Super Study Techniques: Peter Bjork’s Method
You’ve probably heard before that people learn in different ways. Some are visual learners, some learn by doing things hands on, etc. The “learning styles” system is something that’s been around for some time in education. Is it really true, though? This study published in the journal Psychological Science might suggest otherwise, that learning styles aren’t exactly the whole truth to how we go about learning (or the key to help teach students, for that matter).
I’ve always assumed myself to be a hands-on type of learner. I like to try things for myself and learn from the outcomes. Hearing this got me to thinking, however, perhaps the way I’ve been going about learning isn’t exactly correct. Is there a better way for me to remember things I’ve read? Can I master new skills faster if I try something different?
Then I came across Robert Bjork’s works on studying and learning, and I sincerely wish I had found them when I was still in university (and no, before you ask, he is not related to the Icelandic singer that shares his namesake). He’s written an excellent article called “How to Succeed in College: Learn How to Learn.” It’s a very good read. At one point, quoting a student of his, he writes, “people are not, in general, good judges of what’s best for the in studying and learning…some recommendations may seem counterintuitive.” Indeed, reading down his list of note taking and study techniques, I did find a few things that I found a little odd. Allowing myself to forget things is actually helpful for learning? I wish I could have told that to my German professor. Be wary of teachers who make you feel all there is to know about a subject? Well, if that’s the case then my German prof did a pretty good job, I guess. He backs these claims up with some pretty interesting notes though, and the more I read his work the more excited I got about it. That’s right, excited. Reading his many (many) articles made me want to learn.
Eventually I found myself watching some interviews he did for goCognitive that have been posted on YouTube (I’ve posted a good one at the bottom if you’d care to take a look). They may not be the most riveting things I’ve seen on the internet lately, but I all the same I felt a real connection to them. I could appreciate him saying that learning was the ultimate survival skill—as dramatic as that could sound, it’s true both in the sense hunter gatherer survival and survival in the modern day workplace.
If you want to brush up on your learning abilities, I’d recommend taking a little time to check this stuff out. Here’s a link to a helpful PowerPoint presentation talking about his techniques as well, just in case you want another source to read.