A Smarter Approach to Learning Jessica Leigh Have a break Accessing your different modes of learning Your brain has two modes of learning: • Focussed mode: this mode is used when you are concentrating intently on something you're trying to learn or to understand; • Diffuse: this is more relaxed and related to a set of neural resting states. Evidence has shown that in order to learn something new your brain needs to switch between both modes. It cannot use both modes at the same time. Having a break in your work, allows you to switch from the focused mode to the diffuse mode. In this mode you look at things broadly. You can make new neural connections travelling along new pathways helping you to get to the initial place you need to be in to find a solution to the problem. This is particularly useful when you have been stuck on a problem for a long period of time. Pomodoro Technique Tackling procrastination The Pomodoro is a mental technique used to help prevent procrastination. To carry it out, all you need to do is set a timer to 25 minutes, turn off all interruptions, and then focus. The most important thing to do afterwards is to give yourself a little reward. Repetition Converting short-term memory to long-term memory To prevent knowledge you learn from being forgotten, it needs to move from your short-term memory into your long-term memory. The best way to do this is through repetition. The best type of repetition is called “Spaced Repetition”. This technique involves repeating what you're trying to retain, but space this repetition out. Extending your practice over several days does make a difference. This is because research has shown that neural structure is built by doing a little work every day. To increase the chances of being able to access the information that is stored in your long-term memory when you need it, you need to revisit it at least a few times so make sure you also repeat information you have already learnt! Sleep A healthy brain needs sleep Sleeping causes the shrinkage of your brain cells, allowing fluid to flow past them as there in now a larger space between them. This fluid washes the toxins from between these cells out of your brain. Less toxins means a healthier brain and so more sleep means a healthier brain. Sleep also allows your brain to organise your thoughts. Less important memories are erased whilst memories that you need to remember, like your studies, are strengthened. They are strengthened by your brain repeating neural pattens to deepen them. Dreaming about your studies helps you further understand what it is that you are trying to learn. To increase your chances of dreaming about your studies, go over what you’re learning right before you go to sleep and think to yourself that you want to dream about it. This will increase your chances of having a study related dream. Chunking Remembering things easier Chunking allows you to link different pieces of information together through meaning. This chunk is easier to remember and many chunks can be fit together to allow a bigger picture to form. Once a chunk has been created, you don't know need to remember all the little underlying details as you have got the main idea. To form a chunk follow these steps: 1. Focus your undivided attention on the information that you want to chunk; 2. Understand the basic idea of the chunk you are trying to form; 3. Gain context on the information you are trying to chunk. This will allow you to see how and how not to use the chunk. This is crucial to your understanding of the chunk. Interleave your learning Mixing your studies Interleaving your studies involves mixing different topics or techniques together to improve your learning. This makes learning more effective as it enables information to be better retained and develops your creative power in that subject. This results in you more easily linking chunks together in and between disciplines. Recall What do you really know? By trying to recall information you are trying to learn, you can see just how much of this you have actually retained versus what you think you have retained. By combining recall with repetition, over a spaced out period of time, you will not only be able to remember much more but also be able to access the information when you need it. To practice recall, try reading a text and then covering it up. Say aloud what you have learnt from the text. Then read the text again and repeat the recall exercise. You will notice that this time you can recall more of the information.