Strategies for Learning:

Utilize Critical Thinking when analyzing new information:“Tell a man you disagree with him, and he will turn away. Show them facts and figures and he will question your sources. Appeal to Logic and he will fail to see your point”. -Leon Festinger

This phenomenon is known as Cognitive Dissonance, when you encounter information or facts that contradict your current beliefs or ideas you will tend to undermine contrary ideas to restore mental consistency. This is an issue for Critical Thinking since allowing your own mind to limit what you can learn base on past or current beliefs will limit your possibilities; instead, dare yourself to be uncomfortable, examine your own beliefs and do not disregard opposing information based on opinions. Always use the same strong analytic approach you use to disprove a contrary argument on your own which will amplify your understanding of the big picture.

Create Strong Positive Associations:“Cells that fire together wire together” -Donald Hebb

When a baby hears footsteps coming up a staircase, the baby gets excited because his brain associates that sound with positive feelings of being pick up and hold. When you see an old friend that always make you laugh, your mood improves before he or she even says a word. When you’re an adult your brain is constantly reshaping those connections and when you learn something new, you do so by creating a new association; for example, if you are learning a new language you will associate new words to images or concepts that are related to it.

If you are struggling to understand a difficult concept or start a new habit, start by breaking it down and creating a positive association that is repeated constantly and simultaneously on a schedule. For instance, I have recently started a habit of walking in the mornings which has proof to be a challenge since not every day I have the right mood to go out on a walk; however, by associating walking with a minimal optimal goal ( 5 minutes on my worst day) and a specific time frame (first thing in the morning) and the motivational factor ( the feeling of progress towards the goal of improving my wellbeing) I have been able to keep it up and go on longer 15-20 minute walks. Each time you repeat a habit you are activating those associations, reinforcing that connection in you brain, making it easier for you or harder if is a bad habit. When you take on a new project the biggest risk is not advancing slowly but the propensity to give up when a goal is unreasonable, generic or undefined.

Make it Meaningful- “Learning is achieved when knowledge is revisited through active participation and reasoning to construct Meaning”. -Jerome Bruner

When you are a kid and they want to teach you about science, they take you to field trips and show you fun experiments and then you grow a little bit and learning becomes more boring, long and you start seeing dull textbook with complicated concepts; then they wonder why there are million of students dropping out of high school and college every year.

Learning can be challenging but fun at the same time, you don’t need to wait for a full educational system reform to develop your own learning system. We do not learn by a passive absorption of information; therefore, in some cases after reading 30 pages of material you could find yourself knowing nothing about what you are reading.

Identify key concepts on a material and get exposure to different learning methods, if you are a visual learner make a graph or read it out loud and record it if you are more auditive learner; make it simpler, more familiar and above all more memorable by studying with a goal and making the time you spend studying more meaningful. A great professor once told me that if I was not able to tell him out loud what I knew about the material I read, is because I had not mastered the content. This was difficult to understand but it is true, if you can’t tell someone with your own words what you know is because your knowledge is insufficient. There are many factors and resources involved on learning but all the responsibility and the consequences will rest upon you, your mind is powerful and able to keep on learning and accomplishing anything you set a goal for if you are aware that 15 minutes of intentional learning is way more worthy than two hours of apparent study while your mind wanders around what to get for lunch or other responsibilities.

Now that you know these three Learning Strategies which are Critical Thinking, Association Building and Constructing Meaning, take a break or better on take a nap!!!; then come back and review the strategies. Once more take a few hours to do something else and then test your Mind; –Are you able to remember what these three strategies are?

This is based on another tip coming from Bluma Zeigarnik (Russian Psychologist 1901-1988) that conducted numbers research that indicate that the interruption of a task, as impractical as it sounds, has proof to increase their chances of the task being remembered.