Use as many modalities as you can to help you learn. Talking is one of them, and it is one that is often overlooked or, at least, underutilized.
Any rehearsal of the material you are trying to learn is good. There is no need to limit yourself to listening to lectures, reading texts, and taking notes. While all of these are important, talking about the ideas and connections can be even more helpful.
Not only does discussing these points reinforce the information but you can explore the ideas more completely. As you talk, make connections to related concepts that you have learned previously. These might be in the same course or from other course, current events, personal interests, or conversations you’ve had with friends.
Don’t limit yourself!
The more connections you make, the more likely you are to remember the relevant pieces.
Even if you talk it out with friends, students, or others, I would still recommend talking to yourself, or a pet, stuffed toy, or wall.
No, Ron has not lost his marbles. Well, not all of them at any rate. When I was studying at university, I used my wall as both a note pad and sounding board. The wall was right in front of my desk, so it was very easy to reach up and jot short notes, charts, diagrams, reminders, and so on. I will do a blog about this a little later. (This was by far not ALL my notes.)
The point of this blog is to talk it out. I would sit, or more often pace, in my room and talk to myself about a chapter I had just read, a concept from a lecture that day or previous days, or an assignment I was currently working on or preparing to do.
The idea was to explain it to myself not only as regurgitation but in a way that I could manipulate the material to see what fit and what didn’t. I needed to convince myself not only that I knew the information but that I could actually use it in more than one way. Whenever I could, I tried to make a story – sometimes reasonably factual, sometimes almost purely fictional – that incorporated the material to make it understandable and memorable.
You can do this to! It is not all that difficult once you get started. For example, you have just read a section in your science textbook. You have taken your notes. Now, imagine that you are being interviewed by someone. They are asking questions about the science topic, and you are attempting to provide not only answers from the textbook but explanations that the interviewer would understand even though he or she has not read the text. This forces to you generate relevant questions and to create answers that go beyond simply learning by rote.
You are using the material. Adding this strategy to your repertoire will help you learn, retain, and answer any kind of question – including writing long-form answers and essays.
Of course, you don’t have to always use an interview technique. You can just imagine that you are explaining these new ideas or any potential expansion of them to someone else. The advantage of the interview method is that you can play both sides, think of objections or counter-arguments and ways to defeat them (or not).
I still use the same methods of talking to myself, or talking it out, to help work through new information. I use the method when I am preparing to write new blogs, to create new videos, or new online courses. I use it when looking for solutions to a student’s academic or behavioural problems so that I can assist them effectively. When I have heard something I have never thought of before, I use the method to question my past beliefs, current beliefs, and any contradictions or problems with my opinions or thoughts.
Learning is not restricted to academic courses at school. Learning is all the time and forever.
The next time you are trying to learn something from a course or trying to work out your thoughts on a current events topic, talk it out!