3 Learning How to Learn

Key Point
Habits can be the best of friends or the worst of enemies.

Build Good Habits.

The key to success in any activity is to develop effective skills.
Practice builds skills
Athletes develop athletic skills; musicians develop musical skills; managers develop managing skills; learners need to develop learning skills. Developing skills means building good habits.

Develop the Habit of Mental Self-management.

Mental self-management or metacognition is the art of planning, monitoring and evaluating the learning process. To be good at metacognition means you have to know the options. Here are the major choices.

Identify your best learning styles - visual, verbal, kinesthetic, deductive or inductive.

Monitor and improve your learning skills - reading, writing, listening, time-management, note-taking, problem-solving.

Use different learning environments - lecture, lab, discussion, study groups, study partner.

Try to complete the learning cycle - For most courses, the learning cycle goes like this:
  • Memorize new information, rules and concepts - often tedious and boring.
  • Assimilate and organize this information - often hard, but interesting.
  • Use this information to analyze, synthesize and problem-solve - often difficult, but satisfying.
  • Incorporate this information into evaluations, judgments and predictions - often powerful and exhilarating.
Many students never get past the first step. They never experience the joy of learning.

Develop the Habit of Positive Thinking.

Use it for increasing confidence and self-esteem. Use it for setting goals and enjoying learning. Use it for taking charge of your own education. See Section 2 for more ideas.

Develop the Habit of Hierarchical Thinking.

Use it for setting priorities and for time management. Use it for summarizing ideas and for organizing information. See Section 10 on organizing information.

Develop the Habit of Creative and Critical Thinking.

Use it for making decisions and solving problems. Use it for synthesizing and creating new associations. See Sections 20 and 21.

Develop the Habit of Asking Questions.

Use it for identifying main ideas and supporting evidence. Use it for generating interest and motivation. Use it for focusing concentration and improving memory. See Section 6 on asking questions.

10 Steps for Building New Habits
  • Select a new habit or technique you want to develop, like one found in this book.
  • Convince yourself it's important.
  • Make it fairly easy to do.
  • Write out a schedule for working on it.
  • Practice using the technique, keep track of progress.
  • Reward yourself after each practice period.
  • Use your habits as often as possible, both in simple and in new situations.
  • Use a coach, teacher, tutor, group or friend.
  • Identify internal blocks, e.g., lack of time, poor self-esteem, procrastination, poor techniques, lack of success, lack of confidence, stress, poor organization, poor reading and math skills. Seek help if necessary
  • Start small, take one step at a time and enjoy each success.
Copyright 1991 Donald Martin, How to be a Successful Student


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