Three tips for easier learning

This first tip shouldn’t come as any surprise, but I have a suspicion that a lot of students are so busy juggling the many facets of their lives that they feel they just don’t have the time to do it. What am I talking about? The simple but hugely learning enhancing technique of simply reflecting on what you’ve just learned. Yes, just spending some time resting and reflecting on what you’ve learned really helps it stick. So from now on, instead of thinking of R&R as Rest and Relaxation, think of it as Rest and Reflection.

One way to reflect on what you’ve learned is to re-explain it in your own words to yourself. Or to an imaginary friend, if you have one. Or to your cat. It doesn’t matter, as long as you’re ‘teaching’ it to ‘someone’. Another way is to reflect on how you can put the information to use. Or you can think about how you’ve seen what you’ve learned put to use by someone else. Or think of a time when what you’ve learned could have been effectively put to use. Or review the key points and any new vocabulary you’ve learned.

Here’s another tip: Before learning or studying new material, think about what you already know about the topic. That’s called metacognition and it’s a really important learning tool. One of the reasons is that it gets the neural circuits in your brain, where information ‘sits’ about the topic, firing off and readies them to accept new information about the topic. It also gives the new information about the topic a ‘home’ to nestle comfortably into, so you remember it more easily.

Here’s the third tip: When you’ve finished studying, grab a few ZZZZZZs. When you sleep, your brain cells connect with other cells, which makes information flow more easily. And somehow those connections made while you sleep hang around, so that what you’ve learned stays there — provided you keep those connections active by putting what you’ve learned to use or at least, keep reviewing it. Another benefit of a nap is that when you’re sleep deprived, you can’t earn as easily. Check out a study published in Science.