Introduction: Learning to Learn
How do you learn? Can you learn to learn? For the past year I’ve been feeling like my life is in limbo and that I need to do something radical to push on to a new level. The Virtual World Literary Tour and Strategic Reading Challenge are ways to get me to the next level in life. There are so many books to read with so much valuable lessons. But how do you remember the important concepts. I think that’s where learning to learn comes in.
I do not think most of us were ever taught how to learn. We took notes in school, memorized information, and were tested on it. But I don’t remember ever having a class which dealt with the most effective ways to learn.
While skimming the Big Think newsletter, I saw an article that caught my attention, “The lesson you never got taught in school: How to learn!, which I had to read.” The writer summarized a paper published in Psychological Science in the Public Interest which looked at the 10 techniques for improving learning. Big Think summarized the paper so that we didn’t have to.
First published in February 2013
Have you read?
Learning to Learn: 10 Techniques for Improving Learning
- Elaborative Interrogation
- Highlighting and Underlining
- The Keyword Mnemonic
- Imagery for Text Learning
- Practice Testing
- Distributed Practice
- Interleaved Practice
I will not talk about each technique for improving learning because the Big Think article has done an excellent job, but what I will say, is that it appears that Practice Testing and Distributed Practice are the ways to go when you want to improve learning as well as comprehension.
For Practice Testing, develop questions and test yourself on the material. The article mentions the Cornell note-taking system, which I first learned about when I read Jeff Cobb’s 10 Ways to be a Better Learner, and I have been using the system since I learned about it and I’m very pleased with it. Distributed Practice is new to me, and what it means is that you have to spread your learning over time if you want to remember the information for longer periods of time.
Learning to Learn: Traits of Effective Learners
The British Journal of Educational Studies, Vol. 55, No. 2, reports that effective learners have the following traits:
- “Curious, adventurous and questioning
- Open-minded, flexible, imaginative and creative
- Resilient, determined and focused
- Critical, skeptical and analytical
- Both methodical and opportunistic
- Reflective, thoughtful and evaluative
- Collaborative but also independent.”
- Do you have any of those traits?
Learning to Learn
“The Learner, who wishes to try the question fairly, whether this little book does, or does not, supply the materials for a most interesting mental recreation, is earnestly advised to adopt the following Rules:
- Begin at the beginning, and do not allow yourself to gratify a mere idle curiosity by dipping into the book, here and there. This would very likely lead to your throwing it aside, with the remark “This is much too hard for me!”, and thus losing the chance of adding a very large item to your stock of mental delights…
- Don’t begin any fresh Chapter, or Section, until you are certain that you thoroughly understand the whole book up to that point, and that you have worked, correctly, most if not all of the examples which have been set. So long as you are conscious that all the land you have passed through is absolutely conquered, and that you are leaving no unsolved difficulties behind you, which will be sure to turn up again later on, your triumphal progress will be easy and delightful. Otherwise, you will find your state of puzzlement get worse and worse as you proceed, till you give up the whole thing in utter disgust.
- When you come to any passage you don’t understand, read it again: if you still don’t understand it, read it again: if you fail, even after three readings, very likely your brain is getting a little tired. In that case, put the book away, and take to other occupations, and next day, when you come to it fresh, you will very likely find that it is quite easy.
- If possible, find some genial friend, who will read the book along with you, and will talk over the difficulties with you. Talking is a wonderful smoother-over of difficulties. When I come upon anything——in Logic or in any other hard subject——that entirely puzzles me, I find it a capital plan to talk it over, aloud, even when I am all alone. One can explain things so clearly to one’s self! And then, you know, one is so patient with one’s self: one never gets irritated at one’s own stupidity!
If, dear Reader, you will faithfully observe these Rules, and so give my little book a really fair trial, I promise you, most confidently, that you will find Symbolic Logic to be one of the most, if not the most, fascinating of mental recreations!”
Final Thoughts: Learning to Learn
Although Lewis Carroll wrote the instructions for learning to learn with his book Symbolic Logic in mind, it is still appropriate for other reading materials. Personally, I think that the process that Toni Krasnic outlines in Mind Mapping for Kids is a great way to remember what you learn, and a process of learning to learn.
I think it is related to the Practice Testing technique described above. The mere act of creating a mind map forces you to seriously think about what you have read and learned. And to me, it makes sense that if you are reading, and you keep forgetting what you have just read, it’s a sign that it’s time to take a break.
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