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Last Updated on July 24, 2020

A Comprehensive Guide to a Smart Learning Process

A Comprehensive Guide to a Smart Learning Process

One of the most crucial aspects of our lives is the ability to learn. We often take this skill for granted since not many of us pause and think about our learning process. In fact, if we did, we would probably uncover that we engage in ineffective learning mechanisms.

Think about it. Has your learning helped you recall things you learned last month? Go back a year and ponder.

A lot of how we learn was tucked away in school. Our exposure to school learning is the basis of how we learn moving forward. However, over the past few decades, learning has evolved into different stages of learning, and that becomes the main issue.

No longer are we looking at examinations of people’s characteristics about understanding and learning. Instead, scholars have created learning processes that use materials that support our interactions with others and our goals.

As a result, we can learn new things more smartly and effectively – which will be covered as we proceed further in understanding the learning process.

The Essential Steps of the Learning Process

In his book Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell states that the key to success is for us to practice 10,000 hours on a specific skill. It’s also worth noting that the skill needs the correct learning direction. If you’re learning how to do something the wrong way, you’ll continue to use it the wrong way.

But before understanding the learning process, we must understand the stages of learning. Written in the 1970s, Noel Burch created a model called the Four Stages of Learning. [1]

From there, we can use the stages of learning as a basis for how to learn effectively.

1. Unconscious Incompetence

Think of a skill that you are good at and that you use every single day.

Now think back to when you first developed that skill. Were you good at it? Probably not.

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You never heard of the skill or had a desire to learn of it until that point. This is the first stage: You know nothing about it.

2. Conscious Incompetence

Once you have heard of the skill, you begin to delve into it.

Driving a car is a perfect example. Before this stage, you never felt the need to learn how to drive. Nevertheless, once you became of legal age, you had to study to get your license. You likely made several mistakes on the driving test as well as during the written test.

This is the stage where you feel learning is slow, and you’re also aware of your mistakes.

3. Conscious Competence

By this stage, you know pretty much everything you need to know. At the same time, though, you are also aware that you need to focus and concentrate on what you are doing.

This stage can be that you know the rules of the road and can drive well. However, you feel you can’t talk to anyone, play any music, or look away from the road. You feel like you need total silence to focus and concentrate on driving.

At this stage, learning can be even slower than the previous stages. The learning isn’t consistent, nor is it a habit yet.

4. Unconscious Competence

By this stage, you’ve made it. You know everything in and out about the skill. It’s become a habit, and you don’t need to concentrate. You can relax and let your unconscious mind take over.

Exceeding the 4 Stages: Flow/Mastery

While Burch only covered four stages, there is another stage that exceeds it. This is the flow or mastery stage.

You may have heard of something called a flow state. [2] It’s the mental state where someone is performing an activity and is fully immersed in it. They feel energized, focused, and get a sense of joy from doing this activity.

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Flow or mastery can stem from all kinds of activities like Writing, reading, jogging, biking, figure skating, and more. It’s also characterized as complete absorption in what you’re doing, making you unaware of space and time.

Different Types of Learning Process

Another aspect of the learning process is the types of learning. While every person goes through those stages of learning, how we learn is different.

Having covered four learning styles in 4 Learning Styles to Help You Learn Faster and Smarter, I’m recapping the different types of learning in psychology.

Psychiatrists have narrowed how we learn down to seven learning styles as below:

  • Visual (spatial): Learning through pictures, graphs, charts, etc.
  • Aural (auditory-musical): Learning through sound and music.
  • Verbal (linguistic): Learning through spoken or written words.
  • Physical (kinesthetic): Learning through the body, hands, and a sense of touch.
  • Logical (mathematical): Learning through logic, systems, and reasons.
  • Social (interpersonal): Learning through groups or talking to people.
  • Solitary (intrapersonal): Learning individually through self-study or individual assignments.

You may be asking why all of this matters and actually how we learn plays a significant role. How we internally represent experiences stems from how we learn. What we learn not only establishes how we recall information but also impacts our own word choice.

It also influences which part of our brain we use for learning. Researchers uncovered this through various experiments.[3]

For example, say you’re driving to a place you’ve never gone before. How you learn will determine which method of learning you’ll use. Some will ask people for directions, while others will pull up Google maps. Some will write the directions out, while some won’t and merely follow street signs.

Knowing how to learn to this depth is vital because once you know what style you use, you can then develop a learning process to be a more effective learner.

How To Become an Effective Learner?

The learning process varies from person to person. Generally speaking, though, consider the following steps and considerations:

1. Improve Your Memory

Learning doesn’t only require that we learn information, but to retain it. If we are to learn something, we will have to learn and relearn. This means recalling and having a sharp memory to keep that information.

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Improving our memory can range from a variety of things. From memory palaces to practicing other memory improvement tactics.

2. Keep Learning and Practicing New Things

Learning a new skill takes time, but there is nothing wrong with learning a few other things. International Journal of Science – Nature: Changes in grey matter induced by training[4] reported that those who juggled between learning different topics increase their gray matter which is associated with visual memory

3. Learn in Many Ways

While we have our own go-to style, delving into other types and stages of learning can be useful. If you learn by listening to podcasts, why not try rehearsing information verbally or visually?

It will not start great, but by improving your skill to describe what you learned orally, you are further cementing the knowledge in your mind.

Judy Willis MD, M.Ed in her publication on Review of Research: Brain-Based Teaching Strategies for Improving Students’ Memory, Learning, and Test-Taking Success[5] states how the more regions we keep data stored, the more interconnection there is in the collection information that we later process.

4. Teaching What You Learned to Others

It doesn’t have to be in a tutoring situation, but this method is still a reliable way for two people to grow.

Regardless of learning styles, we retain the information we tell others more effectively than if we keep it to ourselves. Was there a random fact you told someone a few months ago? You are more likely to remember that information because you brought it up to someone.

5. Use Relational Learning

Relational learning is relating new information to things you already know.

A typical example of this is remembering someone’s name. You can better recall that person’s name if you associate that name to something or someone familiar.

6. Gaining Practical Experience

Nothing beats learning than trying it for yourself. Sure, seeing information does have its strong points -and most learning styles benefit from exposed information – there is something to be said about getting your “hands dirty.”

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7. Refer Back to past Info If Need Be

The learning process is not perfect. We’ll forget at certain points. If you ever struggle to remember something, make a point of going back to your notes.

This is key because if we try recalling, we risk ourselves learning or relearning the wrong answer. And again, there is a difference between learning the right way and the wrong way.

8. Test Yourself

While this step may seem odd, there are benefits to testing yourself. Even if you think you know everything about the topic, going back and testing yourself can always help.

Not only does testing improve our recall, but we may realize that we learned a concept or task incorrectly. That knowledge can enhance our effectiveness in the future.

9. Stop Multitasking

While we should be learning new things all the time, we shouldn’t be trying to do several tasks at once. We ought to focus on one activity at a time before moving onto other tasks.

By trying to multitask, we are learning less effectively and are only hindering ourselves. Check out how multitasking is merely another way of distracting ourselves.

Bottom Line

Psychologists define learning as the process of a permanent change in a person’s behavior resulting from experience. The understanding of the learning process is up to us, but do consider the bigger picture. Be aware of what style works best for you, and work to improve it while enhancing other learning styles. The only way we can advance a skill is to learn continuously. Even in the skills you have mastered, there are always new developments.

You can learn more about how you can cultivate lifelong learning and attain an edge in every niche that you get associated with today!

Featured photo credit: Aliis Sinisalu via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Gordon Training International: The Four Stages of Competence
[2] Habits for Wellbeing: Flow: the Secret to Happiness: Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
[3] Training Industry: How the Brain Learns
[4] International Journal of Science – Nature: Changes in grey matter induced by training
[5] Judy Willis MD, M.Ed: Review of Research: Brain-Based Teaching Strategies for Improving Students’ Memory, Learning, and Test-Taking Success

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Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Published on July 24, 2020

12 Learning Strategies to Help You Retain Information Fast

12 Learning Strategies to Help You Retain Information Fast

Learning is the input for growth and acts as a crucial aspect of life. If you want to experience growth in all avenues, then you need to invest in learning strategies.

However, learning takes time, and time is a rare asset. So, how can you maximize your time by learning and retaining information fast? Here are 12 powerful types of learning strategies that can widen your horizon and help you maintain information at lightning speed.

1. Hone Your Note-Taking Skills

I have found out that the old-fashioned way of taking notes is more effective than typing your notes on the sticky notes provided by your device. If you want to learn faster, forget the laptop and use your pen and paper to take notes. Research showed that students who use paper and pen to take notes in class retain more information than those who type their lecture notes on a laptop.[1]

Writing skills utilize different sections of your brain than reading. When you spend time writing thoughts in your notepad, having reviewed the material, you will have additional opportunities to cover the concept again. This will interest visual learners while the auditory learners can read the content aloud in addition to writing it down.

While it may be difficult and slower to take notes by hand instead of typing, writing fosters retention and comprehension. You retain information longer in your mind when you write with your hand, which means you can quickly recall information and perform better during an examination.

Quality notes aid faster learning. Developing the capability of taking accurate notes will assist you to grasp concepts and gain a thorough understanding of the subject matter. Therefore, it is better to learn the art and strategies of note-taking before you learn a new idea.

This skill will help you to organize your class notes into digestible bits. For instance, if you are participating in an online course, don’t just watch, and do the following:

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  • Listen, summarize the knowledge gained and then take notes.
  • Create lines and spaces between the main concepts so you can add more info subsequently during revision.
  • Use symbols and abbreviations to save time.
  • Write in phrases instead of complete sentences.
  • Pull out the necessary info and neglect the trivial ones.

