How to Learn Effectively

Whether you want to learn a new language or create a new hobby to broaden your horizons, or just want to make the most educational value out of your time, knowing how to learn effectively should be on the top of your priority list. While basic things like memorizing via mnemonics and reading while taking notes have traditionally been taught as effective methods of learning something new, you will need much more than that if you want to significantly increase your learning efficiency.  Check out these tips for becoming a more efficient learner.

1) Cultivate an inquisitive mindset.

Many people just take things and events as they are. When an apple falls from its tree, they simply pick it up and eat it. They don’t bother asking questions like why is the apple red or why does it fall in the first place. By being inquisitive, you will get to have a better understanding as to why things happen the way they do. If Isaac Newton, as he was sitting beneath the apple tree, didn’t contemplate on what caused the fruit to fall, humanity would have never known about the Law of Gravity later on.
Be active in understanding what you observe or learn. The next time you read your book or the newspapers, don’t just digest the raw facts. Do some research or ask someone around you who is more knowledgeable to help you understand the details behind what you are reading.

2) Employ multi-sensory techniques.

There’s definitely more than one way to learn something. It’s simply a matter of involving more than one of your senses. For instance, rather than listening to a podcast, which only involves auditory learning, read and rehearse the information aloud instead. This way, you’ll get to learn using your visual and verbal senses. You may also describe what you’ve learned to a friend, take down notes, or drawing mental pictures. Trying other ways to learn enables you to fully absorb information and make sure they are inculcated in your mind. According to Judy Willis, a neuroscientist and a teacher, “The more regions of the brain that store data about a subject, the more interconnection there is.”

3) Teach what you’ve learnt to someone else.

Educators have long noted how teaching what you’ve learnt to someone else can be one of the best ways to educate yourself effectively. You can start by using your own words to relay information. This process is guaranteed to help cement new knowledge in your brain. You can then find a way to share your newly-acquired knowledge. It can be through writing or by engaging in a group discussion.

4) Connect old ideas with new ones.

Relational learning, or connecting new ideas to things that you already know, is another great way to become an effective learner. For instance, if you are currently learning about Leonardo da Vinci, you associate him with your prior knowledge about his works like the Mona Lisa and the historical period in which he lived.  Neuroscience has shown that connecting ideas together allows for different neurons from different nerual networks to connect, thereby allowing the brain to remember much better.

5) Gain practical experience.

Learning the typical way involves reading textbooks, listening to a teacher’s discussion, doing library research, or attending online lectures. While absorbing the information and writing it down are essential, there’s nothing like putting what you’ve learnt into actual use. Say you’re trying to learn how to play a musical instrument, practice a piece on a regular basis. Or if you are learning a foreign language, you can try speaking a few words with another person or surround yourself with practical situations till you master it.

6) Look up the answers instead of struggling to remember.

Learning will never be a perfect process. A person may sometimes struggle to remember the details of things that he had previously learned. If you find yourself in the same situation, research suggests that you are better off merely using your resources to search for the correct answer. A study shows that the longer you try to squeeze your brain to recall the answer, the more likely you fail to retain the answer again in the future. It is because attempts to remember what you have learned previously only results in recalling the wrong instead of the right response.

7) Take relevant tests.

While spending more time studying may appear to be one sure-fire way to learn effectively, studies show that taking tests actually reinforces better retention of information, even if it isn’t covered on the test. Result reveals that students who studied and were tested showed better long-term recollection of information, even those that were not covered by the tests. On the other hand, those who studied but were not tested displayed significantly lower recollection results.

8) Utilize scaffolding strategy.

Scaffolding is a teaching technique that involves breaking information into several chunks and providing a certain tool or structure for each chunk. This technique is widely used among teachers, but is also applicable among self-directed learners. If a certain piece of information is too huge for you to digest, breaking it into bits would make it easier for you to absorb. Online language schools, for instance, use visual aids as scaffolding tools with the purpose of making it easy for their students to associate pictures of situations with terms or expressions. Scaffolding also employs other enhancements that would make learning engaging and less cumbersome.

9) Know your own learning rhythm.

Everybody has a certain learning rhythm. There are people who learn best in the morning, while there are those who learn best at night. Figure out what time of the day best suits you and utilize this to make the most out of of your learning ability. However, you must also know how to give your mind time to rest. You can take frequent breaks and shift your attention to completely different stuff.

10) Asking for help should be your last resort.

We learn best when we are able to arrive at a conclusion by deducting the answer.  Then it follows that asking for help is somewhat of a shortcut to learning.  Therefore, you should always try your best to solve a problem that arises first before asking for help.  Of course, this is not to say that asking for help is detrimental to the learning experience.  On the contrary, the assistance of others may be an important stepping stone to you grasping a concept.  However, asking for help should be the last resort, not the first.

You don’t have to go to school to be able to learn effectively. You can simply develop a mindset that motivates you to do so, no matter how small a lesson may be. The tips listed above should put you on the path to effective learning.

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