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Learn how to learn 

Being conscious of how you learn will help you understand the academic content better 

   

As a student, you not only have to be conscious of what you learn, but also how you learn best, and why you need to learn what you are learning. The best way to learn varies from person to person, but being curious about what you do when you learn something new will make you better at learning in the future. 

When learning something new, whether by reading a text, listening to a lecture or writing an assignment, it is important that you can stimulate your thought processes in specific ways to help you understand the content. In other words, you need to use a cognitive strategy to help you develop your academic knowledge. 

Cognitive strategies 

Below are various cognitive strategies, some of which you are probably already using – either consciously or unconsciously. The strategies are useful when starting a new study activity, e.g. reading a difficult text or writing an assignment, but you can also use them if you get stuck with your reading or writing. In each their different way, they help you to understand what you need to learn. 

1. Planning and objective

Planning and setting goals is about being able to develop plans for your work and envisage a process. It’s about your ability to define a purpose and see the meaning or intention of a study activity. This will make it easier to set goals for your work – sub-goals as well as end goals. Planning is also a matter of prioritising and being selective, because there is not always enough time for everything you want to do. You will be more conscious of the purpose of your work and how to approach it. 

  1. My goal is... 

  2. To achieve this goal, I will... 

  3. My priority is to... 

 

 

2. Familiar knowledge

Drawing on familiar knowledge is about your ability to exploit knowledge you already have on a given topic. It’s about mentally extracting experience, knowledge or skills relevant to the study activity you are currently engaged in. Your knowledge in the area may be fragmented and inadequate, but it can still push you forward, and perhaps encourage you to ask curious questions to be addressed further. You will become more aware of what you know and don't know about the topic. 

  1. I think that...​ 

  2. I already know that... 

  3. This reminds me of... 

  4. This is related to... 

 

 

3. Questions and predictions

Asking questions and making predictions is about homing in on your study activity by asking relevant questions. These may be questions about the author of a text, the purpose of an assignment, typical characteristics of the genre or something else entirely. Your questions will help you direct your attention to the most relevant parts of your study activity and find your focus. They will also help you make predictions about the future. Perhaps you imagine that your study or survey will lead to certain results or to a specific conclusion. Your questions as well as your predictions will help to build momentum for your process. You will become conscious of important focus points in your assignment or in your study work.

  1. It puzzles me that.... 

  2. How is it that... 

  3. What if... 

  4. I bet that... 

  5. If x is y then... 

 

 

4. Constructing the core

Constructing the core is about spotting the main points - the most important aspects - of what you are engaged in; be it a text, a lecture, a discussion or something else entirely. Visualise the content and make meaningful connections between the different points. Organise the content so that you can refer to the most important aspects and start making preliminary interpretations. You will become conscious of the core of what you are engaged in. 

  1. I imagine that... 

  2. The core of the matter is... 

  3. I can best relate to... 

  4. This reminds me of... 

 

 

5. Monitoring and reconstruction

Monitoring and reconstructing is about being able to track or observe your own work process. This entails that you continually guide the direction of your thoughts, ideas and decisions, and adjust your opinions and actions, so that the process remains or becomes constructive and meaningful. During the monitoring process, stop to look back, and ahead. Where are you headed, and are you on the right track? Clarify and weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of your work process. You will become conscious of whether you are making meaningful progress, and thereby prove or disprove the value of your work. 

  1. It’s clear to me that... 

  2. I need to reconsider whether... 

  3. I’ve gained new understanding of... 

  4. It’s unclear whether... 

  5. I'm not sure, but... 

  6. I was wrong because... 

 

 

6. Reflection and relations

Reflecting and relating is about your ability to relate to the content of your work and reflect on both content and form – i.e. reflect on what you are doing and how you are doing it. Go back and reconsider your choices and trade-offs. Link your work to other areas, places or contexts. You will become conscious of the importance of your work – both your process and your product. 

  1. This is relevant to me because... 

  2. Personally, I think that... 

  3. The main point is that... 

  4. It’s important because... 

 

 

7. Evaluate

Evaluation is about your ability to review your work and assess its quality. Do this by asking questions about your own work and considering it in relation to the criteria set for your work, either by yourself or by others. In your evaluation, take a critical approach and ask questions. What works well and not so well, and why? You will become aware of the value of your work, what it means to you and to others, and what is meaningful about your work. 

  1. It worked well that... 

  2. It was not good that... 

  3. It would have been better if... 

  4. The most important thing is... 

 

 

Use the strategies in your study group

The strategies are also useful in your study group. For example, when reading a text, each of you can test a strategy and then share your knowledge and experience with the others. In this way, the group as a whole will get more out of the text. For example, one group member can make a comparison with a similar text, one can summarise the main points, one can ask critical questions about the text and one can consider how the text can help address an academic problem.


See also


Get a study space

Many students benefit from having a study space. See the facilities offered to students by the State and University Library. You can also ask your department about the possibilities for a study space.