When I was a student, I had to learn and remember a lot of information to pass my end-of-year exams, and I did so in various ways.
I’d start off by reviewing the notes and handouts from my lectures, and I’d rewrite them by hand. This helped refresh my memory, and clarify the information in my mind. If I didn’t understand something, or wanted more detail, I would do some further reading or research around the subject.
Next, I’d condense my notes, writing them in as few words as possible, and type them into an easy-to-read format. I used bullet points, bold font and underlined text to identify important points. Next, I’d highlight different themes in a variety of colors to help me memorize them more easily.
The next step was to write out the main points from my word-processed document onto postcards. I would also include questions, and put the answers on the back, so I could test myself when I was on the move. Another method was to stick fluorescent pieces of paper all over the house – on the kettle, in the lobby, in the shower (I waterproofed it!) – to help me remember what I’d learned.
As well as writing things down, I also learn by listening. Although I hate the sound of my own voice, I used to record myself reading my notes, as well as chapters from books and journal articles, to help me absorb the content. I’d play the recordings on my tape player (remember those?!) when I was travelling: I even used to listen to them before I fell asleep.
Of course, learning in the workplace is different from when you’re at school, where the focus is about putting your learning into practice rather than passing exams.
We recently asked you “How do you learn best?” on Facebook, and we received some great responses so thanks very much for your contributions!
Like me, Tammy Demps learns by reading, and Anita Poole by “reading aloud, or writing down what I read.”
However, many of you learn best by working alongside other people. Audrey Orieux said, “A good training course is when you can express your ideas by brainstorming.” She also mentioned how the Six Thinking Hats technique can be a useful exercise for exploring different perspectives, and learning from others.
Jason Fisher agreed that “collaboration with like-minded people can bring solutions to the front.” Similarly, Ruben Nitschke said, “My preferred learning style is discussion, giving my ideas on a topic, as well as listening to arguments and ideas of others.”
Other people said they learn best by “doing.” Jessica Huang said, “A ‘baptism by fire.’ Dive in and learn along the way!” I completely agree with this. It’s no good knowing the theory about something if you can’t apply it in real life. However, you need to have the support from your manager and team members for this approach to be successful.
For many of you, creating the right environment is key. Sonia Clauzel and Gina Mason both mentioned that they listen to music when they’re trying to learn. I can see how relaxing music might work for some people, but I find it difficult to absorb information if there’s any kind of background noise. (If I’m trying to get my head around something particularly complex, I listen to “white noise” to drown out any distractions. It really works!)
One of the best comments we received to the question “How do you learn best?” came from Diana Thompson-Sorric. “I have recently started sitting on a stability ball to sit through long, boring meetings. Listening to a lecture is a very passive activity and your brain goes into sleep mode, much like a computer. By adding the proprioceptive feedback by bouncing, rocking or rolling keeps the brain awake and ready to receive input!”
I don’t know about you, but I’d like to try this suggestion in my office. What a great idea!
So how do you learn best? We’d love to hear from you. Please share your thoughts and comment below!