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Learning how to learn – Preparing and exploring
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Learning how to learn – Preparing and exploring - Module 1: Learning How to Learn - Smarter Learning - Improve Your Study Skills and PracticesOne of the easiest ways to really understand learning how to learn as a process, rather than as a series of individual activities, is to apply it to a section of the course you are currently studying. Choose a section that is complete in itself - for example, a block of the course - and that leads to an assignment.
It is suggested that you read through the whole of this section and its associated activities, and then decide how you might apply it to your own work on your current course.
When you want to try this out for yourself, you will need to allocate some of your (study) time to completing each activity in this section. Even if you have a very tight schedule, it will be time well spent. Some students have found that working through this process affects their approach to study in a way that both enhances their performance in the short term, and has lasting effects on their learning.
We can represent the process of learning how to learn in a diagram with four phases : preparing, exploring, reviewing and implementing
Step 1 - Preparing for a section of study and an accompanying assignment is an essential part of the process. In this phase, you are encouraged to pause and think ahead about how and when you will tackle both studying the material and the assessment task itself.
Step 2 - Exploring is the phase when most of your studying is done, by both working through the course and preparing for the assignment.
Step 3 - Implementing covers the actual doing of your assignment - producing the assignment in a form that can be sent to your tutor.
Step 4 - Reviewing is the phase when your work is returned. Lessons from this phase may well help you in the next circuit as you prepare for another section of study and the next assignment.
In the preparation phase you should pause before starting a new section of work and think about it as a whole. What needs to be covered? What are the various components of this block of work? What are the learning objectives or outcomes? What will you need to know and be able to do at the end of it? What is required in the assignment?
There are two main activities during this phase, both directly related to your course work and assignment:
1. Analysing the task
2. Making a plan.
This involves you in analysing both the learning task, (e.g. working through the text, other readings, calculations, experiments) as well as the assessed task (e.g. the assignment). It is important to work out from the start just what this part of the course requires you to do as well as to know.
2. Making a plan
Studying does demand that most students need to plan their work and there is evidence that target setting and appropriate planning can enhance performance. Plans can be as general or as specific as necessary depending on your purpose and preference. Remember to take into account any awareness you have of your preferred ways of working - your learning skills, styles and strategies.
An action plan can be just a list of things to do, a chart giving deadlines, a diagram showing how the various parts of your plan interact, or a set of post-its on a sheet of card that you move around when each task is done. But do remember that your original plan may well have to be modified as you work towards your final target.
This is the phase when you will be studying your course material, using and developing your learning skills.
The two activities of this phase are:
1. Studying the materials
2. Monitoring your progress
1. Studying the materials
This is the period when you will be working on your course materials in preparation for the assignment. This may include working through written or electronic texts, any other associated reading or media components, possibly attending a tutorial, accessing any other information that you need and making notes or records of it.
As you study and prepare for the assignment, you may need to use skills or techniques in which you are less confident, possibly those identified during the preparing phase. If so, try to consciously work on the skills that need developing rather than struggling through course material, ignoring areas or activities you find difficult.
2. Monitoring your progress
Of all the components in the learning how to learn process, this is probably the most difficult. As you study, you need to make a conscious effort to monitor your progress while working on the course, always with the main task in view. This is where a flexible plan devised in the preparation phase can be revised, particularly if you meet a difficult patch.
Knowing when help is needed and where to go for it is important, especially if you discover that your learning skills need improving. Sources of help may be formally provided in the course materials, through your tutor or from an administrator. Some courses offer help online - make sure you know what is available and make use of it.
Other sources of help may be informal - other students, self-help groups, friends or colleagues.