French and German tutor Gabrielle, shares her insights into how learn better and teach yourself to learn practically anything by identifying your learning style.
As I prepare to spend a much anticipated break with my family, this nudging fear of the upcoming mid sessionals nevertheless lurks in my thoughts. After all, the daunting task of memorizing and learning hundreds of textbook pages and dozens of academic articles without mixing up all the names and dates looms larger with every passing day. Yet every time I begin to plunge into varying depths of self pity, a booming voice hollers loud and clear from within: "Fear not - Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences to the rescue!"
The Seven Intelligence Categories
According to Dr. Howard Gardner, author of Frames of Mind (1983), each individual learns differently, and the most efficient way to learn is through a combination of several methods. In 1983 when the book was written, Gardner classifies intelligence into seven discrete categories (he has since added two more categories) and claims that each individual has all seven intelligences, but to different degrees. If this is the case, then trying to identify which types of intelligence are best adapted to our learning styles should help us to become more efficient learners.
Understanding Your Learning Style
In the following section, I will focus on visual, auditory and kinaesthetic learning methods, all of which I have experimented with and all of which I have found to be particularly interesting.
Visual-Spatial Intelligence, Or 'Picture Smart'
If you are adept at facial recognition, map reading or remembering people's clothes and accessories, then you are probably a visual learner. Consequently, learning through visual supports can be particularly efficient for you.
Highlight key words in texts. Like me, you probably spend most of your time highlighting the entire text, so do a first reading and only start highlighting on your second reading. Use different colours to highlight different sets of ideas.
Another efficient visual learning technique is the use of flashcards that can help you memorize key facts, dates, definitions or formulas. Download free flashcard applications onto your smart phone. My favourite is StudyBlue.
Finally, I have also found Mind Maps to be useful in that they organize the main ideas of your topic in something that looks like a knowledge tree. Check out Tony Buzan's website for online resources: http://www.tonybuzan.com/
Bodily-Kinaesthetic Intelligence, Or 'Body Smart'
If you like to dance or can't sit still while studying, or if you are the type of person who needs to do rather than just look, then perhaps learning by doing is the best method for you.
Try using hands-on techniques. For instance, if you are learning about volcanoes, build one out of paper. You could also experiment with doodling or drawing out your lessons into pictures. Likewise, if you need to learn about a particular concept in strategic management, work with examples or case studies.
Alternatively, I have recently tested an interesting technique called brain gym. It's similar to aerobics, but just for 2-3 minutes at a time. When you're taking a break from your work, for instance, try exercising. Bend your knee and bring it up to your opposite elbow. Repeat with your other leg and elbow. This type of cross movement activates both the left and right sides of your brain, thereby helping your two brain hemispheres to reconnect. Studies have proven that this can actually enhance your memorization and concentration skills. Take a tour of the brain gym website to help yourself design your own exercise routine: http://www.braingym.org/
Auditory Intelligence, Or 'Music Smart'
If your teacher catches you humming a tune in class or if you can easily remember class lectures without taking notes, then you are undoubtedly an auditory learner. To make the most of this type of intelligence, test some learning techniques that I have found to be especially useful.
Try recording yourself reciting your lessons. Then listen to yourself every time you travel somewhere, whether you are walking, biking or taking the tube. I sometimes even listen to myself before I go to bed – if you are an insomniac, this is a sure way to doze off easily!
I also like to invent a tune to help me memorize my lessons. Sometimes when I am not very creative, I just take the tune of a song that I like and chant my lessons to that music. It not only makes learning much more fun, but also more efficient. Indeed, research has shown that listening to music reduces stress and helps you memorize better. Don Campbell's world renowned theory, the Mozart Effect, has shown that listening to classical music while studying can actually enhance performance.
Today, as a first-year university student, I find myself experiencing with many different styles of learning in the hope of becoming a better learner. I believe we can all become better learners, but it takes practice, perseverance and motivation. After all, according to Plutarch, “The mind is […] a fire to be kindled.” Certainly, the better you know how to learn, the better you can teach yourself to learn practically anything.
Gabrielle Bargas is a French and German tutor in Southwark, London. She is an an LPC student and Future Trainee Solicitor at a City Law Firm with a double degree in English and in French law. She has vast experience tutoring students in various subjects, including languages and music.