You can also take a look at these 7 Simple Note Taking Techniques for Efficient Learning.

2. Study, Sleep and Study More

Do you have an important presentation, but you were unable to find time to prepare?

Most individuals who find themselves in this situation would rather stay overnight and cram before the presentation. The exciting thing is the hard work will surely be compensated even if you are exhausted the following day. However, that’s not the most effective amongst different learning strategies to retain information fast.

Research says that there is a correlation between sleep and learning. Sleep aids learning by optimizing your focus. [2] You cannot focus if you deprive yourself of quality sleep. Not only that, but sleep also facilitates memory consolidation, which is crucial for learning.

Getting some sleep empowers your brain to recall quickly. Deep sleep before learning new information can strengthen memory. If you study and get some shut-eye, you will not only be able to explore more, but you will attain peak performance in your learning experience—a prime example of learning strategies for students.

3. Tweak Your Learning Strategies & Processes

Someone says you cannot repeat the same process and achieve a different result. Making some adjustments in recurring practice lessons will empower you to gain a new skill faster instead of adhering to a routine.

You can learn a skill by watching YouTube videos, play games, or read a guide in a textbook. Another related example is changing the size of your racket when perfecting your lawn tennis game.

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4. Use a Mnemonic Strategy

The mnemonic strategy is one of the time-tested learning strategies. You can learn anything faster by trying a mnemonic approach — sounds, letter patterns, or other methods that help you learn a concept. This was extremely popular in kindergarten to learn the alphabet. Children can ‘know their ABCs’ thanks to the alphabet song and retain this information.

Mnemonics will help you summarize, simplify, and compress the information so it can be easier to retain. This learning strategy is useful for medical or law students or individuals studying a language.

So, if you want to retain substantial information, adopt a mnemonic method, and you will discover you can recall information beyond your examination.

5. Discover Your Peak Moment When You Are the Most Attentive and Alert

You have sharp focus at some specific period during the day, which differs from person to person. Some are early risers, while others are night owls.

Discovering your uniqueness will assist you in knowing what period of the day you can retain information faster. Watch this video to find out more:

6. Focus on Topics One After the Other

Some concepts require an additional amount of concentration to grasp fully. Jumping from one topic to the other can make your efforts fruitless, which will limit you in retaining the information. This stems from crucial learning strategies for students to help them study more effectively.

7. Pause

We always want to rush through a material anytime we are reading. The outcome is obvious-limited retention.

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Absorb info in small bits, pause to think on what you have read, revise the concept, then proceed.

8. Make it Pleasurable

If you are struggling to learn a topic, personalize it. You can do this by finding out how it applies to your personal life or career.

9. Utilize Brain Breaks to Regain Focus

Information overload is real. Do you know that your brain needs to communicate signals to your sensory receptors to store new information?

Your brain automatically shuts down when you are anxious, confused, or overwhelmed. You can notice these among learners during a long lecture. They will stop paying attention to what’s being taught.

One of the best learning strategies to handle this is to go on a ‘brain break‘ or divert your attention to something different. You could see a five-minute motivational video to unclog your mind or do something that interests you.

10. Stay Hydrated

You have read that water is beneficial to your body system and skin. It optimizes your body performance and boosts your immune system. Now staying hydrated also impacts your cognitive performance positively. You can become smarter when you drink water.

A study found out that students who take water to the examination hall performed better compared to those who did not. [3]

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11. Link What You Learn with Previous Knowledge

You will grasp new information faster if you link new concepts with an existing idea you already have. In the book, Make it Stick, the authors wrote that related study habits are most times counterproductive. They may establish an illusion of comprehension and mastery, but the knowledge fades away from our memory quickly.

Memory is crucial when it comes to implementing difficult cognitive tasks like the application of knowledge to new tasks and the drawing of inferences from already known details or facts. By discovering the means of aligning new knowledge with previous experience, you will find extra layers of understanding in the new topic. This will help you learn faster and retain information at lightning speed.

Guess who loves using this learning strategy? Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX and Tesla. Elon compares knowledge to a semantic tree. He advises ensuring you grasp the principles — the trunk and the branches before diving into the leaves or details. That way, you will find something to hang on to. You supply the mental hook when you link new knowledge to the old. [4]

12. Teach Learning Strategies to Others

If you find it challenging to explain a concept to others, you might as well find it challenging to retain the concept. Studies have found out that the average individual retains 90% of what was learned only when they teach others or practice the idea immediately. You can discover your weak points when you apply or teach a concept.

Do you want to retain info faster? Then, revisit the material until you become confident enough to transmit that piece of information to others.

Bottom Line

Great learners are still learning how to learn. Since learning is a lifelong affair, discover the learning strategies that work for you. Don’t try to rush through a concept, learn the simple concepts, and build on the previous knowledge while taking complex concepts. The more you practice those learning strategies, the better you become at being a great learner.

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Featured photo credit: Joel Muniz via unsplash.com

Reference

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