Learning can be difficult. Whether in the classroom or alone, it requires us to open our minds in ways we might not be used to. Many schools haven’t taught how to learn, only what to learn.
Additionally, most of us don’t have time to learn how to learn. We need to focus on that online course, complete that proposal for work, feed the kids, clean the house, let out the dog, go grocery shopping, stop by the bank, or any number of other tasks.
Luckily, there are a few scientifically proven solutions that can help you engage better, so say goodbye to highlighting and memorization.
Here are 3 active learning strategies to help you get the most out of your studies.
1. Distributed Practice
Imagine that you want to paint a picture. You buy a canvas and some paint, lay the canvas on the ground, and dump the paint on top. Some of it lands on the canvas in gooey clumps but a lot is going to flow over the edges.
This is what happens when you “cram” information in before an exam. By trying to force as much information into our minds in the shortest amount of time possible, we’re only going to end up with a mess.
Now imagine you pick up a paintbrush, select the rights colors, and carefully paint over the canvas. Sure, you won’t finish your painting in fifteen seconds. In fact, it might take several days or weeks. But in the end, you’ll have a much more beautiful painting.
Distributed practice works the same way. We study material over a long period of time in bits and spurts. You’ve probably heard from at least one of your teachers that you should study every day if you want to retain anything. Well, they were right.
“Cramming” may lock information away in your short-term memory, but without distributed practice, it will not remain within your long-term memory. So, instead of cramming for hours the night before an exam, study for thirty minutes each night. In this way, you’ll spend less time studying overall, relieve stress, and learn much more.
2. Test Yourself After Learning
By taking tests, we are able to recall information we have learned. And this makes it easier to keep that information in our long-term memory.
Now if you’re learning in your downtime, you may be wondering: How in the world am I supposed to test myself? Where do I find these magical tests without a classroom and a teacher?
The answer is simple: use the internet. If you’re trying to learn trigonometry, Google “Tests on trigonometry” and many sources will pop up.
Whatever you’re studying, always remember that there are free sources available all over the internet. And sometimes it just takes a few clicks on the keyboard to find them.
3. Don’t Just Summarize: Analyze
Summarizing what you’ve read to yourself may help you remember specific details, but it won’t help you to truly understand the material. Understanding only develops through analysis.
This means that you must ask yourself deep questions about what you’re learning and sometimes use that Google search bar to find more information on what you’re learning. Instead of simply asking what happened, ask why and how. And always remember that when you cannot find the answers in what you’re currently reading, you have nearly all of the information you need via the internet.
For example, if I were to offer a summary of World War II, I might say that it began in 1939 and ended in 1945 and that the German Nazis, Japanese, and Italians were the aggressors. I could also state that America entered into the war only after they were attacked at Pearl Harbor.
But these are just facts, figures, and dates. Knowing these things doesn’t mean I’ve really learned anything. To gain insights from the war, I need to ask why and how it happened. I may even need to go beyond my textbook.
Through such analysis, I come to understand that the failure of the Treaty of Versailles which ended World War I and punished Germany led to a desire for vengeance that enabled Hitler to rise to power. In short, when I analyze the history beyond the history I am learning, I come to understand more.
Are You Interested In Online Learning and Active Learning Strategies?
Look beyond the text, analyze the details, ask deep questions, and create your own opinions. This is the best way to learn in your downtime as it ensures that you will both learn the material and how to build from it to create your own unique perspectives and ideas.
Isn’t this the goal of education?
Start Taking Classes
If you are interested in online learning, look through Stratford Career Institute’s course catalog to find a course that is right for you. With classes ranging from event planning to PC repair, we know that you will find one that is right for you.
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