Understanding your learning style is great for self-awareness – provided you don’t narrow your options. Keep an open mind
Everyone learns in different ways. You might find lectures enormously effective, while your friend would rather read a textbook. One person may like to have a task demonstrated practically before attempting it; another may want to get stuck in, even if that means they risk making errors.
However, just because you fall into a certain category of people – and enjoy optimum results from a particular learning style – this doesn’t prevent you from experimenting with other techniques. Don’t allow your learning style to control you. Awareness of how you most successfully retain facts and principles can help you gain confidence and become relaxed about learning in any environment and in any medium.
If you know your own learning style, then you have the capability to observe others. Discuss alternatives with friends or with your fellow students – you might be surprised at what you find out. Armed with these insights, challenge yourself to try some new tricks. For instance, reading may tire you after 15 or 20 minutes, but perhaps effective readers feel the same way. Instead of giving up, however, they break their required reading material into shorter chunks before moving on to another topic or learning in a different way. If the distracting noise or even the presence of other people in the classroom impairs your ability to take anything substantial away from lectures, try listening to taped notes on a personal stereo or MP3 player. Blocking out surrounding sound, and even closing your eyes, can help you focus intensely on the words and discover that you do respond to verbal stimulus after all.
By investigating why certain learning techniques work for other people – and by refusing to accept that they can’t do the same for you – you’ll open up a whole new spectrum of options, and variety is a key factor in avoiding learning fatigue.
You may wonder why you should bother adapting your learning style – or even identifying your own style to start with. But with so many demands on your time, shouldn’t you exploit every learning opportunity in order to face the exam hall with greater confidence? And when technology and the Internet offer an increasing range of learning options, surely it makes sense that you’re more naturally suited to some but need to work a little on how you use others? You have to know which ones need most attention.
Once you understand the style in which you most effectively learn (and have satisfied your curiosity about mastering and tailoring other techniques) you will experience a most enjoyable and welcome feeling – that of being in control.