Tips to learn better

High school education is demanding. Students are supposed to learn a lot of new material in a short period, and it can be normal to feel a little overwhelmed—but feeling intimidated doesn’t mean you are!

Tough academic difficulties can lead to self-doubt, but high school education is a wonderful opportunity to improve your learning skills, and there are many techniques available that make it easier to learn complex concepts.

The Feynman Technique

Feynman Technique is a research method created by Nobel Prize-winning scientist Richard Feynman, who argues that often people train in a manner that unconsciously prioritizes “knowing the name” of a word rather than recognizing it. His strategy, which relies on learning to enhance comprehension, involves the following steps:

Write down a description of the concept; make it as clear as you can and stop using terminology. During this stage, do not consult the reference content. Remember which parts of the concepts you have had difficulty describing and checking. Repeat Step 1 again before you can explain the whole process. Once you have fully written an explanation, try to clarify the explanation more, without making it less substantive. Use this move to determine whether there are any other elements of the definition that you still do not have confidence in and need to revisit.This technique forces the learner to consciously generate new content on the concept they are learning, and therefore prohibits them from relying on inefficient memory-based research methods.

The ADEPT approach

Kalid Azad, a math instructor and curriculum expert, has developed the ADEPT approach as a means to make it easier to understand complex concepts. The acronym explains the five stages of the process to learn new content.

  1. Analogy: Explain the idea by comparing and contrasting.
  2. Diagram: Draw the idea
  3. Example: Give an example
  4. Plain English: Explain it in everyday words
  5. Technical Definition: Provide formal details

Writing about a subject using analogies, illustrations, explanations, and plain English forces you to learn about it creatively from various perspectives. This research process results in the development of several separate conceptual images of the idea you are learning, which makes it easier to recall.
To integrate ADEPT with Feynman, replace Feynman Step 1 with ADEPT, or use ADEPT to develop the initial understanding and then use Feynman afterwards. Azad’s description of his approach goes into more detail about the ADEPT mechanism and offers several math-centric explanations of how it works.

Mental spacing

Mental spacing is a consistent, well-paced practice in studying. It gives emphasis to mastering multiple topics over a longer span of time, rather than concentrating on one topic at a time.

The “not understanding” process of learning a novel concept can be exhausting, which makes it enticing to concentrate all your attention on mastering it as soon as possible. Unfortunately, this is an inefficient method of studying complicated knowledge.

By learning mental spacing, you will also become more mindful of the concepts that you learn easily and need to devote more time to. This will help you schedule your research time more effectively and more confidently.

Track your learning

Mental spacing makes it easy to track your learning, and is a perfect way to make it easier to set learning targets that are realistic, rational, and attainable. By monitoring your research, you can create a log of your success that highlights your learning successes as they arise and makes it easier to set successful study goals.

Like other strategies, this process can be divided into discrete steps:

1.      Write down everything you know about the subject. You will soon grasp the gist of the concept

2.      Write down your learning objectives.

3.      At the conclusion of each study session, write down what you have learned and any queries that exists in your experience.

Following these three stages, you will be given concrete starting and finishing points for your research, and a log of how you went from one to the other. Your objectives can be extended for any amount of time—whatever makes the most sense to meet your needs.

Optimise your study strengths

Whenever approaching a new concept, our understanding of the concept advances through a predictable sequence of phases. Based on the work of Scott Young, an apprenticeship specialist who completed a 12-month MIT degree in computer science, these are the following stages:

1.  Confusion

2.  Initial understanding

3.  Expanded understanding

4.  Refined understanding (identify gaps)

5.  Repeat stages 1-4 to fill gaps

These phases reflect how our brains absorb new knowledge, and we can learn more effectively by learning in a way that maximizes the strengths of this process. For example, evidence suggests that subjects who study the subject twice in one day will learn the subject more slowly than those who study it twice in two days. The method of “finding out something” involves both concentrated and diffuse thinking, which is part of why Archimedes only found out how displacement functions when taking a bath.

Paced learning allows the brain the time to adjust between its “focused mode”—when neuronal activity is centered in the prefrontal cortex—and the “diffuse mode” that doesn’t concentrate activity anywhere. Diffuse learning is more imaginative and fluid than oriented learning is; it takes place while the brain is “at rest” and generates links that are not focused learning.

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