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Top 10 Learning Strategies

Top 10 Learning Strategies

By Donna Dunning

We are always learning. Here are 10 ways to ensure your learning is effective.

1. Find your motivation

I call it the “Who cares?” principle. If you don’t have a good reason for learning it is easy to procrastinate, daydream, get distracted, or find other ways not to learn. Find your purpose. Ask yourself “Why am I learning this?” and keep the answer to this question in mind when the learning gets difficult. If you can’t find good reasons for learning, maybe you need to re-evaluate your learning goal. If the learning project you are involved in doesn’t meet an immediate goal, focusing on the bigger, long-term picture can help you make a boring course or workshop relevant to your broader career or life success.

2. Find time and space for learning

Figuring out where and when you will learn may require negotiation and some creative problem solving. Schedule in time for learning and create a learning space. In an ideal world your learning space will be always available, free of distractions, quiet, and comfortable. If your learning space doesn’t meet these requirements, modify it or move to another space. For example, you may need to use earplugs, adjust lighting, turn off your IMs, or change your workspace to get away from distractions. Organize your space so that your learning materials are easily accessible.

3. Sharpen your concentration

Everyone gets distracted. The trick is to learn what helps you concentrate, what distracts you, and how to return your attention to the task at hand. It is more difficult to learn when you are hungry, tired, uncomfortable, or preoccupied. To improve your concentration be physically and mentally prepared for learning. If you are distracted by thoughts or ideas, try writing them down and dealing with them later. If people around you are interfering with your concentration, rethink your learning space. Read and listen actively (see the next strategy). The key to improving your concentration is self-observation and self-correction.

4. Read and listen actively

Have you ever forgotten what you just read or realized you haven’t been listening? Our concentration wanes and it is easy to get distracted. To read and listen effectively you need to be active. Taking notes, thinking about the material, finding the main points, making a summary, or asking questions are all active ways of processing what you are hearing and reading. Practice some of these dynamic learning strategies to figure out which ones work best for you.

5. Remember strategically

We not only need to read and understand, we also need to find effective ways to remember. To increase what you remember organize the information, engage multiple senses, review material frequently, and test yourself to check what you are retaining. Perhaps you recall using the name Roy G. Biv to remember the colors of the rainbow or you made up a sentence in which the first letters of each word helped you remember the order of the planets. Sometimes the best memory strategy is to not memorize something; if you don’t need to immediately recall the information, storing it effectively is better than trying to remember.

6. Learn your way

Understand your learning style. Do you take in information best by seeing, hearing, or doing? Think about your personality preferences and look for hints about how you prefer to learn, what you prefer to learn, the feedback you need, and how to structure your learning. Knowing your personality preferences will also help you identify your learning challenges. For example, if you prefer taking a personal approach when evaluating information (Feeling), you may want positive feedback and encouragement when learning. If you have a preference for Feeling, you may need to learn to accept constructive feedback objectively and not let criticism or competition interfere with your learning success.

7. Get others involved

Even if you prefer to learn independently, there are times when you will need some learning assistance. Learning assistance can take the form of instructing, tutoring, demonstrating, encouraging, asking or answering questions, discussing, evaluating, or helping you manage multiple roles. Sometimes you might need a cheerleader and other times you might need someone to be a drill sergeant to help you keep on task. Determine who can assist you in meeting your learning goals and how they can help. Asking for help may be uncomfortable, but those who use their network and resources effectively when learning are more likely to succeed.

8. Prepare to perform

I call it the “So what!” principle. Find applications for your learning. Learning is only helpful when it is used. In formal education you may need to apply and demonstrate your learning by completing assignments, papers, lab work, projects, or exams. Be rested and alert when you are being evaluated. Find or make samples or templates for papers and assignments and organize your thoughts in an outline before writing. Anticipate questions when preparing for examinations. Budget your time when writing tests. Answer the questions you know best first. Notice how much value is assigned to each exam question and spend time answering them accordingly. There are many ways to prepare to apply your learning at work as well as school. At work, you may use your learning in a wide range of applications, operating new equipment, navigating software, or demonstrating a skill. Create a list of steps for following a complicated procedure. By thinking about what you need to demonstrate and targeting your learning you will experience greater learning success.

9. Plan to learn

If you are in school, a course outline or syllabus can help structure your learning. Look at all the course requirements including readings, assignments, papers, lab work, and exams. Break them into achievable goals and schedule in the time you will need for all of these requirements. If you are learning more independently, choose your learning activities and resources well. Set clear learning goals for yourself and make concrete deadlines for achieving them.

10. Adapt your approach

When learning, evaluate your progress. Do more of what works and minimize ineffective actions. When you make mistakes on exams or lose marks on papers or assignments in courses, figure out why. Did you not know the material? Did you confuse concepts? Did you miss instructions? When you analyze your mistakes you can adjust your learning strategies. When learning at work, pay attention to the feedback and acknowledgements you receive to identify what is working for you. Learning is a lifelong process. We can all benefit from understanding how we learn and by approaching our learning strategically.

I took this photo in a garden at our local university. Bamboo is one of the fastest growing plants. I hope this blog helps you to grow and develop quickly and effectively.

Adapted from Introduction to Type® and Learning


You can also purchase Introduction to Type and Learning from CPP Inc. in PDF format.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, September 14th, 2010 at 9:11 am and is filed under Blog. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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