Learning Techniques

I’m a learning product designer. I have to consider several factors while designing a product for maximum effectiveness. I’m always on the lookout for new techniques based on research. Here are some learning techniques based on research in the fields of education, neuroscience, cognitive psychology, etc.

  1. Attention/Motivation: The more you pay attention, the more you’ll learn. Attention comes from motivation (mostly intrinsic, sometimes extrinsic).
  2. Relevance/Engagement: Is what you are studying relevant to your life? Can you apply the concepts to the real world? Are the concepts relevant to the events or things in the real world?
  3. Passion/purpose: If you are passionate about something, you’ll be motivated to learn about it. If you also have a purpose, you’ll be the best.
  4. Prior knowledge: Knowledge and skills are built on top of existing knowledge and skills. Higher order learning is helped by lower order or prerequisite knowledge.
  5. Time on task: As the adage goes – practice makes perfect – the more you practice, the more you learn. Hence the concept of homework. Time on task matters (but see item 3 below).
  6. Deliberate practice: Deliberate practice means you practice only the skills that you need to develop and not spend time working on things you have already mastered.
  7. Feedback: Couples with practice, feedback keeps you on right track, making sure you understand the concepts.
  8. Spaced repetition: Reading the same thing a few times spaced over a period of time improves retention. The first time, you remember some, you forget most. The second time, you remember some more, and so on.
  9. Retrieval practice: Practice recalling concepts from memory instead of only studying. Writing down what you learned, taking quizzes, etc. helps.
  10. Metacognition: A bit tricky concept, metacognition is the knowledge about your knowledge. If you know how much you know, it would be easier to learn what you don’t know.
  11. Fail productively: Try to learn yourself even if you fail multiple times. Guidance/explanation after exploration/failure helps learning.
  12. Experience: The more you experience different things in life (places, food, culture, etc.), the more you’ll be able to creatively apply your learning in any discipline.
  13. Prolonged focus: The ability to focus for long durations without getting distracted (yes, facebook can wait!).
  14. Inspiring teacher/mentor: A large majority of successful people had a teacher or a mentor who inspired them to accomplish what they wanted.
  15. Mixed sets of content: Working on different types of content in the same session instead of similar content helps retain content longer.
  16. Study in different locations: Studying the same content in different locations somehow helps retention.
  17. More to come …

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