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StudySwitch - Making your Learning Stick

Learning is an active process, one that we are involved in and we contribute to, we can shape our own learning, and how our new knowledge sticks in our minds. In this section, we are going to talk through some ideas about how we can make learning stick.

Talk it through

At university- level study, there are lots of opportunities to talk about your subject; whether that be formal discussions in seminars, through to informal chats over your favourite drink. Take every opportunity you have, to share the things you’re learning. The more you talk about concepts and theories in different settings, the more you are applying your learning. It is often in the application of learning, that it sticks and makes a memory.

Take notes, real notes

It can be tempting to either sit back and relax during a session, or it can be tempting to go to the other extreme and write every single thing that the lecturer is saying. How about trying some new ways?

  • Drawing – you don’t need to be an artist but drawing what you are hearing is an effective way of you actively interpreting the content as you are hearing it. It can make it more likely to stick into your long-term memory.

  • Summarising – think about what the key points are and write these down. The act of processing which points to summarise, will mean you are working with the knowledge in a more active way, which in turn could make that learning embed more.

  • Self-explanation – this one takes a bit of practise, but the theory is that if you self-explain concepts, rather than writing it out verbatim, you’ll be actively working with the content as it is entering your memory. This can be especially useful if you are looking at a complex diagram - you can self-explain the elements to yourself, breaking it down into components and actively interpreting it. Want to find out more about self explanation? Take a look here.

Be a participator

In group settings, or when asked for contributions, make every effort to truly engage. These opportunities allow you to be a more active member of your learning experience. Academics really value all student input, and it will provide you with some opportunities to link with your peers. Take the step of contributing and you won’t regret it.

Immerse yourself

If there are times that you are struggling with a concept, or finding it difficult to make the learning stick, use the wealth of information in our library databases, to find a way to access topics in a way that suits you. It could be that a theory doesn’t quite make sense when you see it on paper, but finding a video about it, or visiting an interactive website might make it suddenly click into place.
Your learning doesn’t have to be contained to particular hours or particular locations – embrace the fact that you are studying a subject you love. If you can, visit relevant landmarks and locations that encapsulate what you are learning, this will help bring your learning to life even more.

Hints and tips from our students

  • Shannon (Second Year Sports Therapy) “I have found that while revising a topic it is beneficial to ‘teach’ this to someone else. This can be anyone, they don’t have to be on your course. By explaining the topic to someone it requires you to re word and helps you retain more information.”

  • Olivia (Final Year BSc Forensic Science and Criminal Investigation) “I found some alternative ways for learning, for example spider diagrams, making information into a song, post it notes, creating acronyms, etc. If you have exams, maybe test friends on what is going to be on the exam. This is another way of remembering what others haven’t remembered.”

  • Shannon (Second Year Sports Therapy) “During lectures I take rough notes and then write/type them up neat when I get home. This means by the end of your course you will have a large document containing everything you have learnt. You can also organise this into modules so it will be easier to refer to.”

  • Maria (First Year BA Journalism) “By trying out different methods- typing, on paper, recording the lecture etc, it means you can continue with the method that works best for you. But don’t just sit there, try and make some notes.”

  • Shannon (Second Year Sports Therapy) “Try not to be scared to ask questions because asking questions is what will deepen your knowledge and make you better at your desired profession. If you really do not feel comfortable, then write your questions down and get the tutor to address them at the end.”

  • Olivia (Final Year BSc Forensic Science and Criminal Investigation) “Never worry about asking questions, more often than not someone else is thinking the same but is worried about asking the question. Also, something we get told a lot by lecturers is there is no such thing as a stupid question, which is very true. It is better in the long run to ask a question and understand what is being said.”