There are three essential steps to developing good skills:
- Self-awareness – insight into yourself (and other’s opinions about your abilities can impact your capacity to achieve them)
- Strategy – developing good habits and applying the best approach
- Personalised approach: adapt your strategies to suit your strengths, interests and circumstances
Take some time to think about and reflect on these, maybe write down some points to remember about how you study effectively.
Have confidence in your own intelligence. Without this confidence, you will doubt yourself and that’s not productive for study. What does intelligence mean to you? What is intelligence? Here are some examples of common thoughts about intelligence:
- Intelligence is an underlying, general cleverness which is fixed by genetics;
- Intelligence has many kinds (linguistic, musical, kinaesthetic, logical, etc.);
- Intelligence can be developed;
- Intelligence depends on your life opportunities;
- Intelligence may be interpreted differently in different people;
- Intelligence if about applying what you know easily to new contexts;
- Intelligence is a question of how much you know;
- Intelligence is easy to measure;
- Intelligence is about applying effective strategies that can be learnt; and
- Intelligence is a question of habit and practice.
Do you feel a truth in one or more of these responses? Now you are more self-aware about your predispositions about intelligence, that’s step 1. We can move on to learning.
Successful learning is a process. It can be unconscious or conscious, use varying senses, different levels of attention, be fast or slow. Conditions for successful learning include: new experiences, foundations, rehearsal/practice, processing new information and understanding on a new level.
Optimal learning happens in many different environments and conditions, including: working out which time, place, space, or routine works for you is really beneficial. A place that you learn best might be a classroom with bright lights and others, or at home where it’s quiet and you can focus. Knowing your optimal learning conditions allows you to replicate the conditions in different places. If you truly enjoy what you are learning, the environment might not even matter. Build your habit and routine of learning; keeping notes and due dates organised is a general help to most students.
There are many different ways to describe the different learning styles. Knowing your learning style may help you understand your optimal learning conditions. If you have a visual or kinetic learning style, you may need to adapt the way you receive the knowledge.
Personalising your learning by combining all of the above will improve your self-awareness of your learning process or style. Personalising your learning environment and conditions will take some experimenting. If you prefer to study with a group, you will need to set up or find a study buddy or group. If you are an auditory learner and lectures and recordings really work for you, you will need to plan your learning and revision around these. Keep in mind not to narrow the range of conditions too much. You may want to try and use various skills to learn.
Inspiration taken from ‘The Study Skills Handbook’ by Stella Cottrell, 4th Edition.