In this article you’ll learn to identify where you are right now, how you can change your mindset and offer you tips on how to become a more effective learner.
Many of the concepts and techniques expressed in this text are universal principles that can be applied to improve other areas of your life as well.
I encourage you to read with an open mind and practice what you find useful.
How to Become a More Effective Learner:
Develop a fast learner mindset
Many people who need to study or study a particular subject quickly fall prey to the following common beliefs:
“There are people who are naturally smart and I am not one of them.”
“A person’s IQ level is solely based on their genes”
“Everyone is “smart” in his own area. Some things I could not learn.”
The above statement is just partially true at best.
Research has shown that IQ levels change with age. This means that with maturity you can be smart enough to learn anything. If you are an average learner today, you are not destined to be at the mediocre level endlessly.
There are many examples of individuals who were ordinary students becoming extraordinary students after improving and changing their study habits.
This transformation begins with a change in beliefs. You cannot get the results you want (and deserve) unless you first believe you have the potential to do so.
Once you believe you have the ability, the second thing you need is encouragement or motivation from within to do it. We will now look at how you can influence these two elements.
How can you change your beliefs
Belief is nothing more than a feeling of absolute certainty about something. Let’s say you were given the task: to tie your shoes. Do you believe you can do it? Most people will answer: obviously! Why?
It’s because they’ve done it a million times before. They have successfully tied their shoes in the past and therefore feel confident they can do it again. So the best way to gain new beliefs is to have new experiences. This will massively strengthen your belief about your abilities.
The thing is some things you first need to believe you can achieve before you have experience. You cannot experience being an A-student if you haven’t got faith that you can achieve it. Then, how can you shift beliefs without having new experiences?
The answer is that you must first create certainty in your mind. Change the way you think. Make sure you are in the habit of communicating with yourself in empowering ways.
If you tell yourself you cannot, you will not. Let me offer you an example of this. A terrible man named Adolf Hitler once said: “Tell a lie long enough, loud enough – and they will eventually start to believe it”. I’m sure you know the history and consequences of this.
Lesson: Watch how you communicate with yourself. Are you lying about your ability to study and learn?
How to encourage yourself to study
At any time:
What you associate with pleasure and what you associate with pain – will determine your motives for action (your motivation). The secret to feeling motivated to learn is to train yourself to associate pleasure with learning and pain with not studying, or procrastinating. Let’s say you have a test coming up and you do not want to study.
To change it, ask yourself the following two questions:
- What will it cost me in my life if I do not succeed?
- What will I get out of my life if I do?
Try to find as many answers to this as possible. Just overdo it. The more pain you associate with failure and the more pleasure you associate with success will determine how motivated you are.
What you focus on how you feel, how you feel will determine the action you take.
How do we learn
The “some people are naturally smart” and “some things I can’t learn” beliefs mentioned in the previous text normally stem from experiences when someone tried to explain something to you, and you just could not get it!
You just do not understand what they’re telling you. Here you’ll learn why that’s.
The key is understanding what learning really is. It’s useful when you are trying to learn something difficult, and that I also think it is invaluable for being a good teacher.
So what is learning?
Learning is making connections in your mind between something you do not know (what you want to learn) – and something you already know.
In other words, you need to describe what you want to learn using known references in your mind. The more references you can find – the better you’ll understand it. A useful metaphor is a table.
If a table top is new knowledge – the legs are the reference points that make sure the table can stand on its own. The more legs a table has, the more stable it will stand (normally a table needs at least three legs to stand alone).
When we know this, learning something new becomes simply the act of answering one question: How does it relate to something I already know?
When we do not understand what is being explained to us, it is because the person explaining it’s using references we haven’t got. You then first must study the references.
Say for example we want to know what’s the Pythagorean theorem in mathematics.
The following can be explained to us:
In certain triangles called right triangles, the length of the hypotenuse (c) is equal to the square root of the sum of the squares of the other two sides (a and b).
This makes no sense to any human if we do not first understand: what is a right triangle, what’s the hypotenuse, what’s the meaning of the square root and the square of «something».
Always remember, if you do not understand what’s being explained, it is not because you are stupid, but because you did not understand the references first.
Here’s a practical example of how this technique can be used. Say you want to know what Aprendizaje is/means. We ask, how does this relate to something I already know?
- The first apparent thing our brains tell us is that it is a word. We already know what word is, so now we have one relationship, but we need more.
- After some research we found it was something Spanish. Ok, so that’s a Spanish word then.
- Finally we found the meaning of learning, aha! Now that we have three references related to this new word, we understand it pretty well.
- “Aprendizaje” is the Spanish word for study.
This is a rather easy example, but having this understanding can be very useful when trying to learn something more abstract like math or physics.
Mind maps are an incredible tool for learning because you can see visually how separate pieces of knowledge are grouped together to form understanding. The reason it is so powerful is because it is in fact how our brains work.
