Categories: Studying Techniques

Learning by Doing 

By  Lysette Offley

Learning by doing. Photo of cat of text book

Some people learn best by doing.

If you’re one of those people, you can do worse than to link things you want to remember to things you do that you’re already very familiar with – such as a hobby or directions for making something.

Here are some ideas for bringing ‘doing’ activities into your revision. Give it a go and notice what works well for you.

Once you’ve made your notes, trace the keywords in the air with your finger. It might feel a bit daft at first, but if it works for you it could make a huge difference.

When you make revision notes – doodle! Doing something as you learn – even fiddling with something – it all helps.

Role-play. Mime and imitate or act out the content of your notes.

Move around. Try learning in different positions. Maybe sitting at the desk isn’t the best place for you after all. Experiment by lying down or propping yourself up on a cushion and see what keeps you the most comfortable the longest.

If possible, use modelling clay to make models of what you’re learning.

Take frequent study breaks. That’s important for everyone, but especially for you. Take steps to avoid getting bored or distracted. Keep your revision purposeful by doing it in short bursts.

Use a computer. The tactile sensations help the information to go in.

Hold your book or your notes in your hands rather than leaving them flat on the desk. And make notes and doodle while reading.

Try standing up to explain a concept to someone, or standing up to talk through your notes.

Walk or exercise as you learn.

Collect stuff relevant to your subject. Go on field trips.

Try listening to calming music in the background. Most people find they’re distracted by the lyrics so try music with no words first. Give it a go. If it helps you to concentrate – good! If it makes things worse, then you’ll know not to do it.

In lectures, sit at the front of the room, where you’re less likely to get distracted by noise and activity elsewhere.

Avoid cramming, and set up organised and regular study periods. Ring the changes. If you usually study in the evenings, once in a while study in the morning – vary it up a bit.

And finally, remember the Serial Position and Zeigarnik effects. We tend to remember information at the beginning and end of revision sessions and the brain will seek to make sense of information when it’s interrupted. So…

Deal with tricky stuff at the beginning and the ends of revision sessions.

Have short revision sessions of 15- 20 minutes or so. Go away and do something else for 5-10 minutes and then return to it. Work out the best rest intervals for you.

Try new ways of studying. Keep the activities that work, and ditch the rest.

Good luck!

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Lysette Offley

Genius Maker & Founder of Genius Material and The Genius Principles. Working with professionals who need exceptional academic & professional development.

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