Published: March 21, 2018
Sorry, I don’t mean to make anyone sound inadequate when I say this, but if there’s anything I have learned recently, it's that we all have the capacity to be better learners! The reason why we aren’t better learners is that we approach learning with a sense of trepidation! I thought I would include a few tips and tricks that I have learned recently to maximise my learning, particularly in the sciences.
Biology, chemistry or physics are particularly difficult topics in nature due to the level of content, however, it may simply be that we haven’t necessarily discovered our learning style. From personal experience, the worse thing I can do is sit down in front of a book, because after about 10 minutes I lose focus and the next thing you know I’m sat watching This Morning, or Loose Women.
1) Find your learning style! We all have different ways in which we learn things – you could explain something to me and it goes straight in one ear and out of the other. If you sit me down so I can watch a tutorial, write and draw, I can generally learn concepts in a few hours! The sciences, particularly biology, I think are quite visual subjects, in that you can make good use of your imaginative skills to visualise, say, how the heart works, for example, right down to cellular level. Drawing helps with memory as well, I seem to recall not being able to explain the clotting cascade off the top of my head, but I was able to draw it in my exam – I actually scored quite well because of that, so being quite an artistic person can actually help you improve your learning.
2) Share thoughts and ideas with your peers! Discussing science should be encouraged amongst peers, it’s fine to talk about scientific theory, but bare in mind that discussion of your own work and synthesised thoughts shouldn’t really be encouraged too much if you are both working on the same assignments – this can be considered collusion and it is really frowned upon in higher education.
3) Repetition gets it in! It’s fine to mentally or verbally repeat newly acquired information so it’s stored in your long-term memory. Go back every few days and look over your notes; the longer you do this the less time you will need to spend on it and can move on to other subject areas.
4) Study in short bursts. Study for 30 minutes to 1 hour at a time with 15-minute intervals – long 12-hour days in the library are not beneficial and you’ll end up with mental block!
5) Make posters of your new learning and stick them up so you can see them every day, and use bold colours!
6) Read review articles – review articles are really good to give you an overall update on the current state of the field and you can generally start to formulate questions from a review which demonstrate your understanding. If you are conducting a critical review of the literature, the questions you begin to ask usually lead to the formulation of a null hypothesis that will be used to guide your own research project.