Our brain is just a network of neurons (nerve cells) that represent experiences from our senses that shape understanding/meaning.
Take control of your time
Learn to say “no” to yourself.
For you to achieve success in your fast learning program, studying must be a top precedence. This means you may must say “no” to yourself more often. Saying no is the voice inside your head that means “No to party” or “No to procrastination.”
However, this doesn’t imply that your life will be boring when you learn something new or are studying. It just means you must control yourself to make sure that you can accommodate serious time for learning and having fun.
Here we will focus on supplying you with tips on time control. After learning all this, you can now create your own study schedule and versatile study.
It is optimal that you stick to a schedule of at least two to three weeks until it becomes your routine.
Make small adjustments if needed, then stick with your new and good habits.
These tips will be presented in the form of questions. Apart from that, it can even serve as your checklist.
Check each item after you have done the strategy.
- Do you use a calendar?
Write down all important activities, assignments, deadlines and exams in the monthly calendar. The recommendation is to get a large physical calendar. Hang it in strategic places such as in your room or office. Use a number of colours for your codes – red pens for deadlines or green pens for important dates.
- Do you have a study plan for this week?
Each week you should have a clear idea of what’s going to occur. Use an electronic calendar or download a blank weekly study schedule from the internet. Write down all of your study sessions, seminars or classes. Block out time slots for your usual activities like studying, working, sleeping and eating.
- Do you allow time to plan ahead of the learning session?
Take time to prepare before your seminar, class, or study session. Spend as much time doing this as possible so that when you attend a learning session it becomes a repetition rather than learning something fully new.
- Are you planning to take time off?
Keep in mind that you should not study in person for more than an hour. Take at least 10 minute breaks to keep yourself fresh to absorb the information you are learning and studying. Plus, it will allow your mind to rest for a couple of minutes.
- Do you give yourself enough time to play and relax?
As they say, all work and no play is no good at all. Playing is therapy. Without playing, your life can become boring and lifeless. Be sure to mark in your weekly plan a time to play. Plus, relaxation is an incredible activity to start or end your busy day. Think of it as recharging yourself.
- Do you reward yourself after achieving your goals?
Save money to reward yourself no matter how tight your budget is. Enjoy a movie date with your partner or eat your favourite ice cream after a job well done. Remember not to reward yourself if you cannot meet your goals. Anything that gets rewarded gets repeated. Don’t reward bad behavior.
- Did you make a list?
One good habit you should start getting into is making and keeping a list. Mark your precedence items on your list. Make sure that you’re going to achieve and complete the most vital items first. If for some reason you cannot complete the task on your list, ensure you will continue this activity the next day.
Practice: Prioritize Your Time
Make a list of five things you need to get done before tomorrow. Mark item “A” if it’s a top precedence; “B” if the next precedence; and “C” items that are less urgent.
Start making your precedence list today. List building should now be part of your routine.
Strategy in Note-taking
No matter what position you hold – student, teacher or manager, here are note-taking tips you should take into account.
As emphasised in the previous section of the text, all the time be prepared. Read your book, your previous notes or any material for the study session you will attend. Not being ready for any learning session should sound completely foreign to you.
Find a seat near the speaker or instructor. Sitting closer will offer you a better view of the board, you can see the expression on the instructor’s face, hear better and you will be less likely to have an opportunity to sleep or daydream.
Identify from your classmates or from an audience who are serious and have a “don’t waste my time” attitude in terms of studying. Get to know them better.
They can be your ally in understanding a lecture or subject better. Get their contact details if you need to clarify some topic or if you have a question.
Record what your instructor wrote on the board. Most instructors write down key words and important information that you should know such as examples, formulas, solutions, definitions, and outlines.
Organize your notes with tabs. If “open notes” during the test is allowed, you are ahead of the game.
Warning: Do not write down everything said by the speaker, facilitator or instructor. Listen for main ideas. Abbreviate as you write.
Specific steps in recording:
Organized. Buy a notebook. Avoid selecting the loose folder.
Set up your preferred outline format.
Keep in mind the things you should pay attention to.
- Definition, list, solution or formula
- Diagrams, symbols and pictures that simplify ideas.
- Arrows showing correlations between ideas.
- Engage during class discussions. Save chats with your side friends for a break.
- Pay attention to the speaker’s non-verbal cues
- Volume changes and dramatic pauses signal key points
- Repetition of words suggests a critical idea
- Gestures also indicate important points
- Use diagrams, symbols
Exercise: Sharing Ideas
While self-study is important, having someone to discuss and share ideas with is just as important because it helps you better formulate your own ideas and lets you experience other views.
So start paying attention to who in your class might have the same study attitude as you and try to form study groups. Beyond that – try to be friendly with everybody. This will help you thrive in your learning environment.
