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Last Updated on November 6, 2020

12 Ways for Any Slow Learner to Easily Speed Up Learning

12 Ways for Any Slow Learner to Easily Speed Up Learning

Have you ever struggled to learn something? Has it ever taken you longer to figure something out than everyone else? Do you have a mental block when it comes to certain subjects? We all have our strengths and weaknesses when it comes to learning new things. Everyone is a slow learner about one thing or another.

I know I’m a slow learner when it comes to new languages or anything technological. However, that doesn’t mean I’m a slow learner all around. It just means I’ve got some areas for growth.

Luckily for me and you, there are many ways to speed up learning with extra support, even when we’re talking about those  creative or academic areas that we usually struggle with.

Here are 12 ways for slow learners to speed up learning.

1. Relax and Stay Calm

It’s tough to learn much of anything when you’re stressed out or upset about something, so learning how to relax and stay calm is vital to speeding up your learning.

In one study, stress negatively impacted both recall and recognition tasks.[1] This means that we need to do our best to de-stress and stay calm if we’re trying to shift from a slow learner to a fast one.

What kinds of activities can help us reduce stress and stay calm? Breathing exercises can help reduce stress. Slowing and deepening our breath can help us feel less stressed and calmer.[2]

Mindfulness exercises can also help us think more about what we’re learning and less about what’s stressing us out. Noticing what’s in your immediate environment and listening to the nearby sounds can help you shift from worrying and overthinking (bad for learning) to being able to better focus on the task at hand.

2. Remove Distractions

It’s also extremely difficult for a slow learner to learn efficiently when surrounded by distractions. Extraneous noises and technology overload can get in our way when we’re trying to learn something new.

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When possible, put your phone away and turn off notifications. Also, do your best to find a quiet spot with no radio or TV to compete with whatever it is you’re trying to learn.

Once you do all of this, you can learn how to take your learning to the next level in this video:

3. Eat Right

It may seem obvious, but there’s a direct link between proper nutrition and learning outcomes. Nutrient deficiencies can cause you to feel like you’re in a haze, which is a surefire recipe for slow learning.[3]

Combat that by eating a healthy, balanced diet filled with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Fatty acids have been linked with memory and brain-boosting, so make sure to eat fish and nuts or try an omega-3 supplement.

4. Sleep

Another healthy way to boost your learning is to get plenty of sleep. When we sleep, our brains sort through our experiences from the day. Some synaptic connections erode while others are strengthened during sleep. This just means that your brain requires deep sleep to strengthen memories, so you have to sleep in order to learn.

Get at least seven hours of sleep each night, so you can wake up refreshed and ready to learn. Try reviewing the information you’re trying to learn before bed, so you can use your sleep time transferring it into long-term memories.

It also helps to have a consistent bedtime routine. Your body needs to have consistent Circadian rhythms to fall right asleep and get those valuable REM cycles.

5. Play to Your Strengths

We all have our strengths and weaknesses, right? I know I’m terrible at foreign languages and much more comfortable with reading and writing. Take a self-assessment and think about things you learn quickly and things that turn you into a slow learner.

Then, use this self-assessment to your advantage, and play to your strengths. When I’m struggling to learn Spanish or Bosnian, I challenge myself to read children’s books or write rudimentary stories because I enjoy them and am more comfortable with these activities. This helps me learn something I struggle with because I’m playing to my strengths, instead of just forcing myself to review grammar or memorize flashcards.

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6. Practice Makes Perfect

Another trick for speeding up slow learning is to plan repeated exposure to whatever it is you’re trying to learn. Just reviewing your notes once is not going to do the trick.

There’s something called spaced repetition that helps make learning more effective[4]. Spaced repetition is when you study tough material more often and easier material less often.[5]

Spaced repetition for slow learners

    For example, if I’m trying to learn a new language, I might quiz myself with some vocabulary flashcards. I’m going to repeat all the cards I got wrong sooner than the ones I got right as I continue to add in new flashcards.

    Spaced repetition is a proven method to help you store new information as long-term memories, which means that it becomes second nature.

    7. Mnemonic Devices

    Who remembers ROYGBIV? Probably a lot of you. ROYGBIV is a mnemonic device that helps us easily (and quickly) remember the colors of the rainbow.

    Mnemonic devices help speed up learning by making memory encoding easier. It’s much easier for me to remember ROYGBIV than it is to remember all the colors. Then, the first letter of each color gives me a hint to make remembering the colors easier.

