Sunday, August 9, 2009

Learning Styles

This week’s subject, learning styles, is a valuable tool in your arsenal. Learning styles are, well, the techniques you use to maximize your learning possibility. Knowing your learning style will allow you to study more efficiently and retain more information by reaching the optimal level of concentration.

First of all, why should we care to know? It all begins with your concentration (which is as unbreakable as an eggshell, right?). A psychologist named Anne Bradley described concentration to consist of 3 levels:
  1. Light Concentration(LC): This first stage of concentration is easily broken by any and all kinds of distractions. This is the concentration we walk around with from day to day, and often use when we multi-task.

  2. Moderate Concentration(MC): This second stage of concentration is a little more durable than LC, but can still be broken by small distractions such as checking to see how many pages you have left, someone talking to you, etc.

  3. Deep Concentration(DC): This is the level where we all want to be. In deep concentration, you are focused on nothing but the material at hand. Concentration is not easily broken here, and is also the level where we retain the most information.

Ideally, the first two stages are “warmups” and should only take about 10 minutes to complete before we go into DC. The ideal 1-hr period should look like:
5mins - LC
5mins- MC
40mins- DC
10min - Break
That almost never happens. Instead, our one hour period is plagued with interruptions, and every time you have an interruption, the cycle starts over and you begin at the LC stage again.
An obvious solution to this problem is to eliminate all outside distractions, or things you know will distract you. Study in a quiet room, or in the library. This is your personal preference, so do whatever works for you. For instance, to eliminate my distractions, I wear headphones and listen to music I am familiar with. That way, I’m not concentrating on the music and I can’t hear anything that is going on around me.

Now that you are filled in, we can get to business.

The main benefit of knowing your learning style is knowing the best and quickest way your mind becomes interested, in order to get to DC. There are several models created by psychologist and educators that aim to give a label to the styles. They may be called different things, but they basically mean the same. The first style is Auditory, which means you learn by listening. Visual learners learn by seeing things, and Kinesthetic learners learn by doing things (hands on work). Most people have traits from all three styles, which require a mixture of techniques.

I am sorry to say, I will not include how to determine your particular style in this article. I will however refer you to sources in which you can. These test, based on several models such as the Kolb’s Learning Style Inventory, Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, and the 4MAT system, are very detailed quizzes. You can find formal versions of these quizzes at your college learning or testing center, often for free or cheap. Websites such as www.learning-styles-online.com/inventory/ offer free inventory test to give you a ballpark idea of how you learn. Sites like these also go into detail as to what your results mean to you.

Now that you have a roundabout idea of what works for you, its time to start implementing it! “Well how to I do that?!” Calm down baby birdies, I’ll feed you! Depending on what you “are” (visual, auditory, kinesthetic), different techniques shall be used:
Visual
  • Use highlighters to mark important points

  • Use computers,videos, and filmstrips.

  • visualize information as a picture


Auditory
  • Make speeches and presentations

  • Read text aloud

  • Use mnemonics


Kinesthetic
  • Take frequent study breaks

  • Chew gum while you study

  • Work in a standing position


These are just a few of the many things you can do (more can be found at http://www.ldpride.net/learning_style_work.html ,to which I credit these tips). As an added bonus, having a good knowledge of learning styles in general will help you adapt better to a professor’s teaching style. Teaching styles are much like learning styles, you have auditory (primarily lecture), visual (lot of board-work and examples), and tactile (hands on like a chemistry lab). Knowing your professor’s teaching style will allow you to know how to combat the onslaught of knowledge they attempt (key word, attempt) to pour into that vast wasteland of abstract potential that we call a brain. Teaching styles may seem a little confusing, but do not fret, it is on the list of topics to be covered by this series of articles in the future. For now, just worry about making the most of your study time.

In short, knowing your learning style can help you reach your optimal concentration point, which helps you retain as much information as possible!

The “next week’s topic” will from now on be announced on Twitter (@studyingsmart if you haven’t followed yet). This is not a desperate attempt to get people to tweet, this is simply for the exposure that the blog desperately needs.

Be sure to follow us on Twitter (@studyingsmart ) and subscribe to the blog on Blogspot (www.studygeeks.blogspot.com), which is where the blog is originally posted then ported over to Facebook. Happy Studying! (and happy Fall semester for many of you!)

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