Throughout a man’s life, he has to learn. Neither a blind man nor a deaf man is excluded from learning. As long as any of the five senses still functions, then learning is possible. Yes, learning is more than just reading. It is even more than listening. Knowledge can be communicated via smell, taste, and touch as well. Against popular opinion, learning is not only for tackling a qualification exam. Instead, learning is part of man’s growth process. Man has to learn both to survive and to thrive. This wrong opinion of learning has given birth to a more disastrous opinion that learning is difficult. No, it is not. Learning is quite simple. It only doesn’t seem easy because many people do not have learning strategies.
What Learning Strategies Imply
Learning strategies includes knowing what, when, where, why, and how to read. Most of the learning process takes place in the brain. However, the brain does not store all the information that it gets forever. It stores new information in short-term memory. Information that is repeatedly used is stored in long-term memory. Statistics show that we forget more than half of what we learned after an hour of learning, with only 44 percent of it left. After a week, only 20 percent of the knowledge acquired is left in memory. Therefore, you need to apply certain learning strategies to ensure that information moves from your short-term memory to your long-term memory.
We all have preferences when it comes to learning. However, we all have the same brain makeup. Therefore, the way our brains receive, process, store, and retrieve information is the same. And it is with an understanding of these brain functions that we have put together these 15 learning strategies. These learning strategies are tailored to help you reduce test anxiety and boost your brain and memory to become a fast learner.
1. Take eating precautions
Learning is only important if you are alive. And the only way you can learn actively is if you are mentally well. Therefore, feeding your body well and enriching your brain with nutrients that will make it function well is the first of the many learning strategies to be discussed. Eating the right food can boost brain power and prevent brain injury. Eating the wrong food can overturn the good works of eating good foods. Eating the wrong food can impair brain function. According to several studies, nutrients such as Omega-3 fatty acids and folic acids are good for brain functions when learning. You will see these nutrients in foods such as salmon, sardines, chicken, eggs, mackerel, trout, flaxseed, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, broccoli, avocados, celery, blueberries, and so on.
Avoid highly processed foods or those containing a lot of sugar when planning to study. For instance, avoid cookies, doughnuts, and other foods that are not considered necessary, like white bread, margarine, fruit juice, etc. However, glucose is highly required for effective cognitive function. Therefore, chocolate (preferably hot) is advisable. It improves blood flow to the brain and enhances focus. As a learning strategy, the most important eating precaution is drinking water. Dehydration is bad for the brain. Hence, you should take at least eight glasses of water per day.
2. Engage in physical exercises
Exercising is vital to understand fast and speedup memorization. It is one of the learning strategies that boost brainpower. Like eating good food, physical exercise stimulates the growth of new brain cells. One of the major hindrances to learning is stress. But exercise helps to reduce stress by making you healthier and more energetic. You can as well go for a walk when trying to memorize information. The process helps you attach objects to what you are trying to understand or memorize. However, suppose you work out immediately after learning. In that case, you are likely to retain 10 percent less of what you will retain if you exercise four hours after learning. You can schedule at least three times a week for exercise. Each schedule should last for 30 to 45 minutes.
3. Avoid learning through stress
The most common form of stress often experienced while learning is anxiety. Have you also experienced the feeling before, where your mind goes blank right before an important test or presentation? There are other forms of stress, and they can hinder the learning process. Examples are sadness, anger, nervousness, frustration, among others. Since stress is an emotional disorder, the best way to apply this learning strategy is by identifying the source of the stress. You may need to write down what your worries are. After which, you can apply stress-busting techniques such as breathing exercise, meditation, physical activity, and so on.
4. Use the gum-chewing technique
Gum chewing is often considered a bad habit. Now, studies have shown that it is one of the highly productive learning strategies. According to a study carried out at the University of Northumbria, subjects were asked to chew gum. Their ability to remember memorized words improved by 35%. Human performance on recall and memory tasks improves briefly after chewing gum. The improved effect is strongest immediately after chewing the gum. The effect often disappears after 20 minutes. The explanation for this is that chewing motion increases the heart rate. An increased heart rate gets the blood flowing into the head to cool the brain. To avoid breaking learning strategy 1, you should choose sugar-free gum.
