Have your thoughts drifted in class? Do you feel overwhelmed reading, listening and memorizing? How about freezing up in front of a blank screen as you start working on an assignment?
Good news is, you’re not alone and there are strategies to help.
Here at PVCC, you can access strategies based on creativity research to overcome these common experiences. Yes, that’s right – creativity.
You don’t have to be a painter, musician, filmmaker, designer, dancer, or poet to benefit from some simple learning techniques that employ the whole, interconnected brain and the human imagination. Even non-artists can benefit from these practices.
Psychology studies consistently show that we remember much more of what we experience via sensory, emotional, and motor (muscle movement) channels than we do through reading or listening alone. Not only that, but human attention and motivation increase when we make our learning personal (individualized) and holistic (connected to other experiences we’ve had in our lives).
To begin, before you go to a class or log into your online course, jot down a list of three questions you have in anticipation of the day’s lesson. If you don’t know what the topic will be, check your syllabus. This will prompt your mind to be curious and that will increase your attention and motivation.
Secondly, as you listen to a lecture, start personalizing what you hear by taking notes in your own words. Use the margins of a notebook to sketch quick diagrams or basic images that make sense to you.
When you leave the class, or at least before the day ends, review your notes, adding arrows, connecting lines, abbreviations, or use of your favorite colored highlighters to connect with the material. Color always helps to jog the memory as well.
Another example, try writing a short letter to someone you care about, such as a sibling, best friend or child, explaining to them in your own words what you just learned in class, as you currently understand it. You don’t have to give them the letter, but writing it down plants the ideas deeper. If writing isn’t your thing, try speaking your “letter” into a digital recorder. All of this is intended just for your benefit, so you don’t have to worry about grammar or any other rules.
Lastly, start and maintain an Idea Journal, a blank book, a “Notes” app on your phone or a digital recorder. Here you can process what you’re learning in college and capture any related thoughts that pop into your mind as you go about your week. Try beginning with the sentence stem “This is like when I…” and then describe a personal experience you’ve had. The analogy will help embed the learning in your mind and it doesn’t have to make sense to anyone but you.
Keep an eye out for a follow-up article, “Creative Study Strategies, Part 2,” where we will discuss techniques for overcoming writer’s block, as well as ways of using emotion, sensation, and imagination to create memorable learning experiences. In the meantime, make an appointment with a PVCC counselor to talk about your own personal learning goals and strengths.