Learning Strategies

How to Sharpen Study Skills

Many people view learning as a long, arduous, rocky road that may have no end. However, if one knows what type of learner they are as well as how well they have to know the material at hand, this viewpoint of a rocky road can quickly be smoothed out.

First, according to the Vak/Vark Model of learning, there are three different styles of learners: Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic learners. In her book, The Learning Styles Handbook for Teachers and Tutors, Gail Murphy Sonbuchner summarizes these styles as follows:

1)      Visual: Reading, Writing

2)      Auditory:  Listening, Speaking

3)      Kinesthetic: Visualizing, Manipulating

If you would like to know which learning style that you are, there is online test that will tell you not only which learning style you fit into, but also give further information about your learning tendencies. With this information, you can begin to develop better ways of learning the material.

A helpful learning strategy here is developing a self-test that coincides with your learning style. If you are a visual learner, read the material and then allow yourself 10 minutes to write a summary of what you just learned. If you are an auditory learner, you might want to try to give a 10-minute speech about the material at hand. Finally, if you are a kinesthetic learner, you could develop ways to draw pictures, for example, that will link the information together.

Memory has been divided into many different dichotomies through research. Examples include short-term and long-term memory as well as episodic and semantic memory. According to Abadzi (2006), humans tend to have stronger episodic memory than semantic memory, which are the processes of what was learned. The way for all learners to overcome this problem is to learn in smaller bits rather than intensive study. In other words, we should allow more time to learn process the material.

However, one must also be aware that for classes and tests, teachers have different expectations for student’s levels of understanding. Proposed in 1956, it Bloom’s taxonomy of learning is a useful method of study.

When preparing for an exam, not all information needs to be processed at the same level. Sometimes route memorization is only required, such as when the teacher will ask you to repeat the letters of the alphabet, or other, more complicated levels of understanding will have to be accomplished, such as when the teacher asks the students to evaluate the nutritive effects of both apples and oranges. Which one is better? Explain your opinion. That is an evaluative question, requiring a much higher level of knowledge. Notice that the verbs are different in each question. That will give you a solid idea of how well you need to know the information at hand.

A combination of knowing your learning style as well as a keen awareness of what is expected of you are the cornerstones of building a set of tools to learn material quicker and to manage your time on studying. If you use these two strategies in conjunction with a minor understanding that you are focusing on not forgetting semantic memory, then you be more successful in the future.

References:

Fleming’s Vak/Vark Model. (2011). Retrieved on September 14, 2011, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Learning_styles.

Murphy Sonbuchner, Gail. (2008). The Learning Styles Handbook for Teachers and Tutor. Retrieved on September 14, 2011 from  http://books.google.com/books?id=gI22Q-v6VkkC&lpg=PP1&dq=learning%20styles&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false

What is your learning style? (2009) Adaptation from Intructor Magazine. http://people.usd.edu/~bwjames/tut/learning-style/

Abadzi, Helen. (2006). Efficient learning for the poor: Insights from the frontier of cognitive Neuroscience. Retrieved on September 14, 2011 from http://books.google.com/books?id=kn62phyvFpwC&pg=PA190&dq=learning+styles&hl=en&ei=acJwTtzEJ6f0mAWllpyXCg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CC4Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=learning%20styles&f=false.

Bloom, Martin (1956). Retrieved on September 14, 2011, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bloom’s_Taxonomy.