Study For Success: Ten Top Tips on How to Become a Better Learner
Do you ever remember being taught how to learn? Probably not, because the subject of how to become a better learner isn’t high in the curriculum.
Yet learning is a fundamental part of human nature. We were born to learn, we are curious by nature. And, whether we consciously know it or not, we yearn to improve ourselves daily.
So, if you are interested in discovering how to become a better learner yourself, or to assist your staff with their employee development, we have compiled our top study tips in one easy-to-read article.
Why it is important to know how to learn successfully
First things first, there are absolutely no downsides to learning. It is only ever beneficial.
Learning enhances our career opportunities, makes us more desirable as an employee, but also from a personal standpoint, it opens our minds to everything around us. From casual interactions to meaningful relationships, not just now, but as we continue through life.
There are numerous ways in which we can learn – reading or listening to content, online study and virtual classrooms, in-person seminars, asking the experts, seeking help from our peer group, and many more.
Ultimately though studying successfully, and discovering how to become a better learner, starts with developing the right mindset.
This takes time and effort, as we have to train our brains, take on a growth mindset, and control the ability to learn in any environment, without putting ourselves under unnecessary pressure.
One way we can do this is to set realistic targets.
1. How to become a better learner with SMART goals
SMART goals are nothing new. You have probably come across them as an employee when your personal and professional development and annual performance targets are being set.
Here at the Education and Training Academy though we strongly believe in the same concept, as they can be used for personal goals, aims, and desires, as well as in the workplace.
Establishing realistic targets lays the foundations for successful learning, by splitting goals into Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound tasks.
All of this together removes undue pressure and that dreaded feeling of overwhelm.
Speaking of which, whether you will be studying part-time alongside a day job, at home with your little ones causing havoc as you read or achieving additional qualifications whilst keeping your social life intact, trying to fit everything in takes dedication, commitment, and organisation.
Our next tip in how to become a better learner is to make sure you are as organised as you can be!
2. Use your time effectively and create a study diary
Tempting as it may be to dive headlong into something new and exciting, your learning experience will be enhanced all the more by allowing yourself time to plan and prepare.
A study diary keeps all your learning module launches, classroom sessions, online tutorials, assignment deadlines, exams, and other important study dates all in one place. And if you are that social butterfly, capturing your personal commitments together with your study diary means no more missed assignment deadlines or coffee catch-ups and gym classes!
Plan ahead to use all available time efficiently, even if it’s just a quick read-through of an upcoming module, or to refresh yourself on previous lesson notes. Catching up on an online lecture whilst you’re washing up or walking the dog. As a certain supermarket says, “every little helps.” And if you can slot tasks into any spare time you have, you’ll soon start to notice how quickly you’re progressing.
If you are attending classroom lectures or tutorials, always plan to ensure prompt arrival, and incorporate travel time.
You’ll get the best from your online study sessions, too, if you first get used to making sure everything you need is close to hand, building in your break times, and having a formal start and end to your session.
Being organised stretches beyond your study diary. Using your time effectively around your studies is just as important.
Food preparation and batch cooking – how many of you have considered this?!
It may take some getting used to and seem a pain to start with. But when you’ve been sitting at your desk for a couple of hours, after seeing to the children, or working all day too, the last thing you want to do is cook from scratch.
Structure and healthy study habits create the most effective learning environment. We’ll come back to this later.
3. Write to-do lists
Alongside your goals, a to-do list in your diary will keep a clearer focus on the tasks against each of your SMART goal deadlines, and enables you to schedule realistic timescales, knowing what else you have going on at the same time.
We’re looking to keep your stress levels low wherever we can. So, guiding you through how to become a better learner includes writing to-do lists … and encouraging you to stick to them!
Of course, a whiteboard or notice board near your desk or study area can be just as effective to keep your study tasks clearly in view. You should use whatever methods work best for you.
The next step is to prioritise your workloadbybreaking down those tasks into smaller, more manageable, chunks.
4. Bitesize learning
We appreciate that learning something new, or even a refresher course, can be challenging, with all the work you must complete.
You could spend more time looking at the list than you would in using your study time effectively to complete the tasks.
Deadlines loom and panic sets in. You start to tick off the quicker, ‘easier’ things first, leaving the more time-consuming and complex ones until later. This could be detrimental to your performance and results, and none of us want to see you go through this experience.