    So, if you’re having a slow learner moment, speed up by using mnemonic devices.

    8. Try All Learning Styles

    Learning styles started to gain in popularity in the 1990s. Since that time, there’s never been definitive proof that someone’s preferred learning style (auditory, visual, kinesthetic, and reading/writing) improves learning outcomes. However, knowing which style you prefer can help you learn faster.

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    I know I prefer to see things written out, so when I want a better chance of learning someone’s name I either write it out myself or ask them to write it, since hearing it spelled only confuses me further.

    Find your preferred learning style and use it to your advantage.

    To really speed up learning, mix and match the learning styles, and try to match the learning style with whatever you’re trying to learn.

    For example, if you’re trying to learn a new song, you may want to hear it first. If you’re trying to figure out some new statistics, it may help to see it mapped out visually.

    9. Reflect and Adjust

    When we’re talking about speeding up learning, it may not make sense to stop and reflect, but being reflective and self-aware can speed up learning in the long run.

    Keeping a journal to review past learning helps boost learning a little, but that may just be the boost you need to move from a slow learner to a not-so-slow one.

    10. Know Your Learning Blocks

    It’s also important to know what makes you shut down when trying to learn new things. I know that if I’m feeling embarrassed, I tend to shut down and get defensive instead of being open to learning new things. It’s important to figure out what makes you shut down, so you can recover and continue to learn.

    Improv has a lot to teach us about how to create learning environments that promote creativity and learning. By going along with people’s ideas and not judging each other, we can create learning environments that are much more conducive to faster learning.

    11. Don’t Be Afraid of Mistakes

    Learning also requires us to make mistakes. If we’re too worried about being right or being perfect, we won’t take the risks necessary to learn new things.

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    When mistakes do happen, it’s important to be able to talk about them openly to learn from them, instead of letting them lead to shame and embarrassment.[6]

    You can learn how to let go of perfectionism here.

    12. Get Curious and Be Playful

    Finally, to move from a slow learner to a fast one, it’s crucial to be curious about whatever it is you’re learning.

    In one study, curiosity was shown to have positive benefits for workplace learning and performance.[7]

    The key is the shift in focus. When we play, we are better able to shift our focus from internal thoughts to an external focus on the people and objects around us. This helps decrease overthinking and distractions and helps people focus on the present moment and the task at hand, crucial ingredients for efficient learning.

    Final Thoughts

    Don’t beat yourself up if you think you’re a slow learner. Find comfort in knowing we all have our learning strengths and weaknesses.

    You should also find comfort in the fact that there are twelve practical ways that you can start speeding up your learning today.

    More Tips to Speed Up Learning

    Featured photo credit: Andrew Le via unsplash.com

    Reference

    More by this author

    Clay Drinko

    Clay Drinko is an educator and the author of PLAY YOUR WAY SANE (January 2021 Simon & Schuster)

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    Last Updated on November 6, 2020

    How Motor Learning Can Help You Learn Effectively

    How Motor Learning Can Help You Learn Effectively

    Practice makes perfect. It’s a cliché saying that gets pulled out time and time again. For many, they loath to hear it, but that saying has some truth to it. After all, this saying pops up the most when we are in the midst of motor learning.

    While this saying is off, as perfection is impossible, the practice side of it is the only way for us to get closer to that level. And the only way a motor skill can get to that level is through motor learning. It’s through this concept where we can grow the various skills in our lives, but also to learn effectively by learning the right way.

    What Is Motor Learning?

    To present an example, it’s best to explain what the theory of motor learning is. For starters, it’s been described as such:[1]

    “A set of internal processes associated with practice or experience leading to relatively permanent changes in the capability for skilled behavior.”

    Our brain responds to sensory information to either practice or experience a certain skill that allows for growth of a motor task or the ability to produce a new motor skill. This happens because our central nervous system changes to allow this to happen in the first place.To see this at work, consider one of the first skills we learned as a human being: walking. While some think toddlers get up and start trying to walk, there are many complex processes at work.

    The reason people started to learn to walk was because of motor learning.

    At the base stage, we started to walk because months before even trying to take our first steps, we saw how important it was. We witnessed several people walking and understood how helpful it is to walk on two feet.

    The 3 Stages of Motor Learning

    There is more to motor learning than you might think. Over the years, the learning community has uncovered that there are three stages of motor learning:

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    • Cognitive
    • Associative
    • Autonomous

    Each stage has its own requirements for further development and what each stage brings to the learning experience[2].

