Learning How to Learn: Powerful Mental Tools to Help You Master Tough Subjects

14 Apr 2016   kisa

Author: Mr. Oleg Magnes

Recently I wrote a little article about memory tricks that could be helpful for learning languages. Today I want to continue the topic of studies and share with you some key points and concepts from the Coursera course about learning.

This is the 4-weeks course by Dr. Barbara Oakley and Dr. Terrence Sejnowski from University of California, San Diego.
Learning How to Learn: Powerful mental tools to help you master tough subjects

Key points and concepts:

1. Pomodoro Technique is the technique, which allow you to work better and develop your concentration. While using this technique, you should work hard on the subject for 25 minutes and then make 5 minutes break. After several cycles, it is possible to give yourself a longer break. Please, mention that you need to fully devote yourself to studies. No cell-phone, no emails, no toilets (may be exception here is possible), no going out for coffee. Main idea: several seconds of checking kakaotalk is enough to disrupt you concentration, which is extremely important for grokking something new. There are a lot of mobile apps for that.

2. Spaced repetition – according to research, you will remember everything better, if you spend 1 hour each Monday during the month, then if you spend 4 hours the last day before the test. Well, you probably could do the same on test using both approaches, but you will more likely forget everything the day after finals, if you saw the information only once.

3. Regular physical exercises as well as rich environment (social activity, discussions, various event) could stimulate the neurogenesis in rats’ hippocampus. Hippocampus is the brain area that is important for long-term memory, so make your conclusion, may be it works similar in humans too.

4. After reading the chapter recall everything with the closed book / without notes. Re-reading everything five times is not effective at all comparing to recalling the information without any help. Main idea: it is easy to get into the “illusion of competence” after you read everything many times.

5. Interleaving — you should try to practice several subjects one after another, for example if you learning A,B,C subjects in this sequence: “AAABBBCCC”, try to change it to “ABCABCABC”. Main idea: you could find some connection between subjects, for example, if they are all math or engineering classes. This approach also could help you from getting into “overlearning” – the state, when you learned one thing so much, you could not even imagine other point of view on this problem (that could be critical, if you are learning some creative disciplines).

6. Sometimes, when you are unsuccessfully trying to solve some problem for a long time, the best thing to do is to make a break for coffee, meditation or something, and allow your subconsciousness to work things though.

7. Try to read the names of titles inside the chapter you are going to learn before reading the chapter. This could help you to make a “skeleton” of the chapter and your new acquired information will be more structured.

8. Experts advise to solve the hard problems first. Looks like this could speed up your learning.

9. Good things to do is to spend some time before going to sleep with repeating the key points you have learned today. Main idea: memory consolidation – the process of transferring the working memory to the long-term memory happens during sleep, and recalling things just before sleep is helpful.

Thank you for your attention. If you feel unsure about some points or want to know more, please check the lectures (https://www.coursera.org/learn/learning-how-to-learn/). If you are interested, after every chapter they have a great section with references to all scientific articles used to make this course.

Disclaimer: This article was submitted by Mr. Oleg Magnes for Write for KISA programme. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of KAIST International Students Association (KISA).  For more details visit the Write for KISA page.

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