So, once you have your list, rewrite it in order of priority of completion, no matter how long it will take you to finish, or how complicated each task may appear at first.
It’s quite normal to feel more fear about starting something than actually doing it and finishing it.
Breaking those prioritised tasks into smaller, specific, measurable, and attainable goals will help in becoming a better learner.
You might think it more efficient to carry on working when your head is telling you to have a break. But in fact, it will be counter-productive. Your brain can only take so much in at one time. The likelihood of retention of the course material is therefore increased if you set yourself an achievable learning plan.
Know your limits! And don’t be afraid to set boundaries around your study time.
5. Take clear notes
In understanding how to become a better learner you might think taking clear notes is a given. You might also be surprised then at how often we are called on to help a student piece together their study notes or make sense of their scribbles. But taking better notes is not just about writing clearly.
Listening attentively, being present and fully focused, and thinking about what you are writing also count.
One final piece of advice here is to try and write in your own words.
We won’t always be there when you go back over your course notes, or revise for an assessment or exam. So, re-phrasing what you are being taught, in your own style and so it makes sense to you, is just as important as your writing being legible.
6. Create a simple filing system and storage space
Take the time to set up a filing system to keep those notes, learning materials, revision prep, and useful information.
Hard copy files in coloured or labelled folders. Or virtual folders on your laptop – you never know what you will need when it comes to assignments and exams, so make your labels logical for you, and easy to find.
Be mindful that you might need additional storage capacity too.
And remember to back everything up!
7. Test yourself
Setting goals, ticking off tasks from your to-do list, and having a snazzy set of folders on your desk are all great. Even better if you know you are progressing.
Check your knowledge regularly as you go through your course to make sure you have a clear understanding of what you are being taught.
Monitoring your progress, highlighting your strengths and weaknesses, at specific stages of your learning journey will make finally completing your qualification much easier.
You can learn from your mistakes as you go along, find out which areas you need to improve on, and where you can focus on maintaining a strong performance. Either way, it’s all part of your experience in how to become a better learner.
Staying on track isn’t always easy, particularly if you are studying remotely.
Self-testing is actually a great way of holding yourself accountable for your progress and success.
You could also set mini-goals, and keep a note of them, so you can reward yourself as you work your way through. Find something that will encourage you, keep your engagement and enthusiasm to continue learning.
Self-accountability comes naturally for some. For others, simply writing down your goals and working from willpower and determination alone might not work so well.
In which case, you might want to consider an accountability partner or ‘study buddy’ to help you out.
One note of caution though, use your time wisely and to your benefit. Remember, this is about how to become a better learner, not just finding someone to keep you company!
9. Stay calm and ask for help
OK, so it may be easier said than done when you have deadlines looming, lectures you know you must attend, and exam revision to squeeze in.
But panic or overwhelm doesn’t help.
Study groups – use all the support you can. There is always someone on hand to help if you just ask. Finding a study group or a study buddy might help. You’re not on your own, and if you have any questions, I’m sure there will be at least one other student on your course with the same or a similar question.
The team here at the Education and Training Academy is always on hand to pick up any queries or to talk through your concerns. And if you would like more guidance on how to become a better learner, just reach out.
Your achievements are our goals too, so it’s in all our interests to work together.
Oh, and one last thing.
10. Remember the importance of sleep and exercise
We touched on healthy study habits earlier, and it is important to remember that the mind and body work together to keep us operating at our optimum performance level.
Catching the full recommended eight hours might be difficult. But studying late into the night, on top of other commitments, is not sustainable either.
If you don’t manage enough sleep to keep you energised and clear-headed, meditation is an ideal way to relax, help improve focus and concentration. It’s something you can try at any time, and a meditation session can be as short as a few minutes to still feel the benefit.
Our final point is to ensure you are also exercising sufficiently to keep your mind and body in tip-top condition for learning.
Set time aside at least to get out for some fresh air breaks, a morning walk, an evening gym class, or an online yoga class.
Your body and your mind will thank you for it, and your results will benefit too!
The Education and Training Academy wants to make sure you enjoy your learning experience, so we hope you have found this article on how to become a better learner useful and of interest.