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Investigating Techniques for Improved Studying & Learning

Employing Active Studying Techniques

While looking through my textbook’s Java interface code, I felt that I wasn’t actually reading & absorbing the information. I was just looking at the page absent mindedly. What I was doing wrong was trying to employ passive learning. This is a mistake.

In order to learn effectively, you have to employ active learning.

What is Active Learning?

Active learning is simply doing any activity that you can only do if you are actually understanding the material. The information below describes various examples of active learning, including:

  • Taking notes
  • Making a diagram
  • Annotation
  • Speaking out loud


Take Quick Notes

For example, you can re-interpret the words of the text into your own words. You can’t do this unless you actually understand what’s being said.

Depict a Diagram

Another technique is to draw a quick & dirty diagram of what the text is telling you on a separate piece of paper. Because the diagram depends on the understanding of the text, drawing the diagram helps you see visually the picture that the textbook is trying to paint for you in words.

Annotate your Text by Draw Out the Connections

Yet another technique is to draw arrows in your textbook showing where 1 idea connects to another idea, and quickly jotting down what makes sense, and circling what doesn’t. I’d immediately look up what I don’t understand so that I can fully comprehend what the text is telling me. Learning is a lot easier when you can connect the pieces.

I also highlight the main sentences or points of my textbook that summarize what I need to know for that whole page. That way, when I am re-reading my textbook I can simply read only what I highlighted in order to achieve true “speed reading”.

Be Aware of Time, a Limited Resource

Note that you should be aware how much time you have left in order to study the material. The truth of the matter is that our time is limited, quickly heading towards the dreaded deadline. So when one technique for learning doesn’t work for you, or is taking too long, you have to wake up to that fact and immediately adapt by trying something else. You keep exploring your options until you find what works for you. I find that employing the pomodoro technique is a good way to stay conscious of how much time your using. To make sure that I employ the pomodoro technique effectively what I do after the study period is use my break to asses how quickly I am getting the work done, assess whether the study method that I am employing is effective, and quickly plan out an outline of the small increments that I need to do next in order to reach my goal. I then enter the next study session, gradually checking off points of my outline as I progress.

The act of simply crossing out increments of your work in an outline reduces the amount of delay that is required for gratifications, so that I am encouraged to get more work done. This way, I have tangible proof that I am actually being productive, allowing me to acquire a hit of dopamine from my small success. And dopamine is always nice to encourage your continued motivation.

Speak Out Load

Sometimes the act of speaking the text out loud can help you understand and remember the material of the text. Even better, you can ask questions, discuss, and connect pieces of the text while speaking out loud. I have found that trying to maintain a “conversation” with the text is a good way to remember what you have read and really uncover what you understand & don’t understand from the text.

I even personally have made YouTube videos of me orally explaining the learning material that I needed to understand for my class. Through speech, I would be able to tell if I had a gap in my knowledge because I orally wouldn’t be able to talk about it. I would then review the text (or google it) for what I didn’t know or understand, and try orally explaining it again through. So through speech, I was able to cover gaps in my knowledge and properly format the information so that it was easier to recall later on.

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