Saturday, September 25, 2010

Six methods for Successful Learning

In a recent article by Roald Hoffmann and  Saundra Y. McGuire in the September-October issue of the American Scientist, the magazine of Sigma-Xi, we are given a list of valuable methods of successful learning and teaching. The full article is found here. The learning strategies are:

  1. Take class notes by hand, don't rely on handouts. Each evening, rewrite your notes, compressing and adding to make sure that you really understand.
  2. If you miss a class, get notes from a friend that you must copy and work through. Again, avoid class handouts as the sole source of information.
  3. Form study groups and mix individual study with group study.
  4. Treat textbook examples as worked homework problems. Master the method, not simply the solution. Practice working problems without assistance (as in an exam setting).
  5. Teach the material to others.
  6. Set your goals realistically.
You will recognize here several notions that are often repeated to our physics students. The sooner you can master these techniques, the more quickly you can master physics. One interesting technique for doing well on exams is to practice making your own version of the exam. What would the instructor ask and why? What is important to know to master the material? Asking yourself this sort of questions and figuring out the answers is a valuable technique for mastering the exams and the material.

The teaching strategies are also important and can give a learner good ideas about how to best learn. See the article for more details.