Why it’s important to learn HOW to study
“When you know HOW to study, everything changes”. That’s a direct quote from one of the Leaving Cert students who attended a seminar I held last October (2016). I have no doubt about the positive impact knowing how to study and how we learn can have on the life of a student. One of the most commonly asked questions I’m asked after one of these events is “Why weren’t we told about this information before now?!” It is a gap in the education of many students, not just those in Ireland, and I am actively trying to change people’s knowledge on this important topic.
For many, studying for an exam can often feel overwhelming. Without the correct plan in place and the knowledge to execute it correctly, we can end up falling behind quite quickly. To make things worse, this often happens even when we’re trying our best to keep on top of things.
The process is repeated across many subjects and we end up feeling lost, unmotivated and helpless that this situation can’t be stopped and turned around.
Maybe this studying thing is only for those “A students”. Let me show you that this isnt’ the case. Even more so, do you know that when you know how to study, you too can be one of those “A students”.
A METHOD TO THE MADNESS
There is a methodology, a science if you like, to studying the right way. Sure, most of us can get by with our own methods, but most of the time it is vastly inefficient and we do not achieve anything near our potential. Even when we do quite well in an exam, most of the information is just crammed into our heads and forgotten within days, sometimes even hours! When you know how to study in the right way, this information you learn is thorough, deep and long-lasting. It is more easily recalled, more appropriately used when applied to answering a question and the foundation of the knowledge is strong.
Have you ever noticed that people who truly understand the subject they are talking about are able to operate with a sense of assuredness and confidence? You too can gain this confidence when you learn something in the right way. Self-doubt evaporates and you begin to realise that true knowledge in any subject can result in a sense of calmness, a sense of self-confidence.
SHORT AND LONG-TERM MEMORY
Developing your short-term memory is relatively easy. It’s one of the reasons we often try and cram as much information into our heads prior to an exam as we possibly can. This, however, is not true learning. It is lazy studying. Sure, we think that we are working hard, putting in the hours, reading through pages and pages of information. But it’s like writing in the sand – here for a moment, then gone forever.
When you learn how to study in the right way, you learn how to develop your long-term memory. Amazingly, our long-term memory capacity is pretty much limitless. This is in stark contrast to our short-term memory which is limited to remembering, on average, just 7 pieces of information. It was George Miller who, in 1956, came up with the theory that our short-term memories can retain 7 pieces of information, plus or minus 2. That’s not great if we want to not only remember a lot of information for exam purposes, but also gain a thorough understanding of this information.
NO NEED TO STUMBLE OUR WAY THROUGH THE MATERIAL
“When it comes to studying, I do what feels right”. This is something I’ve heard time and time again. If only it was that easy. If only our intuition lead us to do the right thing. Sure, there are some students who study the right way, but I can assure you they are in the vast minority. 1 in a 100. Sometimes not even that frequent. It’s no surprise either when we’re never been shown how to truly study the right way in the first place.
Relying on our intuition actually leads us astray when it comes to studying. What “feels right” usually results in the development of what neurocognitive researchers have called the “fluency illusion”. Our brain tricks us into thinking we know the material we are covering, where we are spending our time studying by reading and re-reading the material. We develop a familiarity with the content but our brains are leading us astray. The reasons for this aren’t fully understood, but it is suggested that it is a primitive survival mechanism coming into play. It doesn’t take much energy to read and re-read material or write and re-write something word for word from a book. The brain works to protect us, conserving energy and not over-taxing it. This is actually working against us. It doesn’t seem fair does it? But if you know what to do, then this common hurdle can be overcome. It takes effort, but with practice the inefficiencies of how most of us study can be a thing of the past.
There’s no doubt that we live in a society where we expect to get what we want, straight away. An important aspect to realise about learning how to study in the right way is that it takes time, effort and patience. However the rewards are huge. Not only will you be armed with the knowledge to excel in your leaving cert (or any exam), but you will have a long-lasting, life-skill that can be applied to so many areas, not just the education system. The sporting arena, your professional life and your personal life can all benefit when you understand how the brain learns new material and how you can apply this to the way you personally learn.
WE CAN LEARN HOW TO LEARN.
Knowing and believing in this simple statement can be more powerful than you could ever imagine. We can learn how to learn.
I would love the privilege to show you how.
Take care and study well.
Feel free to contact me on facebook (www.facebook.com/thestudywell) or by email (firstname.lastname@example.org)