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How Can We Learn Effectively?

Guidance on effective strategies for learning at University

Having a growth mindset

plant seedling starting to growIt is common to feel there are certain things you may never be able to learn as they do not come naturally to you.  For example, some people might say things like 'I'll  never be any good at Maths' or 'languages' or 'DIY!'' This is what is known as a fixed mindset. 

However, to learn effectively, it is much better to nurture a 'growth mindset' (Dweck, 2006) if you can. This means accepting, and having confidence, that knowledge and skills can and will develop through practice, experience and the gradual building of understanding. This process of growing and learning, despite its challenges, will also ultimately feel extremely rewarding. So, try to maintain this growth mindset whenever you can whilst studying. 

  • Dweck, C.S. (2006) Mindset: the  new psychology of success. New York: Random House

Being curious

kitten curiosly tapping a flowerCuriosity is also known to play a key role in learning (Gruber and Ranganath, 2019). This means being open to new ideas, interests and asking questions of them. Learning is most effective when you actively, rather than passively, engage with ideas. Therefore, be as curious as you can!

This might be mean having a discussion or debate about a topic or issue. It might involve asking questions of things you read, watch or hear:

  • Do you agree or disagree with this?
  • Are you convinced?
  • What evidence is there to support it?

Perhaps you could have a discussion about it with your tutors, classmates, friends or family. This act of asking questions, articulating your thoughts, listening to others, and developing your argument are also key skills to learn for university and beyond.

  • Gruber, M and Ranganath, C. (2019) 'How Curiosity Enhances Hippocampus-Dependent Memory: The Prediction, Appraisal, Curiosity, and Exploration (PACE) Framework,' Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 23(12) pp.1014-1025. 
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