Firstly, it is important to point out that people learn differently and every person needs to find the way that works best for them. This article highlights a number of research-based learning strategies that students can adopt to stand a better chance of actually understanding and remembering material. We also suggest that you do some research of your own to customise your study skills!
Retrieval practice, the strategy of calling information to mind to enhance and boost our learning, is one of the overlooked strategies. Below we explore a few other strategies that research has found could help you to perform better in your studies AND to retain information for longer.
Space out your studying over time
The best way to do this is to create a study calendar to plan out exactly how and when to review chunks of content, which should include planning for small chunks of review every day. Plan to include both current concepts AND previously learned material.
Explain and describe ideas with many details
This requires the student to start making connections within the content. Practice it: ask yourself open-ended questions about the material, answer in as much detail as possible, and then check the materials to make sure that your understanding is correct.
Switch between ideas while you study
While repetition is vital to learn something, research says we will actually learn a skill (or concept) more effectively if we mix our practice of it with other skills, through a process called 'interleaving'.
The reason that this works is that it is harder to do but it teaches you how to think more critically and choose a particular strategy for each problem, as opposed to just repeatedly doing the same thing.
Combine words and visuals
Information is often presented in combination with visuals of some sort: images, charts or graphs. Practice it: when studying, pay attention to those visuals and link them to the text by explaining what they mean in your own words. This process reinforces concepts in the brain through two different paths, making it easier to retrieve later.
Remember that these strategies do not necessarily work in isolation. Combine them to suit your needs and to maximize the effects!
Listen to this PODCAST: Using efficient study skills to complete your part-time degree
Brought to you by Wits Plus: proudly promoting continuous learning!
About Wits Plus:
Wits Plus, the Centre for Part-time Studies at Wits University, offers selected part-time Wits undergraduate degrees, postgraduate programmes and business and language short courses on a part-time and after hour’s basis.
Collaboration with Wits Language School, Wits DigitalCampus and Wits Online means that flexible study options are further enhanced and continue to expand to meet the changing needs of professionals and mature adults who require their studies to fit within their lifestyles and careers.
Wits Plus website: www.wits.ac.za/part-time/