Science-based Ways to Improve Learning

Learning anything new can be exciting, but it can also be challenging. Whether you are in school or trying to teach yourself a new skill or language, learning is a continuous part of life. Not all methods of learning are equal, however. Certain methods have been shown to be more effective in the learning process. Here are five great hacks to enhance understanding and the retention of information during the learning process.

Focus on the Task at Hand

In the digital age that we live in, there is always something begging for your attention. Notifications from your phone, social media, and a number of other distractions can hinder your ability to focus on the learning material.

Other seemingly harmless and ‘good’ distractions can also get in the way. Many experts are calling out multi-tasking as a hindrance to focused work. There’s often a lot to do, and being able to multi-task is often a necessary asset. However, in many cases where concentration is required in learning, hopping between different things can hamper the brain’s ability to form the needed connections with the learning material. A lot of research has been done to confirm this.

Learn the Material Over Time

Most people have been guilty of delaying learning until the very last days before a test or exam. Because of this, cramming becomes the only option, and this involves a lot of memorization of much information in a short space of time. While cramming can help you get by, the ideal case is learning the material in smaller sections over time. This helps with long term retention of information, which should be the real goal of learning. Revising the material covered also helps with this.

Test Yourself as You Go

Continuing on from spacing out the learning and regularly revising the material covered, it is also a good idea to use testing and active recall. By doing mini quizzes and tests along the learning journey, you are able to connect with the material more actively. The opposite of this is passive learning, which is more similar to reading. Without points to stop and review regularly, you may not be retaining as much information as you think you are.

Combine Different Learning Styles and Learning Approaches

Mixing things up is another way to enhance your learning. People process information differently. Learning using audio and visual tools can also help with understanding and retention. In schools, the use of visual aids is an all-important part of learning that can help young students make the right connections with the new materials.

A traditional school of thought on learning believed that learning new skills in independent blocks was the most effective for activities such as language and tennis. The latest research studies now show that this may not be the case. It can actually be more effective to mix up the learning of new skills even if the other ones are yet to be fully mastered. This can help the learner connect with the material as a whole and improve the learning of all the different skills required.

Make Use of Stories

In many different subjects, learning can be enhanced by the use of stories. Stories help to provide a context and to make memory connections. This can be an actual background story to the learning material, a broader context, a funny story to go alongside the material, or a word mnemonic or memory aid to help with memorization. Regardless of the age of the learner, these stories help the brain make the needed associations by strengthening the neural pathways.

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