Throughout my career I have always worked in the field of education. From marking University essays to tutoring and moderation, I have done it all. This article will link my love of reading to my passion for learning. I thought it would be helpful to share some learning advice just before everyone gets back to studying.
So let’s begin by talking about making notes. When we study we read a lot of content, but unlike when reading a story, we usually are bombarded with a lot of facts that we have to try to remember. Stories come and go but learning needs to somehow stick.
Here are a few pieces of advice regarding learning to remember facts.
1) The devil is in the detail.
Yes, education requires a lot of factual recall. In the old days, you would write facts down hundreds of times until you remembered them, just as children rewrite their spellings multiple times before doing a weekly spelling test. The trouble with repetition is that after a while you move on to repeating new facts by rote and these ones take over from the previous ones. Kids often learn spellings for a test and then not use those words again for a while and so forget how to spell them again.
What am I saying here? Don’t try to learn every single detail. Learn and remember the facts that are most important. Then find ways to link these ‘super facts’ to smaller snippets of information or reference points. For instance, when learning about water transference in cells, by all means commit to memory the term ‘osmosis’. Then learn an associated example or reference point.
Related info – tree roots transfer water into their roots because the roots have a lower concentration of water molecules than the soil.
2) Technology can’t remember things for you.
We all depend on technology and I am no exception to this. I feel like my arm is detached if ever I cannot find where I left my phone. However, past experience has taught me that notes on paper and in notebooks can be so much more accessible than typed information stored on a laptop or iPad.
That tried and tested method of making maps of facts with connecting arrows is still a very efficient way to make sense of a subject. If my topic was glacial geomorphology (the study of glaciers and how they alter the landscape) I may have a map (formerly know as a mind map) with bubbles for key terms and lots of bullet point lists scattered around under headings. I could wake up in the morning and revise a series of facts before I’ve even had my breakfast, merely by consulting a wall map.
Just like when an author edits their story, making notes across your work is very useful. Coloured pens and highlighters got me prepared for many an exam over the years and certainly have their place in the learning process.
Having a system where you know how to find vital revision facts or case studies is useful. Perhaps you could use green post-it’s for pages linked to key topic overviews and orange for pages with diagrams on and maybe red for hot topics or examples that stand out for you.
4) Little and often.
Revision can consume you so it is important that as you start to learn a subject you give yourself reference points as you go along. Also, throughout the year, return to different subjects regularly, especially those which do not stuck in your memory so easily. With me, learning geography, I always found facts about rivers easy to recall but anything to do with soils always went straight over my head. Therefore I would have to keep recapping details related to soils on a regular basis.
Trying to list key terms or five examples of something or other was my way of revisiting a topic and trying to keep it fresh. For example, I might list soil composition types. Lists and mini self-tests are tried and tested methods for keeping information locked in.
5) Practise test skills
Just like in school, it is important to keep the skills you need to answer questions under pressure up to date. Sometimes timing yourself to write an essay can help you to focus on a subject and keep you fresh. By fresh I mean used to writing answers against the clock. If you do not train your mind to apply this very specific way of doing things then you may find yourself stuck in a real exam. Practise makes perfect, so making opportunities to rehearse unpicking a question and formulating an answer in a given time is really good.
I find that rehearsing the process really helps when it comes to revision generally as it removes distraction and room for finding other things to do. When I set aside 30 minutes and challenge myself to practise the steps of sequencing my answer on paper, I also find areas I am remembering effectively and can then work out where my gaps in subject knowledge lie and build my revision around these.
If you enjoyed this article please drop a comment below. I will write more tips for students in the future as it all links in with my reading theme. Please consider following my blog and helping me to grow.