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How Do You Learn?

You must understand how you learn. First, take some time to understand how you assimilate new information into your long-term memory. Then take the following learning style assessment to determine what type of learner you are and how best to adapt your studying habits to most effectively learn and understand the material. Then take one or more of the study habits assessments to determine which of your study habits may be weak.

 

What is learning?

Learning means that you take inputs from your environment and encode them into your long-term memory. It takes effort to learn material. Simply sitting in a classroom is not enough. Read below to understand how effective memorization occurs.

 

Store sensory inputs into sensory memory.

As you take in sensory inputs, such as the sights and sounds from a lecture, you have to actively attend to the inputs in order to move them into long-term memory. The first step involves the brief storage of sensory inputs into your sensory memory. Your sensory memory has a large capacity but can only hold information for a brief time. If you do not give these new inputs attention to move the information into your working memory, it will fade away. You do not have time in class to take each piece of new information and act on it; therefore, taking notes is essential to learning new material. Without them you will have no chance to later rehearse the information in your working memory.

 

Move information into working memory to build long-term memories.

When you move information into your working memory, you simultaneously retrieve related information and schema from your long-term memory. By acting on the combination of the old and new information, you build new long-term memories. Because the effectiveness of your working memory depends on retrieving the schema related to the subject, it is important that you understand the schema for the subjects you are studying.

Result: You will learn the material so that you can use it later. These long-term memories will now be available to you the next time you need to learn new material and when you need to recall them for exams.

 

Understanding your learning style and preferences.

Understanding your learning style and preferences can help you better grasp the course materials. You might  struggle when your own preferences for learning differ from the way material is presented. You may be a visual learner or an aural learner. Other students may learn better through reading and writing, while still others may learn best through kinesthetic means. Recognizing your style can help you develop ways of reformatting material in ways that better match your style. 

We recommend the VARK learning style assessment.  The VARK questionnaire is free for students. 

 

Assess your study habits.

Take Virginia Tech’s Study Skills Checklist to determine which study habits may be weak for you and your attitude about them.