5. Stay motivated
Focus is significant to grasp the knowledge you are trying to learn. George Walton Lucas, best known for creating the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises, once observed, “Always remember, your focus determines your reality.” In order words, stay focus on understanding what you are learning. Do not be consumed by the worrisome potential for failure that brings stress. Hence, focus on the process. Let the extensive learning strategies lead you to your desired outcome. Another way to stay motivated is to learn with relevance. When what you are learning is relevant to your life, you will be motivated and well engaged in learning. One way of using relevance to understand faster and memorize better is by relating subject matter to everyday applications. Another form of use is to relate the knowledge gotten to your life goals.
6. Find a good spot
The most basic learning strategy, which can also be referred to as the most conspicuous library learning strategies, is a quiet learning spot. However, you do not have to go to the library to enjoy the quiet. You can create your quiet spot at home, find a silent park, or pick out other options like getting a hammock, cozy bar or café, beach, and so on. Silence, as a learning strategy, is required as a form of reduced distraction. However, it is not the only learning strategy for a good learning spot. Comfort is also important in picking a good spot. Discomfort can be quite distracting and even impede other learning strategies. The seat is top on the list of getting comfort, but other equipment (if there are) such as table, light, wall art, ventilation, etc., can all enhance comfort. Also, pick different locations. Learning in different spots helps the brain to make multiple associations with the same information.
7. Avoid distraction
To maximize the good spot you have chosen, it is important to avoid any other lingering distraction. Distraction ranges from being online to watching TV or any other form of busyness or multitasking. Research shows that multitasking reduces the brain’s ability to store new information. Therefore, switching from one activity of learning to another, and vice versa, is not a productive learning strategy. You must then see to it that you block any form of distraction when trying to learn. For instance, if learning a skill on your PC is often interrupted by ads, emails, etc., using blocking apps will boost your learning strategies’ effectiveness. Another means of solving online distraction is by going to a library to study and stay offline. In all, avoid anything that wastes your time and makes you procrastinate learning.
8. Reward yourself
Do you remember the saying, “All work and no play make Jack a dull boy?” I bet you do. It is still as true as the first time you heard it. Without time off from work, you can lose motivation. Hence, take productive 5 to 10 minutes breaks for 40 minutes of work and enjoy short naps. Apart from naps, sleep is a good reward/learning strategy. Research shows that going to sleep shortly after a learning process will improve your recall of the knowledge acquired. So if you need to learn something challenging, learn it a few hours before going to sleep. As an elementary health prescription, you should sleep at least eight hours per night. Rewards also reduce stress. So, find yourself healthy snacks to eat and take a shower to reward yourself.
9. Use sounds to read
A widely accepted opinion of learning says to avoid listening to music. Music, as well as other forms of sound, are widely believed to distract people when learning. Now, research shows that some types of music help to concentrate. According to a study carried out by Stanford University researchers, music activates areas of the brain associated with paying attention and making predictions. Usually, classical music is better advised compared to hip-pop. Likewise, playing a musical instrument is said to increase IQ by seven points. Another use of sound includes composing a rhythm of what you are learning and singing it out. If you cannot put together lyrics and sing, you can just read out the knowledge you are about to memorize. The advantage of echoing knowledge is that you get to see it and hear it. But if you only say it silently, you can only see it.
10. Jot what you are learning
Taking notes is very important. It is one of the learning strategies that help to process and reframe information. Often, people want to substitute typing for writing. Unfortunately, typing does not perform the same function as taking notes by hand. Typing only takes a word-for-word process of documenting information, which is important but lacks the information processing stage that makes writing more effective. You can as well go a step further by drawing tables and diagrams when taking notes. Doing so will help you illustrate the information better and master the knowledge. A common example is the use of flashcards. Similar to taking notes is using a tape recorder. Whenever you are trying to recall information, recording the bit you can recollect is quite helpful.
