Learning What to Learn

Learning what and how to learn is perhaps the most valuable skill of any student. Knowing how to store and retain information to consistently and reliably retrieve it later helps students to study and learn new facts and skills. Learning what to learn also helps students do well on tests and other measures of performance in education. Learning what and how to learn is a way to sieve through the glut of available information to find the relevant or necessary facts. There are many ways to learn, some of which work better than others for different people. This article will name and discuss a few of the best ways to learn as outlined in this course by Coursera. Many of these methods work together and can and should be used concurrently.

1. Emphasize the learning process over the outcome

Students can easily become overwhelmed when they have too much work to do. An effective way to complete tasks while really absorbing the information is for students to focus on the process of completing the work rather than rushing to get it done. According to this article by Medium, this method is especially effective for procrastinators who tend to push projects or studying off as long as possible and just need to summon the motivation to get started. One way to emphasize the learning process over the outcome is to devote a predetermined amount of time to a set task. For example, if a student has to write an essay, complete 45 math problems, and read three chapters for different classes, the student could set a timer for one hour to work on the math problems. Instead of stressing about getting everything done, this method helps students actually complete tasks without feeling as much pressure and makes them more likely to retain the information they learn during the process.

2. Practice different methods at various times

The best way to truly master a skill or retain information is to learn the information in many different ways at different times. This means instead of trying to learn by sitting down once and studying a textbook for hours, it would be better to learn by sitting and studying for a while, then using flashcards with the information another day, then taking practice quizzes or playing games on the topic later on, then teaching the information to another student, and more.

3. Over-learn

Even if students think they know everything there is to know about a particular topic or skill, there is always more to learn. According to this article from Harvard Business Review, overestimating competence can be very limiting when it comes to learning. For example, students may think they already know everything about a topic covered in class from studying their notes, but then are surprised when they receive a failing grade on a test in that class. Since they didn’t realize how much they had to learn, they may have failed to study the textbook for the class, look at study guides provided by the professor or teacher, or process the information enough to come up with answers to critical thinking questions expanding on the topic.

These are just a few of the many ways to learn what to learn. By practicing these methods students can hone their skills to make learning a more productive and enjoyable experience. They will retain information better, reduce stress over assignments, and improve their performance at school and work. Learning more effectively can help students develop a passion for lifelong learning.

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