By now, diligent, vigilant followers, you have read Fariya’s post on learning styles. Sometime in elementary school, we had to take a written test to determine our learning styles, for what purpose I am not sure. This did not result in each student’s style being incorporated into class work, or homework. But I did learn that I am a kinesthetic/tactile learner (and, to a lesser extent, visual), despite my hatred for sports.
Tactile learners are “doers.” They need to do. Apparently, many of us can’t sit still; I think this trait was forced out of me at an early age, but the urge to get up still happens. Like, right now.*
Because I would previously spend 4+ hours trying to read a paragraph of a long-winded academic literary 30-page argument by Some Guy, I figured it was time to radically change the way I study.
The only thing I learned is that I should skim, not read, my readings. That way they actually get done.
This doesn’t mean these random study skills won’t be useful to you.
- Move around while you study. (Better results if you’re not directly next to another human being.)
- “Jitter”: chew with your mouth closed, play with Play-Doh, walk around the room, do some small action that calms your nerves.
- Make a recording of your notes and jog while listening to them. You can have a computerized voice read text to you with this.
- Use the computer, if you’re a disenchanted paper person; it uses your sense of touch (the keys) and is interactive; make notes, to-do lists…
- If you already use the computer for everything, try switching to paper; the change in the feel of your work may alert you a bit more.
- Take notes on non-lined paper (this I stole from Josh). Lines, like, inhibit your creativity, man. You gotta be freee, y’know, stick it to The Man … man.
- Charts and diagrams: make them.
- Models: make them (and attribute all their success to your “discovering” them).
- Flash cards: use them (or make them).
- Determine how long you can concentrate for, then break your study time into intervals of that length. If you can only focus for half an hour, do so, then stop for maybe five (and only five) minutes. If you can only focus for five minutes, really focus, then … look at the ceiling or meditate for two. If that actually works, tell me.
- Make use of our super-techno 21st-century world and watch videos, listen to audio, or find images to make tangible, or … tangi-fy whatever you are studying. Example, YouTube. Instead of searching “Falling Cat”, try “mitosis.” I would, but microscopic images often lead to microscopic images of insects, which lead to screaming and nightmares, thank you.
I had dreams of reading while knitting (very hard to do), writing notes solely in doodles (possibly impossible) and incorporating the sewing machine into studying. No. Which brings up another excellent tip (by me?!):
- If there is absolutely no way your subject can be interesting, do one thing, one tiny, minuscule thing, every day — or one bigger thing every week — that relates to what you actually enjoy or any ulterior motives you may have for the future. This way, when it’s time to study and you don’t want to, you can tell yourself, “Oh. I already attended my improve class this week,” or “I already wrote a paragraph of my Great Canadian Novel today.” Example: I went to an IGDA conference on Thursday, centred on starting an independent game company. One of the guys on the panel said his mom still tells him to “get a real job.”
What is the point of all of this? Well, a discussion was had, and we (the UpbeaT team) came upon the topic of students feeling detached from their work/area of study. When said work feels like it has no relevance to actual LIFE, one might not feel like doing it. There has to be some way for students to take a more active role in studying, in assignments, in their undergraduate rampage as a whole, lest they wind up like this.
(Although, once you hit that point, you may need to take another direction entirely.)
Drama students can see productions of plays they have to read. Not sure how enjoyable labs become after the 100th one, but biology/ecology/____-ology students have mandatory hands-on experience. Poli sci kids see their subject happening every day, on the news, in print, whatever… I have yet to find a way to make literature come to life, save for reading it, or finding film versions that deviate way too much from the original.
It feels as if one’s undergraduate vocation should be something the undergrad is attuned to, and they should love it and want to be a part of it/have it be a part of them. That would be better than … reading a ton of garbage you don’t care about because your parents told you to. As Fariya mentioned in her post, there are signs of life in various professors’ ways of teaching. I, personally, have been given the opportunity to draw an essay** in a graphic novels course. Another professor allows us to put current events up for discussion before lecture begins, and another course of mine has an impending “creative intervention” project that may or may not involve culture jamming. I don’t know … if, in general, we could be more creative with studying, even if the things we study are unbearably boring/pointless to us, maybe we’d have fewer kids dropping out. There’s more to be said on this, but my stomach hurts.
For a later day, the fourth learning style: Ninja.
* (goes upstairs for fifteen minutes)
** Please, I beg you, someone do this again. I’ll take your class. I don’t care what it is.***
***But not calculus.