Learning How to Learn


It may seem a strange concept, seeing as we begin to learn from the moment we enter the world, but how much we actually retain when it comes to academia is a different story. In today’s society, there are constant reports of students being able to retain information long enough for exams, but once that exam is over they are likely to forget everything they have crammed. So, how do we learn effectively and how can we retain what we learn?

Firstly, you need to be willing to learn. Day to day, our productivity tends to fluctuate, with some days being easier to focus than others. This is caused by many factors, mainly to do with personal mindset. If you’re not ‘in the mood’ to do something, you find that you’re unable to focus on it for a long period of time. Similarly, it can be hard for young adults to transition between different lessons/subjects, taught by different teachers who all have their own individual style.

Here are three tips to get you into the right mindset:

  • Taking a break before you start to clear your mind. Whether that’s five minutes or half an hour, you need to take a moment to clear your mind, so that your ready to learn more.
  • Making sure you’re prepared. If you’re not equipped for the subject, you’re physically unprepared which makes you mentally unorganised. Make sure you have the basics, a pen/pencil, then extra equipment depending on what subject you’re learning.
  • Making sure you know how you learn best, so you can get the most out of what you’re learning.

This last point brings us to the next thing needed to learn effectively. It’s important to note that everyone learns in a different way. I’m sure you’ve heard this before and it’s clear that no child is the same, but you do need to clearly understand how you learn best. The main learning styles are Visual, Auditory and Kinaesthetic. Do you find looking at diagrams, reading notes and creating mind maps easier to learn from? Or is it easier to listen to something and repeat it back out loud? Perhaps you find it easier doing it yourself, rather than having someone demonstrate. For most, it’s a mix of all three, depending on the subject.

Understanding your learning style is imperative to learning and retaining information, so as soon as you’ve figured it out, it’s easier to sit down and revise/learn new things. You can take an online test which will gives you your predominant learning style here.

Lastly, you need to develop resilience. Often, we give up too easily, or adopt the ‘if I don’t try, at least I haven’t failed’ attitude. Of course you’re not learning effectively if you’re giving up! This links back to the first part: mindset. You need to train your mind to think ‘I might fail, but I need to try again and work harder’, or you’ll constantly give up too soon. Unfortunately, with the rise of having everything at our fingertips, we do give up if we don’t have instant success. The truth is, nothing worth having comes easily. So, it’s better to fail nine times and eventually achieve success on the tenth try, rather than giving up on the first attempt. Resilience is a skill most company’s state that their younger employees are lacking, therefore the earlier you learn this skill, the easier things will start to become. You’ll see failure as a motivating factor, rather than a weakness.

So, how best do you learn? Are you turning up ready to try your best, or do you need five minutes to change your mindset? Taking the time to learn how to learn is as important as learning in the first place. Give some of the tips in this article a go and see how you get on with your subjects in the new year!