or dusting the furniture, or doing a load of laundry, or watching the TV, or a myriad of other things we do, to put off, ignore, or try to forget things we need to get done.
Apart from finding time, the next big thing we need to do, is actually find a way of remembering and bringing back the material that we spend time learning. There are many techniques we can use to find time, and then bring back learning.
What use is a learning technique, if you haven’t learned to put aside everything else in your head. Here are some common ones.
For me, this is detachment from the external environment, whether we are in a library, a busy hall, a classroom, or at home in our living rooms. Learning to detach from the world around us, to concentrate on learning, is an essential technique in your learning skills toolbox.
2 – Self Study & Asking Why
This is mandatory for us all. Just looking at lists of facts, or statements of the what, can lead to struggling while learning. In my experience, asking a ‘why,’ question, is what gets me to the right conclusion. More often, I label that as putting things into practice.
If we think of the beauty therapy industry, and consider the fact that we carry out a patch test for tinting, it’s easy to think it would be safe to ignore that patch test, if we don’t know why we test..
Knowing the ‘why,’ could save the sight of one of your customers. Eyesight is precious. Finding out you have an allergic reaction on the inside of your arm might cause a little discomfort, but finding that out when you have tint around your eyelids, could risk sight, and is easier to remember.
3 – Self Testing
Kids do this all the time, with past papers for their exams. It’s a good thing. As well as getting the chance to try old questions in your area, you also get the chance to answer, and then research the answers, to ensure you go down the right road with your answers.
4 – Highlighting Text
I believe this works for many people, but for me, not so much. Ok, certain phrases stand out, but the whole context is lost, unless the text is all bullet points to begin with. I much prefer technique 5, in conjunction with technique 4.
5 – Summarising
This has always been my personal favourite. At University, I’d take all my lesson notes for the year, and break them down into a few A4 documents for the whole year. I missed out joining words and flowery fillers, keeping the important points, and highlighting the points that couldn’t be missed, for any reason whatsoever. Close to exam days, I would ditch all other paperwork and books, and just concentrate on those A4 sheets for each subject.
6 – Mind Mapping, or Visualisation
I have bad memories of trying this, going back to a couple of decades ago, when it was all the rage. People would draw their little bubbles, with more bubbles and arrows coming off them, and slot words into those arrows…. The thought still pains me to this day.
In the work setting as a wall chart, fine. As a learning technique, for me, it was useless. I spend many years wondering why so many others swore by visualisation, and thought I must have something wrong with me, as I just didn’t get it. Years later, reading an innocent article in a newspaper gave me my answer. Some of us just don’t have great visual recall. I know colours and think I can see them with my eyes closed, yet I can’t. I also can’t listen to someone telling me something and visualise it in 3D in my mind. I have shapes, and outlines, and varying degrees or blah, but no definite minds eye or vivid imagination. I know what people look like, yet I can’t pull up an image in my head. I don’t quite know how to describe it, but bringing images out in my mind, doesn’t result in crystal clear memories for me to pluck at. Learning for me, has always been about memorising information and answering questions by understanding the reality behind the theory.
7 – Little and Often, Repeated
While I fully understand this is likely to be one of the best ways to learn, it isn’t for everyone. This can also be split into two different learning methods, ie little and often, and repeatedly going over the same learning.
What Do You Use?
At the end of the day, whichever of these learning techniques, or any other ones you use, comes down to the best one for you. While we are all expected to learn, we’re rarely taught how to learn, and often end up floundering around, just doing the best that we can. Knowing what works best for us, can help when we begin to plan our learning in any way, and ensure we don’t end up buying packs and packs of highlighters to make pretty pictures when we don’t learn visually.