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What Is Your Learning Style?

Your primary learning style is normally classified as "visual," "auditory," or "kinesthetic." There are tests you can take to see which of these three is used most by yourself, and you can use this self-knowledge to learn more efficiently. For example, if your primary way of processing new information is visual, imagining things in your mind is a good way to make them "stick." Writing things down or otherwise physically using information helps those with a kinesthetic style. Listening to taped information is a good way for auditory learners to remember things.

In a broader context, though, a persons learning style is a unique combination of these primary forms of processing information as well as the way in which various techniques and personal idiosyncrasies are used. For example, if you remember facts better when you study in the morning, then you should study important things in the morning. Also, particular techniques, like the memory technique of linking a set of facts or items in a story, might work well for you.

By learning how you most easily process information, noting how other factors affect your ability to learn, and then by testing various techniques, you can develop a unique learning style that works best for you. The following are some elements you may want to include.

Techniques to Incorporate in Your Learning Style

Get in the habit of studying with the idea in mind that you will be teaching the same material. As you study something, imagine how you will teach it, even hearing the words you will use. This is a powerful way to get a good grasp on new information.

Imagine how you'll use the information. There is so much information to remember, and so little of it is the "important stuff." When you imagine how you'll use the new information, you tend to automatically focus on the things you really need to know.

Habitually compare and contrast things. Tell yourself, "That's like...," or "How is that different from..." The concept of the e-mail newsletter auto-responder was new to me, but I really started to understand how to use it when I thought, "It's like having someone to do all my addressing and mailing for pennies a day." I started to ask all the other important questions.

You can learn more effectively with curiosity and anticipation working for you, but how do you create this state of mind? One way is to leave a learning session with a question or two clearly in your mind. This creates a sense of anticipation and curiosity that will help you the next time you approach the material.

Take breaks. Research shows that we remember best what we studied first and last in a given session. Taking breaks creates more "sessions," and so increases the number of firsts and lasts. Getting up and moving around during your breaks can also keep your mind fresh.

To learn new material, expose your mind to it as soon as possible, even before you feel "ready," or have time to study. This first stage of learning is the confusing part where you look at new ideas and say, "huh?" Do this quickly, however, reviewing everything for a few minutes, and your unconscious mind will start "incubating" the new concepts, and finding some way to organize them.

I haven't seen any studies on talking and learning, but it obviously boosts your learning skills. Socrates told his students to talk about what they were learning, and it's still good advice today. Talking is like thinking aloud, which may lead you to a deeper understanding of the material. The other benefit is that you remember things better when you talk about them.

To sum up, learn how your mind processes new information. Then try various learning techniques and make the ones that work for you into habits. Oh, and take those personal idiosyncrasies into account too. This is how you develop your own effective ways to learn.

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