Previously, no one could have imagined that learning is a process that requires a scientific and balanced approach not only on the part of the teacher, but also on the part of the student. It has long been known that teaching competently is also a skill: you need to be able to convey an idea, help in solving problems, use different methods depending on who you teach. Only in recent times has it been acknowledged that a student too should possess learning ability, thanks largely to the publication of Ulrich Boser’s book “Learn better”. Before that, participation of the student in the learning process was considered as something natural, passive, which happens by itself as long as the teacher is interacting with him. It was kind of assumed that the child will just repeat words and learning to speak will follow automatically. Well, that is not what happens.
How do we learn?
Of course, we learn some things automatically as part of natural learning processes, but this happens predominantly in childhood. The older a person is, the more conscious the effort must be for his brain to absorb some new knowledge or skill. This is also applicable to adolescents, and even more so to adults who want to learn; this is the case for both independent learning and studying under supervision of a teacher.
Therefore, it is very important to be able to learn, no matter how strange it may sound. To do this, you need to identify unproductive habits and practices that interfere with your learning, and uproot them and cultivate ones that will help you learn faster and better.
For example, people too often get fixated on the amount of time they spend studying. Their philosophy goes: the longer you study, the more knowledge you will acquire. However, in reality, it is not quantity that matters, but quality. Hours of cramming from textbooks can well prove meaningless if not done intelligently. Mere repetition of the same material has not yet made a genius or an expert out of anyone. If you study regularly and consistently, observing effective methods, you will inevitably see the desired effect.
In general, I am a supporter of the idea that you can and should learn less, but with greater intensity. By the way, I am of the firm opinion that, “multitasking” which everyone keeps talking about in the era of modern gadgets isn’t all that useful either. When you watch a webinar with your right eye, listen to a podcast with your left ear, and pen quotations from a textbook, a huge amount of mental energy is wasted by simply switching between tasks. After all, our brain, which operates like a serial processor rather than parallel processors in a computer, needs time to manage different tasks and to “reboot”, to change the focus of attention. In my understanding, successful learning practically means giving up multitasking. Instead of wasting time on lengthy learning, with low intensity (with frequent breaks to look up Instagram), you should opt for shorter periods of learning, during which you are completely focused on the task in hand.
Which learning is ineffective? In essence: any process in which you forget the stuff three days after you have passed the exam:
- any learning which goes on for long period of time without interruption, as mentioned above.memorization, or “cramming” which we were taught in schools. That is, multiple repetition of phrases, formulas, facts – over and over again, without trying to understand what they actually mean.
- getting stuck in the detail of one topic instead of gradually exploring the subject and researching for interlinking threads.
- (perhaps this might come as an unexpected surprise), highlighting important concepts in the text, and then reviewing the underlined stuff. There is nothing wrong with making notes and abstract jottings. By themselves, they are useful. The problem is that when you come back to the underlined sentence a couple of days later, you may not always remember why you highlighted it or recall the idea to which the underlined sentence leads. Therefore, you also need to be able to make your own notes – important phrases should not only be underlined, but formulated in your words.
How to do it: 5 Successful practices
Now I will give you some high-intensity teaching methods as opposed to the ones mentioned above. They are challenging, demanding, and sometimes may even slow down the learning process, giving the perception that they are detrimental to your objective. However, research shows that in the long-term, these methods are most effective – provided you apply them regularly.
The first one is to test the existing level of knowledge. Whatever the subject, you very likely already have some degree of knowledge about it. Even if this is not so, testing for the existing level of understanding of the target area will help you better assimilate the material later on. This is applicable even in situations where you make a mistake 10 times out of 10. Instead of diving deep into a subject straight away, taking time to get your eye in, while also savoring the fact that you already have some knowledge base in the area is likely to motivate you far more. In addition, pre-testing encourages the desire to improve the result next time.
The second is intermittent learning. By taking a break between sessions, you allow the material to be better absorbed by your memory cells for easier recall later on. That is why it is universally recommended that preparation for exams best not be left for the last week. This allows us to learn new things every other day, as opposed to every day. Preparing 24/7 just before the test may well allow you to get the grade you want, but this is no way to really learn the subject for the long term. A week will pass, and the superficially acquired knowledge will forever be erased from your mind. All because it was stored into your short-term memory, just for the purpose of the exam.
The third is the regular change of subject you are studying. For example, it may be tempting to get stuck into learning how a sales funnels work to the level of mastery. However, the problem with such singular focus is that while you are learning the workings of the funnel, you are missing out learning other related subjects, such as target audience research. This is an equally extensive, and important subject in the context of the funnel. Therefore, a more productive method of learning is to simultaneously take on a set of interrelated subjects.
The fourth is practical application and consistency. Knowledge is best acquired when we integrate it into our life; start to put it into practice and apply your newly found knowledge. Moreover, you need to start doing this as soon as possible, immediately after you have completeda new chapter or mastered a new skill. This is the most effective thing you can do to absorb the material. Instead of cramming up a subject, learn in short, regular chapters. Let your training sessions be short, but frequent, of similar length, and interesting and bewitching. It is systematic learning that is the key to successful development. All these principles are encapsulated in Lectera’s rapid learning concept and our special methodology. It is a case of more haste and less speed: Don’t be in too much of a hurry to latch onto the generally accepted learning templates, criteria or regimen – learn the way that is most comfortable for you, making sure that the method is systematic!
Finally, some serious advice – think and analyze not just before, but also in retrospect. What does this mean? Every time you are starting on to a new chapter, paragraph, or subject, take a moment to think. How does this new knowledge relate to what you have already learned earlier? How does the chapter relate to the previous one? Does it help solve a problem or expand your horizons of a subject you have learned earlier?
The key to successful learning is to interweave everything you learn into a knowledge base. It is universally known that the brain’s neurons work precisely by the principle: “impulse – connection – response”; they ensure that you always remember the multiplication table, even upon waking up in the middle of the night. When you study something comprehensively, you form a wider network of trigger points. When you work the new into something already acquired and familiar, you are ruling out the possibility of your mind “blocking” the learning process for fear of the unknown or fear that you will never be able to master it. Approach learning intelligently, remember that quality is far more important than quantity – and your learning experience will acquire an unexpected flavor.