11. Learn in groups
Working together with others promotes your engagement in knowledge. Learning engagement leads to deeper understanding and leads to long-term retention. Group study comes with a lot of motivation. Humor is good for retention, and learning in a group is one way to guarantee humor. When learning, you may feel like you have hit hard rock. But learning in a group anticipates such lapse and keeps you going. Group learning grants you access to vast learning resources.
12. Read to teach
This learning strategy is based on a quote by Seneca, who is a Roman philosopher and writer. He said, “While we teach, we learn.” And that is very true. If you teach others while you learn, you are learning better yourself. Therefore, keeping the thought of teaching others in your imagination while learning is one of the best learning strategies. It helps you to prepare your knowledge as answers to questions. It enhances a deep-rooted understanding. And as you also teach others, as Seneca said, you learn more.
13. Build a “memory palace”- loci
History has it that Simonides, a Greek poet invented the learning technique called loci or memory palace. Some also call it the mind palace. It was said that Simonides attended a dinner banquet when the building collapsed. Even though all the bodies were crushed beyond recognition, Simonides made it through the wreck. He was also able to identify each body by remembering where they sat. This made him realize that he could memorize all kinds of information by associating the information to places. Hence, practice visualization when you are learning. Associate the knowledge you are gathering with what or where you know already. Similar to it is mind mapping. A mind map is one of the learning strategies that mentally organize information.
14. Major on the major and minor on the minor
Many people think putting in 10 hours of reading results in 10 hours’ worth of knowledge. That is not often true. Productivity guru Tim Ferris said 80 percent of the result is gotten from 20 percent of work done. This is called the 80/20 rule or the Pareto Principle. As a key part of the 15 learning strategies discussed, focusing on the most important 20 percent will help you learn the 80 percent of what you need. Therefore, you must prioritize important information. Likewise, the first things are understood better. This is the serial-position effect that increases a person’s tendency to recall the first and last set of information learned.
15. Get feedbacks
If you are learning informally, without teachers or trainers’ supervision, getting feedback may be difficult. Now, the internet gives you access to a long list of tutors who can assess your knowledge. If interacting with strangers over the internet is not convenient, you can interact with friends and family. They can also provide you with all-important feedback. After getting feedback, you must engage the feedbacks. The best way to engage feedback is by looking at it as a dialogue and not a monologue. Active communication improves retention. You must practice the feedback you have received. You can make a practice test for yourself to see how much of the feedback you have retained.
In conclusion, I want to give you a gift. The gift is the grandest of all learning strategies – Repetition. Reviewing information periodically (repetition) is better than cramming. Repetition is both the father and the mother of learning. Let me borrow the words of Zig Ziglar to define repetition better. Zig Ziglar said, “Repetition is the mother of learning, the father of action, which makes it the architect of accomplishment.” Repetition is key to both mastery and success. Aristotle once observed the role of repetition in learning. He said, “It is frequent repetition that produces a natural tendency.” Theologians seem to have found a better way to put it by saying, “Repetition is the law of deep and lasting impression.”
Here is the most important part of the repetition learning strategies. That is the spaced repetition technique used to memorize quickly and for a long time. To memorize quickly, the process is broken into four levels of repetition. The first level requires you to repeat what you want to memorize right after learning. For the second level, repeat what you want to commit to memory after 15 to 20 minutes. Then the third level should be after 6 to 8 hours of learning. Finally, another repetition should come 24 hours after learning. To memorize for a long time, the repetition process is a five-stage process. It follows this pattern: immediately, 20 to 30 minutes, 1 day, 2 to 3 weeks, and 2 to 3 months respectively, after learning. With all the learning strategies that I have shared with you, you will understand faster and memorize better.