Six Steps to an Effective Learning Process

Science tells us that learning is not a byproduct of natural intelligence, but a process dependent on skills like focusing and centering your attention, planning and sticking to a program, and tenacity. 

The precise process or method used for learning has been shown to consistently predict success. Depending on which learning process students used, scientists were able to closely predict their GPAs.  

Following are six of the most important elements of an effective learning process:

  1. Find Value – Finding relevance is why we decide to invest our energy, and commit to goals despite setbacks. In short, we need some sort of drive for learning. The other key tool is making learning active, making it meaningful. By active, we mean mentally active. So ask yourself lots of questions as you learn or study something. What does this mean? What does it matter? Could I explain to a friend? 
  2. Set Goals and Targets – Research strongly indicates that those with a clear plan, and goals, far outperform others. People who wish to learn need to decide exactly what it is they want to master. Realistic, specific goals keep learners from becoming discouraged. At the same time, be sure to learn in chunks. Practically speaking, set aside time for learning and try for small, 30 minutes studying sessions. Also make sure to think about organizing your learning in ways that build on prior knowledge.
  3. Develop Knowledge – Superior practice involves being mentally awake, where the mind is at work. Rote memorization or re-reading for instance are not active as practice or learning modes. Much better are non-passive techniques, like creating small tests and quizzes, or imagining explaining the topic to a third party. There’s no such things as effortless learning. All learning takes work. 
  4. Extend Expertise – Once having developed a basis of knowledge, it is important to apply that new information. Accumulated information or expertise can be expanded when applied to real scenarios. It’s also possible to improve upon your knowledge base through self-questioning and self-explanation or by teaching others.
  5. Relate Skills – Graphic organizers, brain or idea mapping can equally be used to see relationships emerge in a mass of knowledge. Visually seeing the way pieces of information or certain skills connect on a page builds understanding. Aim to see the same information in new ways, by combining topics. Connections become more obvious through combining. What is the bigger picture in how this topic relates to others? Try posing questions about the connections between topics. 
  6. Rethink Understanding – Learning often involves making errors. In fact, it’s inevitable. For real knowledge, we have to question what is known. Rethink what you think you know for certain. Turning to outside sources or others offers a good chance of a new perspective. The way you learn works better when confronted with divergent systems of thought. 

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