I took Coursera's "Learning How to Learn" 4-week course and it was chock-full of great advice about how to learn. The introductory reading featured an excerpt from Barbara Oakley's A Mind for Numbers: How to Excel in Math and Science (Even if You Flunked Algebra) on the Top 10 Rules of Good (and Bad) Studying. As a seasoned educator, Barbara is spot on with her recommendations.
These are just some of the techniques I use in my academic success coaching practice.
1. Use recall.
After you read a page, look away and recall the main ideas. Highlight very little, and never highlight anything you haven’t put in your mind first by recalling. Try recalling main ideas when you are walking to class or in a different room from where you originally learned it. An ability to recall—to generate the ideas from inside yourself—is one of the key indicators of good learning.
2. Test yourself.
On everything. All the time. Flash cards are your friend. Make a copy of your study guides before you fill them out so that you can go through them afterward and test yourself. Practice the material without looking at it - this can be done by writing things down or saying them out loud. Practice in front of your dog (or cat! Practice in front of your siblings! Practice in the shower. Practice, Practice, Practice.
3. Chunk your problems.
Chunking is basically practicing understanding why and how you solved a problem. After you solve a problem, rehearse it. Make sure you can solve it cold—every step, every time. Pretend it’s a song and learn to play it over and over again in your mind, so the information combines in a way that you can pull it up whenever you want.
Lesley Martin has been working in education over the last 20 years. She currently works with students privately as an Academic Success Coach and is the CEO of Class Tracker, a company she founded that creates customized academic planners for middle and high schools and students. Lesley has published two books: Where’s My Stuff: The Ultimate Teen Organizing Guide and Make the Grade: Everything you need to Study Better, Stress Less, and Succeed in School.