    Motor learning for performance

      Cognitive Stage

      This base stage is where a lot of learning and context happens. At this stage, we’re not overly concerned about how to actually do the skill properly. Instead, we’re more concerned about why we should bother learning the skill.

      Once we’ve got a grasp of that, this stage also starts the trial and error process. You can call it practice, but at this stage, the idea is to at least try it out rather than nail it.

      This is also the stage where we are heavily reliant on guidance. We can have a coach or a teacher there, and their role is to provide a good learning environment. This means removing distractions and using visuals, as well as encouraging those trials and errors to guide the learning process.

      One example of this goes back to the walking example, but other instances are things like driving a car or riding a bike. Even when we are older, you can see this form of learning working.

      Associative Stage

      The second stage is where we’ve got some practice under our belt, and we have a good grasp of general concepts. We know what to do in order to perform this particular skill. The only problem is that we might not be able to do that skill all that well when compared to others.

      Indeed, we know what to do, but not “how to do it well.” It’s at this stage where the saying “Practice makes perfect” rings true. The more that we practice, the more we can refine and tighten the loose ends of that skill.

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      An example of this motor learning at work is seen in sports. Generally speaking, people can perform better the more that they practice. That’s because the more we practice something, the more we understand what input does to our bodies as well as where our current limits lie.

      Autonomous Stage

      At this stage, everything is more or less automatic and will stick in the long term. We can still improve, but you don’t need to tell yourself to go and do a certain task or assignment constantly. Your body has become adjusted to the idea of doing this.

      .

      An example of this learning is the skills that you use at work. When you get to work, you need very little persuasion to actually do your work. Whether that’s writing, lifting, operating a machine, or performing, there are a set of skills that we don’t think about and merely do.

      The Principles of Motor Learning

      The principles of motor learning are few and far between. Generally speaking, there is a consensus that the key to production of a new motor skill isn’t so much on the amount of time spent practicing, but the way that we practice.

      This idea was brought up in a 2016 study published on Science Alert, where scientists uncovered that making changes in your training can enhance your learning experience.[3]

      With this in mind, the core principles focus on the methodology of learning. Not only that, but ensuring they follow through the stages that I mentioned above, which are simple in concept.

      The core principle of this learning is to reinforce a skill so much that our execution of that skill is nothing but mindless consistency.

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      The study that I brought up is a new addition to that principle, as we now know that making alterations during our practice can cause new aspects of learning to grow and enrich our learning and mastery of a skill.

      How to Use Motor Learning Theory For Effective Learning

      The theory as we know it is to practice movement patterns until they become second nature and to experiment and make small changes in order to improve performance of a skill.

      How does all of that help with us being better at something? That study found something called memory reconsolidation.[4] One of the senior study author’s, Pablo A. Celnik, M.D. stated that:

      “What we found is if you practice a slightly modified version of a task you want to master, you actually learn more and faster than if you just keep practicing the exact same thing multiple times in a row.”

      Motor learning through memory reconsolidation

        Celnik also stressed why this is such a big deal:

        “Our results are important because little was known before about how reconsolidation works in relation to motor skill development. This shows how simple manipulations during training can lead to more rapid and larger motor skill gains because of reconsolidation.”

        In other words, by using memory reconsolidation, we can learn faster and ultimately gain the ability to perform a skill faster than by practicing something for several hours without making changes[5].

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        Why does this variation enhance practice? Because the act of recalling our memories isn’t a passive process.[6]

        Whether you are learning a new skill or recalling an event, the sheer act of recalling changes the memory itself. In essence, our memories become highly unreliable as we focus and subtly alter those memories in light of recent events.

        This is because our brain is more interested in the most useful version of the world and disregards useless details.

        Bottom Line

        In order to incorporate motor learning into your life, it’s a matter of mixing up your practice session slightly. Whatever skill it is you are trying to do, urge yourself to make subtle changes to how you perform.

        If you’re writing, try applying a new word you never used previously that you picked up.

        Are you practicing an instrument or playing a sport? Try to use a different muscle or a new movement to achieve the same sound. This can be something as simple as posture or body position.

        The idea with motor learning is to keep practicing, even if you are at the stage where your movements are automatic. This variation can very well bring you to the next level of that skill.

        More About Learning Faster

        Featured photo credit: Jordan Whitfield via unsplash.com

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