woman studying

How to improve learning

Posted on by Dr Tony Steele Posted in General

From highlighters and underlining to post-it notes – we have all done it to try to emphasise text or pages we think are important, to help learn and remember.

Highlighting text is common practice, but it seems it is in actual fact not that effective. Highlighting can prevent us from reaching a conclusion on the basis of evidence and reasoning.

Recent journal articles and Make It Stick outline these four effective strategies for learning:

  1. Quiz yourself frequently on the material you read. Make flashcards of important topics you read. Generate questions and answers from the material and regularly quiz yourself. Keep retrieving knowledge from your memory. It will prevent forgetting and allow you to identify areas you do not know to focus future study.
  2. Space out your studying and quizzes. Spread out when you quiz yourself by hours, days, weeks, and months. As you gain mastery over the material, keep spacing the quizzes further apart.
  3. Quiz yourself on different topics in each study session. For example, if you are studying for a biology test, don’t just study the chapters in order. Mix in questions from different chapters as you study. Interleaving, or alternating topics, will improve your ability to remember and apply information in the future.
  4. Ask yourself questions while you are reading. These can include “Why?” questions. Why is this happening? Why does this make sense? Or why does this not make sense? Asking why will help you process the information you are reading and apply it in future situations. Questions can also help you process and make meaning of the information you have just read. For example, you can ask yourself, “What new facts did I just learn?” after reading a paragraph. “How do these new facts relate to facts I already know?” “What were the main themes of what I read?” “Why are these themes important?” “What further questions do I have?”

From: 4 science-backed ways toward better learning