Why your ‘study type’ may no longer matter – and what to do instead
Few would seriously claim that lockdown is fun for all of us, all of the time. However, it may present the best opportunity you’ve had in a while to pause, take stock, and think strategically about the way you work best.
For example, it was once widely thought that if students knew which learning strategies best suited them, they’d learn more effectively and efficiently. So, from the 1980s, tailored learning approaches were fashionable, as educational theorists devised questionnaires to identify four main kinds of adult learners.
- Activists (those who learn by doing)
- Theorists (those who like facts and concepts)
- Pragmatists (those who experiment with ideas and the way they work)
- Reflectors (watchers and thinkers)
The idea was that you just had to find your own learning type and stick with it, and success would be yours.
Inevitably, however, and perhaps unsurprisingly, in reality things aren’t quite that straightforward. Over the years, a number of variations on this theme have been bandied around. But in more recent times, there’s been a definite shift in favour of a more holistic approach.
For example, Simon Gamble, an academic study skills developer who works in Bristol, told a national newspaper in one interview that, for example, just describing yourself as ‘a visual learner’ could be limiting and mean a student became stuck in a rut.The idea used to be that you just had to find your own learning type and stick with it, and success would be yours. But in more recent times, there’s been a definite shift in favour of a more holistic approach. Click To Tweet
In any event, according to Gamble, everyone should be learning actively. For example, that could include imagining how you would teach a subject to someone else. After all, if you can clearly explain a particular topic to someone else, you can genuinely be said to have conquered it yourself. Conversely, if you wouldn’t be able to pass on your understanding of a topic to others, it would be hard to claim that you’d really got your head around it.
Of course, the way you study is obviously a highly personal matter, so you do still need to work out your own strengths and weaknesses. This will allow you to identify any barriers to efficient learning which may have been holding you up.
Getting ‘exam fit’
Here are some of our final thoughts on getting yourself ‘match-fit’ for your next exam. Clearly, current circumstances mean that life is very different from ‘normal’ (if indeed you can even remember what that was like…). You may well be juggling childcare with working at home, or you may find you have a less structured day than usual.
However, you can use these days judiciously to prepare for your next exam. And while we’ve no doubt mentioned some of the following points before, it’s worth stressing them again. Rather than ponder or worry about what ‘learning type’ you may be, focus on the following:
- Have a timetable both for studying and other aspects of your life.
- Draw on any life experience which may stand you in good stead for your course, and don’t undervalue it.
- Remember that ‘quality’ breaks will maximise how effective your revision is. A full-on 20 minutes is much more productive than an hour spent being distracted.
- Split your ‘to-do’ list into urgent and routine tasks, keeping things realistic so that you don’t feel overwhelmed.
- Remember to keep testing yourself to reassure yourself that you have truly understood a particular topic.
Finally, of course, keep in touch with colleagues, friends, and family via electronic means during these tricky times to remind yourself that you’re not alone.