Practice Effective Reading
better reading skills (1) can be improved and developed. Here are five steps to improve your reading skills by becoming a critical reader.
Take 10 minutes to undergo the reading material that has been given to you. This is a vital step in forming new good habits. Previews will let you get a bigger picture of how the author has organized each chapter or section.
Begin with the first part of this chapter. Always remember the reason for reading – you plan to answer the question. Use the words how, why, where, when, what and who.
3. Read and Underline
Read the section with the questions you formulated; then return to the start and highlight or underline the material. Read aloud or move your lips as you read.
Note: A speed reading strategy is not appropriate if you’re reading technical material because you may miss important details.
4. Read and Write
After forming the questions and reading the answers to your questions, it’s time to read the answers.
Use the marks and signs you make in the reading material as your guide.
Say now the answer out loud. Make some study notes as well which will help you encode the information more easily during the final exam.
If the material is too difficult for you to understand, make up a sentence to summarize the paragraph.
After reading the whole chapter and all the sections, you are ready to review the chapter. Here are the final three steps to understanding the material.
- Reread each chapter title.
- Review the highlighted and underlined ideas.
- Answer all the questions you created for each section of this chapter. Use your notes to make it easier when you review.
Practice: Reading Skills
Get the book you have been planning to read. Apply what you have learned.
Remember, practice is your secret weapon in improving your reading skills.
Steps in Training Your Memory
Many experts believe that one’s ability to remember is not only an innate ability but can even be improved and developed through long practice and using diverse techniques. Use these eight steps to improve your memory retention.
1: Share your memory session
Most people think that the more time they spend studying or studying for the day, the more they will learn. Unfortunately (or perhaps thankfully), this isn’t true. About two hours is the ideal time for your memory to work at its full potential.
Start new habits – distributed practices. The best strategy for spending more time learning better is to follow the ideal pattern below:
- Review your notes within 24 hours after the lecture or study session
- A maximum of two hours of review after a night’s sleep
- Review after one week
- Review after one month
If you start following this study schedule, you have about an 88 percent greater chance of retaining information in your long-term memory.
2: Speak the material to yourself
While you are memorizing and studying, read the answers to the study questions yourself. It will not help if you just recite it in your head.
Research shows that answering questions aloud to yourself increases your chances of remembering by at least 80 percent.
Make use of your senses during the learning process to help you remember longer.
Check it out – Read the material.
Say – Answer the guide questions out loud.
Write it – Write your answers on the lesson notes.
Repeat – Repeat the whole process until you have mastered the subject you are studying or reviewing.
3: Claim that you’re going to remember
Decide that you’re going to remember it. There’s what you call the power of memory. If you truly want to remember, you’ll certainly remember. The secret is your positive attitude. Believe that you have the ability to learn.
4: Organize your materials and notes into a DIY pattern
People who are able to remember large amounts of information and long lists find relationships or patterns in reading material.
Cognitive psychologists say that a person can remember no more than seven pieces of information at a time. If you find a way to organize your material into smaller chunks, it is going to be easier for you to remember in the future.
5: Test and all the time re-test yourself
Say you need to memorize 10 new definitions for your class tomorrow. What are you going to do to test yourself? Are you going to write or read definitions for yourself over and over? No tactic is the best way.
Follow this pattern instead to test yourself:
- Memorize the first and second items on your list.
- Repeat the first step using your memory.
- Once you know the first two items, move on to the third.
- Memorize item three and repeat steps one and two.
- Do the same steps until you have studied all the definitions.
Remember: Don’t forget to use all of your senses while studying – Read it. write it down. Say. Imagine.
6: Over study
Review your materials and notes (2) for several times right after the learning session. When the day of your final exam arrives, you have virtually mastered your material that you have encoded within yourself for long-term memory.
For classes involving formulas, solve the problem at least five times to encode in your long-term memory the correct formula and solution.
Just look at the marketing strategies of most companies. A concrete example is television advertising. These companies come with jingles and taglines to make it easier for consumers to recall their services and products.
Consumers will have the chance to avail certain services and products because of the constant repetition and recall of jingles and taglines running through their heads.
7: Use rhymes, hooks and catchphrases
For words that need to be memorized in a certain order, rhyming is the perfect tactic for straightforward recall.
You associate ideas in your memory bank by using letters to associate with information. Many people were taught “ROY G.BIV” to easily remember the various colours of the rainbow – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and purple.
Here are the exercises: Making an odd or unfamiliar word by shuffling the first letters is a step in training your memory. Be sure to spend only five minutes thinking.
8: Study before bed and after waking up
To get the most out of the entire process, review before bed. Cut every kind of distractions such as browsing the internet.
When you wake up in the morning, you review again.
Thank you for reading this article on how to become a more effective learner and I actually hope you take my advice into action.
I wish you good luck and that I hope that its content has been a good help to you.