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Learning Requires Variety and Repetition

11 February, 2015 - 15:22

Variety comes in many forms and includes lecture, lab assignments, studying textbooks, multi-media materials, quizzes, writing a research papers, learning activities such as group discussions, crossword puzzles, flash cards, etc. This variety actually helps our brain to understand and build memory. In addition to variety, repetition (exposure over multiple study periods) is essential for our brains to be able to learn and recall the course materials. Again, this understanding and recall are essential to courses that require cumulative learning (you must understand item a before you can learn item b).

Textbooks and professors break-up course materials into chapters or learning modules often with learning objectives first and review items at the end of each unit. Each chapter or module might have any of the above mentioned items. But doing things and study are different. You can't just show up to class and listen, you can't just read stuf, you need to study. Study requires a variety of activities. Ask yourself:

  • Do you understand each learning objective?
  • Can you explain or formulate an answer for each learning objective?
  • If you did not understand the reading materials, did you re-read it?
  • Do the review items (especially questions).
  • Take lecture notes.
  • Do the lecture notes or handouts give you a better understanding than the textbook?
  • Often the problems or lab assignments are to be studied in conjunction with and reinforce the study materials. Have you tried to do and understand the problems or lab assignments?
  • Are there any learning activities available and if yes, did you do them.
  • Did you consider using 3x5 cards to study definitions and vocabulary?
  • Did you review the learning objectives before taking any quizzes?
  • If the quizzes are computerized, did you study your quiz results?
  • After reviewing quiz results and re-study, did you retake the quiz again if available?

All of this requires time and efort on your part as the student in any course (distance education or on-campus). You need several study periods a week to learn the materials in any course. The purpose of a quiz is for you to self assess your understanding of the materials. If your learning is not complete, change or modify your learning habits.