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Effective Learning Strategies

Meaningful learning depends just as much on the learning process as it does on the way teachers teach. Our teachers and parents always ask us to study but have you ever thought about how to study? Many psychologists have found that certain strategies can help students to learn better.

Before digging into each strategy’s specifics, it is essential to note that they are very flexible. They can be used in a lot of different situations. However, this also means that there isn’t a specific prescription provided that will “always work.” Students can infuse their study sessions with these strategies in a way that will foster long-term learning. 

Here are few techniques that will make your learning process more manageable:

Be Consistent

Spreading out of the learning material over time improves the learning process. For example, you would learn and retain more if you stay consistent and study for a few hours every day rather than studying the whole night before the exam. This will also help in easing out the burden and sticking to a routine.

Dual Coding

Dual coding includes combining words and visuals. It is a good practice to memorise study material using visuals and link them to the topic by explaining what they mean in your words. When you involve different modalities and senses, you tend to retain more information. This process reinforces the brain’s concepts through two different paths, i.e., words and visuals, making it easier to retrieve later and make things easier during exam time.

Various visuals can be deployed, for example, an infographic, a cartoon strip, a diagram, a graphic organizer, a timeline, anything that works for you.

Utilising Mnemonic techniques

Learning new information can be easier when we connect it with something already familiar to us. This helps in increasing the likelihood of remembering the new material in the future.

There are three main mnemonic strategies: keyword strategy, peg word strategy, and acronyms.

A keyword uses a familiar word that either sounds similar or reminds of the word or idea being taught. One can link prior and new information in the memory through illustration. Example: While learning scientific terms for common frogs, one can memorise it by a helpful keyword, i.e., rain, and can visualise it by seeing a picture of frogs hopping in the rain.

While utilising the Pegword Method, one needs to learn the peg words list. It can be used whenever a list of items needs to be memorised. “Peg” each item to the rhyme by creating a visual image that combines the peg object with whatever phone number or list one is trying to remember.

Acronyms involve taking the first letter from each of a set of words and creating a new word with those letters. For example, if you need to recall the order of the planets from the sun, you might know the planets’ names, but remembering the order and making sure you don’t leave one out is where an acronym helps.

Taking the first letter of each planet’s name in order based on distance from the sun yields M-V-E-M-J-S-U-N. As these letters do not form a word, they can be better memorised by using small sentences. It includes the first letter of each word representing the first letter of each planet which would be :

My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nachos (or Noodles).

Learn to Skip When You Read

Reading is not at all conventional word-by-word studying. When you’re reading a book, you have to read with a purpose. There are different reading strategies to use for different informational outcomes.

  • Scanning is used when looking for a specific piece of information from a particular reading. It is just looking over the selection quickly to locate the required information.
  • Skimming is learning the main points. The most straightforward way to skim a given passage is to read the entire first paragraph and the whole last paragraph and read each additional paragraph’s first sentence or subheading. The major themes throughout the passage can be figured out. After skimming, one can decide whether it is required or no, to go back and read the entire thing.
  • Careful reading or reading in detail is the most commonly used reading strategy. It constitutes a slower reading process. In this strategy, every sentence needs to be read, and it’s not to remember every word on the page but to understand the context.

Retrieval Practice

Recalling information without supporting material helps us learn it much more effectively. It is about bringing back information to mind from long-term memory. To effectively use this strategy, one can just write out what one can remember on a blank sheet of paper or even draw ideas in flowchart form or just keywords. This helps in bringing the information to mind from memory. It is not essential to remember everything, but one can check their notes or course materials after retrieval to fill in gaps. This strategy will help you understand how much you know and where you need to spend extra time.