Monday, 5 August 2013

Learning and Studying - with 'Style'!

As we approach exam time, particularly for HSC students, I wonder how many students (not just in Year 12) are studying smarter...rather than harder?

When our kids enter the world of secondary school, it becomes a necessity for them to learn how to study. Seems rather obvious, but think about it.....primary school students don't need to study or 'cram' for an exam. They are not asked to remember large amounts of content to regurgitate for an English, History, Economics or Geography exam. Yes, they do have topic tests and quizzes in Maths and Spelling; but there's no real pressure to commit lots of information to memory. So, what happens when these students hit high school? Mum and dad.....look out!

When I touch on this topic with parents I ask them, "What advice do you give your child when he or she asks HOW to study...what do you say?" I am not surprised to see blank stares and the occasional shoulder shrug. When we delve a little deeper, it becomes more obvious that the advice we pass on to our kids is what worked for us, when we were studying. Unfortunately, these methods may have been successful for us, but not necessarily so for our kids.

I am not an expert in study skill techniques and methods, but I do understand the basics of identifying what perhaps might be better study options. A lot of it comes down to 'learning styles'. How we connect to learning; how we process information; how we memorise material - all are impacted by a preferred 'style'.

Some of us are good listeners, others are visual, others like to be 'hands-on' with their learning. We all have our own style - might be a dominant style, or maybe a combination of styles. Some research suggests that we don't lock into our preferred style until mid-teens, whilst other experts provide anecdotal evidence to suggest that the earlier we recognise our 'style', the better we develop techniques to enhance our learning. Marcia L. Conner, a U.S expert in the field of learning styles, claims that many of us never really discover our true learning potential  - her book, "Learn More Now", is well worth the read!

To briefly summarise a few tips for those of you who are studying hard...but not getting the results you feel you deserve..... it may be as simple as adjusting some of your techniques. What is your 'fit'?

Auditory learners:
  • Prefer to hear the information rather than read it
  • Enjoy oral discussions (study groups work for you!)
  • Like to repeat information (even if it's simply aloud to themselves!) to help lock it in to long-term memory
  • Have trouble memorising large slabs of written material
  • Ask lots of questions - like debates
Visual learners:
  • Like to read information, directions
  • Take notes while listening
  • Relate better to illustrations, charts, graphics (visual spatial learners)
  • Like to colour-code notes
  • Memorise material in MindMap format (visual spatial learners)
Kinaesthetic (hands-on) learners:
  • Like to be on the move while learning
  • Learn by doing, rather than hearing instructions or reading them
  • 'Talk' with their hands (gestures)
  • Study 'actively' (use flip charts, colour-code notes, highlight notes, move around while memorising, type notes on laptop, iPad, etc, write notes by brainstorming what they know)
This is a very brief overview. By all means check out more information and tips online - there's a lot of really useful information out there. This is all about working smarter, not harder - makes sense doesn't it?

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photo credit: LindaH via photopin cc

About Author:

Angie Wilcock is a highly regarded expert and speaker on transitions in education. She works with teachers, parents and students across Australia.

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