Learning how to learn: a short overview of course materials

How to learn better and be more effective: simple and useful techniques

I looked at the Coursera “Learning how to learn” course , which tells how to study better, memorize information and be more effective, and compiled a list of 17 tips. You may find them useful.

  1. Pomodoro Technique : 25 minutes of focused focused work (classes, reading, etc.) without distraction and rewarding yourself at the end of the session.
    The technique got its name from the kitchen timer in the form of a tomato, which was used by its author Francesco Cirillo.

    You turn off everything that is usually distracting (sound on the phone, email, etc.), then set the timer for 25 minutes and immerse yourself in work.

    25 minutes is the time during which any person is definitely able to focus and not get tired. You can adapt this time a little for yourself (for example, change it to 30 or 24.9 minutes - freedom of opportunity!).

    Afterwards, be sure to reward yourself somehow: take a walk on the Internet, watch a video with cats, make yourself a cup of coffee, etc. - it will fix a useful “reflex” that a good job brings pleasure.

    This technique also has another positive effect, described in the next paragraph.

  2. Step by step in small pieces.

    It is better to memorize information in small parts with pauses between them, instead of trying to learn everything at once. This allows you to create fragments in your head - tightly connected thoughts and pieces of information that help your “mental puzzle” become more and more complete.

    The best metaphor here is a brick wall: if you spread it level by level, letting it dry, you will get strong, even masonry; if you try to throw all the bricks and cement into a pile at once, you will get nothing but a strange mess.

  3. There are 2 modes of thinking :
    - focused - when you are completely in control of your thoughts and literally follow them;
    - absent-minded - when you relax and let your thoughts flow calmly in your head; it often helps to find a solution when you are a bit “stuck” in some kind of idea.

    Thomas Edison and Salvador Dali used this mode of thinking. When they worked on a task and at some point reached a dead end, they sat down in a chair, picked up some object that could be heard when they fell, and fell into a light sleep. When the item fell out of hands and hit the floor, they woke up, and a solution was usually found.

  4. Recollection (recall from memory) : when you learn something, try at some point to break away from the source and try to recall what you just read or heard. This works much better than just reading it again, because sometimes it seems to us that we remember something, looking at the text, when in fact we just find out what we read.

    This technique avoids the illusion of knowledge.

  5. The illusion of knowledge - when it seems that you know something simply because you understand what you hear or know what you read. This also happens when you focus and memorize light material (instead of working with difficult material too).

  6. Purposeful practice - when you do not just read and learn something, but try to understand it as deeply as possible and practice regularly.

    Many people think that the secret of mastery of the best world experts in their field lies in their certain sacred talent, unattainable for mere mortals. However, in most cases, focused practice is exactly what distinguishes a good student from a brilliant one.

  7. Memorization is not a good practice when you learn the same thing over and over, as if driving it into your head. In some cases, this is useful - for example, when you are rehearsing your speech to address a large audience (and in other cases, when a bit of automatism is welcome). But this will not work well if you overdo it, and can form “settings”.

  8. "Installation" (German: " Einstellung ") - when you learn something, perform some action or think about something again and again. So you form a stable template and can block the finding of other options.

  9. Transfer - when you use some kind of approach or principle of thought, not only in the area where you formed it, but also in others.

    This is my favorite technique since it allows you to understand how many laws and principles in the world are universal.

    You can take a simple example: I know that if you do the exercises regularly and for a specific purpose (for certain muscle groups or to improve stretching, etc.), I will get a strong body of the shape I need. And then I take this principle and transfer it to training: if I do exercises to improve memory, speed of reading, improve understanding of the material, I will learn faster and better, i.e. I will get a brain working in the way I need.

  10. Creating metaphors and analogies helps to better understand and remember. This works especially well in relation to some abstract things (like some elements of higher mathematics). The brighter the images you create, the better.

  11. Change your thoughts and you will change your life. History of Ramon-e-Cajal.

    Santiago Ramon y Cajal is a Spanish doctor and histologist, one of the founders of modern neurobiology, who, together with Camillo Golgi, invented the modern method of staining nerve tissues. As a child, this scientist did not differ in exemplary behavior and at the age of 11 was in prison. But at the age of 20, he begins his journey in the field of classical medicine, and, thanks to his efforts and constant focused work, he was able to achieve great results, receive the Nobel Prize in physiology and medicine and become famous in history as the father of modern neurobiology.

  12. After making the decision, mentally step back and look at it with the “right hemisphere”.

    When you focus on something for a long time, trying to solve a problem or understand the material, you become too focused on the details and may “not see the forests behind the trees”. Take a short break and try to see a big picture of what you are doing, and whether the meaning of what you want to say is clear.

    The left hemisphere helps to see the details, but it is the right hemisphere that allows you to summarize information and understand something in general.

  13. Start with the difficult - jump to the simple.

    When you need to complete a task (for example, a test), review the entire list and stop at the one that seems the most difficult. After you read and understand the meaning of the assignment, think over it for a while and move on to simple assignments. By doing so, you will move your complex task to the diffused mode of reflection, as discussed above. When you return to that task, you will find a solution much faster.

  14. Change the interpretation of your body's signals.

    If you are nervous (for example, before an important meeting, an important event or exam) - your hands are sweating, your heart rate is racing - change the interpretation of these signs from “I'm scared” to “I'm excited - mmm, this will help me better great pleasure to complete the task! ".

    The fact is that there is a physical sensation or other signals that the body gives us, but there is their understanding at the level of what this means. And these two processes are independent - in the sense that we are able to teach ourselves to “translate” these signals in a variety of ways.

  15. Deep belly breathing can help if you are nervous. So you control your “run or fight” reaction , which is issued by the sympathetic nervous system in stressful situations.

  16. Create a list of questions to help you evaluate the quality of your work and see if it is really worthwhile.

  17. Imposter Syndrome (+ more in Russian ).

    Sometimes, when you are in the company of colleagues or fellow students, it may seem that you are not as smart, competent, knowledgeable as the rest. As if you were an impostor and were among them by mistake.

    In fact, almost all people experience this feeling at different times in their lives. According to a survey conducted on the course’s website, only 5% of respondents said that this never happened to them. This means you have 95% unhappy friends.

    The most important thing is to simply let go of your thoughts on this matter, continue to work, strive for growth, communicate with colleagues and work with them in a team. And you may even find out that you are not alone in your fear.

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