Thursday, May 18, 2017

Effective Learning Methods

Lifelong learning is a matter, of course - we know that our brain changes constantly, even with age. And given the rapidly changing world and because of a huge amount of daily information an effective learning of contexts, causalities and new knowledge content is more in demand than ever.

But how to "remember" the most important thing, which you can use with your next decisions? 
How to filter the essence of a scientific article, and what you do to remember facts during a meeting when you need them? 
Learn the way you have done it at school? 
And do you know if this is really a successful approach?

Get a little overview of
- which learning methods promise the most "learning"
- which little tips help you to learn more efficiently
- how you can influence your success positively when taking notes

Highly effective for memory and understanding
In a meta-study 
(John Dunlosky et. al.: Improving Students' Learning With Effective Learning Techniques. Promising Directions From Cognitive and Educational Psychology Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 14 (1) 4 -58 , 2013), the authors come to the conclusion that two approaches are regarded as very effective - especially if you want to promote both the memory and the understanding:

- Distribute into small units:
Walk through your content again and again in small units (distributed practice). Distribute this for extended periods, especially if you want to keep important information for a long time. Do not commit the popular mistake to “cram” all the content in a small period just before the meeting - you will have forgotten this information very quickly.
- Self test:
Run smaller tests for yourself again and again (practice testing) - repeat orally without reading the text, write down the most important thing, ask yourself questions in advance, which could arise from the context. By this means you will constantly create new connections in your brain with which the new one is linked to your already ancient knowledge.

Challenge the overall understanding
The authors of this study also emphasize that, depending on personality, learning experience and learning objectives, the respective methods are to be evaluated differently. Each learner must learn being personally aware of himself and try out what in which situation is perhaps more suitable for him. In general, they provide further following hints for successful learning:
- The questioning and thinking through of content:
Often the ultimate solution or solving the problem is given immediately - the first appears faster. However: This time will be needed later if you need to reproduce this process. It is more effective to ask yourself directly about the why and the how (elaborative interrogation). You will benefit directly during the learning process.
- Alternating:
Learn in small blocks and go to the next topic after some time (interleaved practice) - instead of going through a theme from beginning to end, only then move to the next and never take up the first subject again.

By the way: In this study underlining is assessed as a "low utility" method - often not even the correct text passages are highlighted. And summarizing texts often includes trivial content. So if you like to work with summaries, then be sure that you
- summarize from memory
- summarize in a detailed way
- use own words

Besides this study from Dunlosky et. al. I have still two other recommendations for you:

Learning while you take notes: The Cornell Method
If you already want to go for first learning steps while you are listening in a meeting or in a lecture - more than just a mere abstract - then try the Cornell method which was developed at Cornell University in New York. This way of making notes is particularly suitable if you want to supplement and implement content of an already partially known substance.

In the beginning you divide your note sheet into three parts: 
• In the lower quarter - a simple line helps - you will finally write your resume
• Section the left third of the upper part with a line again where you write down key words and questions. 
• Use the large upper-right part to make your notes.

Your advantages for later: During the rework you will have at hand both the main issues which arose for you during the making notes as well as a brief overview which you have summarized in the lower part!

Learning and time management
I also invite you to try the Pomodoro technique. Therefore proceed as follows:
• Prepare your learning tasks.
• Divide your learning units consistently in small units of 25 minutes and just create a list.
• Use a small alarm clock (egg timer): After 25 minutes, you make a five minute break (15 minutes after four learning units) and tick off your unit from the list.

Your advantages:
- Frequent pauses maintain your mental flexibility.
- You consistently and successfully finish your list.
- You have breaks in time to respond to interrupts.
- You are aware of your time already spent.

Enjoy your learning process!


No comments: