Saturday, March 17, 2012

How Do You Improve Your Ability to Learn?

The pace of change in today's world is accelerating. A person needs every advantage that he or she can obtain to compete and stay ahead. If you are without strong learning skills to help you keep up with and understand changing technology you are already falling behind. You truly need to improve your learning skills and learn to love to learn™.
So, how can you improve your ability to learn? Listed below are six steps that you can follow to improve your learning. These have a basis in research on how learning takes place.
First, you must be motivated to learn. Learning is hard work. You'd be amazed at how many people pass up learning opportunities because they are lazy. You must have a burning desire to learn. Successful learning requires a huge amount of intrinsic motivation. This comes from the inside and no one can give it to you. You have to "wanna" learn.
Extrinsic motivation, that is, studying hard to get a good grade or to get a raise or some type of certification, is powerful, too. But a burning desire to learn (intrinsic motivation) trumps everything. You literally can't be stopped if you are self-directed and have personal discipline.
Second, you need to possess a strong basic learning skill set. Do you read fast and comprehend it? Are you good at math? Do you know how to use the tools of modern data processing? You have to be able to answer "yes" to each of these questions and a few more or you are setting yourself up for failure.
You have some work ahead of you if you are without a strong set of basic learning skills. You can do it but only if you are aware what needs to be improved upon. Skip this step and the success of your learning attempts is in question.
Third, you need to take advantage of what we know about how people learn. For example, learning situations that supply the learner with immediate feedback provides a superior learning experience. If you just read a chapter in a book and set it down and walk away you have missed an opportunity to improve your learning. It would have been better to have constructed your own test questions while you were reading and take the test that you designed the next day.
Fourth, use spaced study sessions rather than mass practice sessions. You would be better off, for example, to have three, 30 minute reading sessions spaced by 15 minute breaks than to read straight for an hour and a half. Massing study sessions, otherwise known as "cramming", isn't an efficient way to learn and you may very well become fatigued.
Fifth, use multiple senses when attempting to learn. Saying it, writing it, typing it, viewing it, recording it, listening to it all involve multiple senses and provide for superior learning results. Use as much input to different senses as you can. You can create your own study notes by writing, typing or recording them (audio or video). Re-read them. Listen to them. Watch them.
Sixth, assess your learning when you complete your study session. Take the review tests in the back of the chapter if they are available or attempt to explain what you just learned to a friend. Consider writing a short paper on what you studied. Relate what you studied to the real world explaining the subject matter that you learned to someone else. Did you achieve your original learning goals? Determine what you might do differently in your next study session.
The way you improve your learning is to commit to it. Follow a structured method. Make sure that you follow a variety of different study methods and seek feedback. Assess whether you were successful in your learning attempts.
Above all else, stick to it and keep what works for you and throw out what doesn't.

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