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15 Does and Don’ts in learning

Stress is one of the largest enemies of effective learning. Try to be calm when you start learning.

  1. Focus on the process, one bit at a time.

  2. Start soon, leave yourself enough time to practice and understand the material.

  3. Start small, do not set unbearable goals. Commit to 25 min of focused attention at a time.

  4. Set a timer to assist you in focusing for 25 min, prepare yourself a reward for success.

  5. Test your understanding by using the new knowledge. Do it to avoid illusions of competence that we often have after hearing or reading ideas that look logical. We do not know what we don’t know till we try to use them. :-)

  6. Let other people challenge your knowledge.

  7. Recall the material and explain it to others in order to better understand.

  8. Take breaks after you have focused on a new topic. When you play sports or walk outside, having a small talk, your brain continues to “play” with the new concepts.

  9. Have you heard about inventors dreaming of their new invention or students waking up knowing the learned material? No magic! Our brain is restructuring the learned information during the night sleep so if you have learned and practiced, good night sleep can help to put the final dot in your learning.

  10. When you listen to a lecture or read through the material, it is stored on your working memory. This memory is temporal. To store the new knowledge in the long term memory, one should use it with spaced repetitions. Try to recall what you have learned and use the new knowledge repeatedly over several days, gradually increasing the time between repetitions.

  11. Combat procrastination to by eliminating the cues that lead you to your favorite procrastination routines.

  12. Plan the next day tasks from an evening. Useful both for learning and for organizing children :-).

  13. Use visualizations and positive emotions to memorize, for example jokes, images, songs, associations can help memorizing material. I have tried this technique with my children on the memorising of a multiplication table.

  14. I haven’t used the last technique myself. Dr. Barbara Oakley suggests to start from the hardest problem on exams, continue till you get stuck and then switch to more easy ones. This lets the brain to continue working on the hard problem in the diffused mode and increases chances for solving. Sounds logical. I’ll be glad to hear stories of those who tried.

Based on the course on learning how to learn by Dr. Barbara Oakley and Dr. Terrence Sejnowski

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