Upgrade Your Learning Ability:
3 Tips to Supercharge your Ability to Learn (L2L)
Here are three big ideas from educational science to improve your ability to learn.
If the bad news is that many people are inefficient learners; the good news is that this ability can be upgraded. Through brain imaging techniques, neuroscience has shown that brains have the ability to form neuronal connections constantly throughout our lives – this is called neuroplasticity. There’s no time-critical window on our ability to learn as was once believed. Learning is ongoing and life-long.
TIP 1: Tap into neuroplasticity and awaken a love of learning by deciding to learn something new every day: new vocabulary, a new language, a new instrument, or a new physical activity.
It doesn’t really matter what it is, choose something that interests you and dive in. The more you learn, the more neural connections your brain forms, and the more you will be able to learn.
Activate your brain every day to develop a habit of learning that will simply grow.
TIP 2: Mix it up
The psychological term is ‘interleave’. Most learners erroneously believe it’s good to learn and practice in blocks of content, largely because they’ve been schooled this way. But in fact, the research shows afascinating outcome – if we mix up topics when learning and practicing them, mastery and long-term retention are improved.(1)
While you don’t immediately notice the effect of this approach, particularly in the learning phase, and it may initially create a sense of difficulty, over time this technique delivers better results – much better than simply spending chunks of time focussed uniquely on one topic.
Mix up topics when learning and practicing.
Tip 3: Embrace Forgetting
Many people see forgetting as the enemy of learning, when in fact it is quite the contrary. Embrace the friend of forgetting – it’s the other side of learning. The brain constantly prunes or forgets material it doesn’t need. We forget because we can’t hold everything in our minds. Forgetting is natural and good. We can use forgetting as an active learning device. Follow every piece of learning with a retrieval moment. In other words, quiz yourself on what you’ve just learned. This offers an opportunity to relearn and this second phase of active learning, provoked by the realization that you’ve forgotten the material, is much more powerful than you may think.
Retrieval is an active learning method that is often overlooked and seen as a chore. We constantly overestimate our own learning, particularly when we enjoy it, and retrieval is the only way to see if you’ve really ‘got’ it. We are susceptible to the illusion of knowing and constantly overestimate what we’ve learned. Use your ability to forget as a clever tool to springboard your learning: test yourself constantly.
Quiz yourself on your learning, you will be surprised!
By using these three simple hacks – setting yourself something small to learn each day, mixing what you want to learn up with other content so that you’re not learning in content blocks, and lastly questioning yourself on what you think you’ve learned – you will develop your ability to learn, enhancing a tool vital to your future.
You may literally be developing a superpower, the L2L superpower, perhaps the superpower needed to survive and thrive in the 21st century. Upgrade your learning power. Start now.
(1) Make it Stick, the Science of Successful Leaning Peter C. Brown, Henry L. Roediger III, Mark A. McDaniel (2014)