Super Study Techniques: Peter Bjork’s Method
You’ve probably heard before that people learn in different ways. Some are visual learners, some learn by doing things hands on, etc. The “learning styles” system is something that’s been around for some time in education. Is it really true, though? This study published in the journal Psychological Science might suggest otherwise, that learning styles aren’t exactly the whole truth to how we go about learning (or the key to help teach students, for that matter).
I’ve always assumed myself to be a hands-on type of learner. I like to try things for myself and learn from the outcomes. Hearing this got me to thinking, however, perhaps the way I’ve been going about learning isn’t exactly correct. Is there a better way for me to remember things I’ve read? Can I master new skills faster if I try something different?
Then I came across Robert Bjork’s works on studying and learning, and I sincerely wish I had found them when I was still in university (and no, before you ask, he is not related to the Icelandic singer that shares his namesake). He’s written an excellent article called “How to Succeed in College: Learn How to Learn.” It’s a very good read. At one point, quoting a student of his, he writes, “people are not, in general, good judges of what’s best for the in studying and learning…some recommendations may seem counterintuitive.” Indeed, reading down his list of note taking and study techniques, I did find a few things that I found a little odd. Allowing myself to forget things is actually helpful for learning? I wish I could have told that to my German professor. Be wary of teachers who make you feel all there is to know about a subject? Well, if that’s the case then my German prof did a pretty good job, I guess. He backs these claims up with some pretty interesting notes though, and the more I read his work the more excited I got about it. That’s right, excited. Reading his many (many) articles made me want to learn.
Eventually I found myself watching some interviews he did for goCognitive that have been posted on YouTube (I’ve posted a good one at the bottom if you’d care to take a look). They may not be the most riveting things I’ve seen on the internet lately, but I all the same I felt a real connection to them. I could appreciate him saying that learning was the ultimate survival skill—as dramatic as that could sound, it’s true both in the sense hunter gatherer survival and survival in the modern day workplace.
If you want to brush up on your learning abilities, I’d recommend taking a little time to check this stuff out. Here’s a link to a helpful PowerPoint presentation talking about his techniques as well, just in case you want another source to read.
SURVIVOR: EXAM EDITION
By Jocelyn McLean
It’s that special time of year: all of the men on campus have shaved off their Movember ‘staches, Starbucks has changed over their cups, and holiday music is playing everywhere you go.
In the meantime, you’re bent over a textbook and substituting food for caffeine.
If you’re like me, the winter exam period is particularly hard. The days are short, with what feels like 6 hours of sunlight – even less, if you live in Vancouver, where December brings mostly rainy days and a blanket of fog. While Christmas is my favourite time of year, memorizing facts and figures really puts a damper on my holiday spirit. More importantly, because Christmas break is so much shorter than summer break, I am that much more eager to be finished with finals so that I can fly back home and stuff myself with holiday treats. That being said, we do have to get through it – so here are some things I’ve learned over the course of my degree.
KEEP A SCHEDULE
When my brother was studying for his CA, he treated studying like it was a full-time job. I have always tried to adopt this strategy during exam period. At the time, it may seem like a good idea to stay up until 4AM studying – but this will either cause you to sleep in until noon the next day, or to wake up early after having slept poorly. Maintaining a regular sleep schedule is key to being on top of your studying-game.
My health is usually the first thing to slip during exam period. I find myself making excuses. I don’t have time to go to the gym; I don’t have time to cook healthy meals. I slowly turn to a life of pizza and Red Bull. While I think it’s fair for anyone to succumb to a meal like this once in awhile, it should be an exception – not a rule. If you know you won’t be home to make yourself lunch or dinner, make a trip to the grocery store and stock up on healthy, portable snacks and meals. If you can’t make time for your regular workout routine, make sure to fit in half an hour of exercise into your day – this can be taking a walk on a study break, or riding your bike to campus.
One of the first things I do at the beginning of exam period is write out a detailed list of all the things that need to get done, in no order of time or importance. While this list can appear overwhelming at the beginning, it also gives you tangible rather than abstract goals that can easily be prioritized and scheduled. It also enables you to create a study schedule that caters to your own habits. For example, some people have trouble studying one subject for 8 hours straight. If this is the case, break up your day into sections so that you never lose focus on what you’re reading. Which brings me to my next point…
This can often be the biggest challenge, and everyone has a different way to deal with it. Some people cannot study alone, and others can’t study with friends. Know your habits, and optimize them. Ideally, I like to study with friends who are excellent at maintaining focus. What we do is give ourselves periods of time where we not only have to stay focused ourselves, but we have to enforce focus in others. We schedule breaks where we take 5-10 minutes to chat, watch stupid videos, or grab a snack. Then it’s back to the grind. If you don’t need your laptop – don’t bring it. If you do need your laptop, and cannot keep yourself away from All Things Social Media, try downloading an app like Self Control (http://selfcontrolapp.com/), which allows you to block certain websites for a specified period of time.
TREAT YO SELF
Last, but certainly not least – reward yourself for your accomplishments. This can be anything: watching an episode of your favourite show after a long day of studying, treating yourself to an Eggnog Latte after three hours of reading, or buying yourself a nice dinner after writing an exam. Exam period can be stressful, and looking forward to the little things can be just the thing to get through it.
Good luck, everyone, and happy holidays!
The middle of September is upon us and the work is starting to pile up. How do you keep that motivation? It’s incredibly easy to mark your pages, set the work aside to do later, and forget about its deadline coming up in a couple days. Getting off to a productive start in the morning is a fantastic way to keep meeting your goals. By the time lunch rolls around you’ve already accomplished so much. Then you have the freedom to work on more assignments (since it’s still so early) or to do other things you’ve been putting off that week. HackCollege has curated the 6 best tasks students should make a habit of before noon.