Just finding out your learning style isn’t enough to improve your study – you need to actively apply that information to how you study!
Sometimes students complain that their teacher isn’t providing information in their preferred style, as if that means that they cannot learn the material or that they are at a disadvantage – luckily that is not the case. It is what you do with the learning material that matters. Even if your teacher provides the material in your preferred mode, if the only thing you do is to look at, read or listen to the material, you are likely to quickly forget it. Instead, you should actively engage with the material, no matter how it is originally presented, using your preferred learning style.
For example, if you have a Visual learning style, you might draw a diagram to represent what you are learning, if you have an Aural learning style, you might discuss what you are learning with other students, and if you have a Read/write learning style, you might summarize what you are learning in your own words.
The key is to make sure that:
- You are putting effort into thinking about what you are learning, making sure you understand everything and that all the parts fit together.
- You are relating what you are learning to other things you already know, to your experiences, and to real-world examples.
With that in mind, here are some active study strategies that you can use, for each of the learning styles (of course, if you have a multimodal learning style, you’ll probably benefit from using strategies from more than one of the lists):
Active Visual Strategies
There are several visual strategies that you can use to make your study more active:
- Mind maps: Mind maps are a visual way of organizing information. They are useful for summarizing a large amount of information and making connections between different ideas.
- Flashcards: Flashcards are a simple and effective way of memorizing information and checking that you can recall rather than just recognize the information. You can use flashcards to memorize vocabulary, formulas, or other key concepts. Use Visual clues on your Flashcards e.g. diagrams, drawings, colors.
- Diagrams and flowcharts: Diagrams and flowcharts are useful for visualizing processes and relationships between different concepts. They can help you understand complex ideas and retain information more easily.
- Infographics: Infographics are a visual representation of data or information. They can be used to summarize key points or to present information in a more engaging and memorable way. When creating your infographics, remember that it is not just about visual appeal – visual elements such as color and layout should be used to add to the meaning by organizing and emphasizing information.
- Color coding: Color coding can help you organize information and make it easier to remember. You can use different colors to highlight key points, important dates, or different categories of information.
- Sketchnotes: Sketchnotes are a visual form of note-taking that combines text, images, and symbols to help you retain information. They are a fun and creative way to engage with the material and make your notes more memorable.
You can apply the above Visual strategies when you are taking notes in class, taking notes while reading, when doing assignments, and when studying for a test or exam.
Even if the material is presented to you in a Visual way, make sure that you actively create your own Visual representations. By doing so, you will make your study more active and engaging, which can help you retain information more effectively.
Be sure to practice turning your diagrams back into words if you are required to write your test or exam answers.
Active Aural Strategies
Try these Aural strategies to get more actively involved with your learning material.
- Class discussion: Join in on class discussion – don’t be shy about asking questions and sharing your own thoughts. The process of talking things through and listening to feedback from others can help you clarify your ideas.
- Study groups: Joining a study group can be a great way to discuss the material with others and hear different perspectives. You can also use this opportunity to quiz each other and explain concepts to one another.
- Flashcards: Make flashcards – and use them verbally with a classmate.
- Test yourself: Make your own questions – and answer them verbally.
- Teach someone else: Summarizing what you’ve learned out loud can help reinforce your understanding of the material. You can do this by explaining concepts to a friend or family member, or by recording yourself and listening to the playback.
By using these Aural strategies, you can make your study more active and engaging, which can help you retain information more effectively.
Be sure to also practice explaining things in writing if you are required to write your test or exam answers. While writing, it can help to imagine you are talking to your teacher and writing down what you would say.
Active Read/write Strategies
If you have a Read/write learning style, these strategies will help you engage with new information:
- Take notes: Taking notes is an effective way to engage with the material and help you remember key concepts. You can write notes by hand or type them on a computer – but remember that although it is tempting to try to write down everything verbatim, writing notes in your own words is important.
- Create outlines: Creating outlines is a great way to organize information and help you see the big picture. You can use outlines to summarize key points or to structure your writing.
- Write summaries: Writing summaries of what you’ve learned can help reinforce your understanding of the material. You can write short summaries after each section or chapter or write longer summaries at the end of a study session.
- Make flashcards: Writing flashcards can help you memorize information, especially if you’re studying vocabulary or other lists of information. You can write the term on one side and the definition on the other.
- Write essays: Writing essays can help you synthesize what you’ve learned and apply it to real-world situations. You can write practice essays on topics related to the material you’re studying.
By using these Read/write strategies, you can make your study more active and engaging, which can help you retain information more effectively.
Active + Strategies
No matter what your learning style is, you will need to integrate new information with what you already know and relate it to real-world experiences or examples if you are to truly understand it and be able to apply it in new situations. So remember to:
- Take notice of real-world examples. Participate in field trips and laboratory sessions to get some hands-on experience.
- Take time to think about how what you are learning relates to other things you know about. Look for contrasts and contradictions and examine these more closely to get a more in-depth understanding.
- Try to imagine different perspectives on the material you are learning. Discuss the ideas with others or investigate historical ideas.
- Put what you are learning into context – how does it relate to your course as a whole? Why do you think this material is included in the course? How will it be useful in your everyday life or in your future?
- Be aware of what you don’t fully understand.
Ask questions if you are unclear about something. The process of formulating a question and explaining what is confusing can help clarify the information. Look for answers on the Internet, in books, talking to others, and asking the teacher….
Put extra time into studying the material that is more difficult for you.
For more information about the benefits of Active Learning and for further suggestions about how to study more actively: