If you are like many students, your time is limited so it is important to get the most educational value out of the time you have available. Speed of learning is not the only important factor, however. Students need to be able to accurately remember the information they learn, recall it at a later time, and utilize it effectively in a wide variety of situations.
Becoming an effective and efficient student is not something that happens overnight, but putting a few of these tips into daily practice can help you get more out of your study time.
1. Make Use of Memory Improvement Basics
There are a number of different things that you can do to improve your memory. Basic tips such as improving your focus, avoiding cram sessions, and structuring your study time are a good place to start, but there are even more lessons from psychology that can dramatically improve your learning efficiency.
2. Keep Learning (and Practicing) New Things
One sure-fire way to become a more effective learner is to simply keep learning. In one article published in Nature, it was reported that people who learned how to juggle increased the amount of gray matter in their occipital lobes, the area of the brain is associated with visual memory. When these individuals stopped practicing their new skill, this gray matter vanished.1So, if you are learning a new language, it is important to keep practicing the language in order to maintain the gains you have achieved. This "use-it-or-lose-it" phenomenon involves a brain process known as "pruning." Certain pathways in the brain are maintained, while others are eliminated. If you want the new information you just learned to stay put, keep practicing and rehearsing it.
3. Learn in Multiple Ways
Another one of the best ways to learn is to focus on learning in more than one way. Instead of just listening to a podcast, which involves auditory learning, find a way to rehearse the information both verbally and visually. This might involve describing what you learned to a friend, taking notes, or drawing a mind map. By learning in more than one way, you’re further cementing the knowledge in your mind.
According to researcher Judy Willis, “The more regions of the brain that store data about a subject, the more interconnection there is. This redundancy means students will have more opportunities to pull up all of those related bits of data from their multiple storage areas in response to a single cue. This cross-referencing of data means we have learned, rather than just memorized.”
4. Teach What You've Learned to Another Person
Educators have long noted that one of the best ways to learn something is to teach it to someone else. Remember your seventh-grade presentation on Costa Rica? By teaching to the rest of the class, your teacher hoped you would gain even more from the assignment. You can apply the same principle today by sharing your newly learned skills and knowledge with others.
Start by translating the information into your own words. This process alone helps solidify new knowledge in your brain. Next, find some way to share what you’ve learned.
5. Use Previous Learning to Promote New Learning
Another great way to become a more effective learner is to use relational learning, which involves relating new information to things that you already know.
For example, if you are learning about Romeo and Juliet, you might associate what you learn about the play with prior knowledge you have about Shakespeare, the historical period in which the author lived, and other relevant information.