Secrets of a Top-scoring Student - Lay the Groundwork

The following is reproduced with permission from "Secrets of a Top-scoring Student", a book written by Linus Tham and published by ARMOUR Publishing Pte Ltd (http://www.armourpublishing.com)

Secret 2 - Lay the Groundwork

Know Your Learning Style
In the earlier chapters, I mentioned the concept of learning styles and how it can affect the learning efficacy of an individual. Scientific research has demonstrated that most of us learn and absorb information in different ways. It follows that the strategies should be adapted to suit our personal style despite the common belief in a fixed method of education...

Basically, there are four main types of learners. They are the Visual, Verbal, Kinaesthetic and Deductive learners. Each style is extremely different and so is the diversity of students with any particular style. The key characteristics of learners with the corresponding style is summarised below:

Visual
As demonstrated by the adjective “Visual”, which implies the use of sight, visual learners like to learn through written language, content which can be seen with their own eyes. Content for visual learners is learnt with more facility if they can be watched. For this reason, they enjoy attending lectures. Visual Learners are also able to better understand concepts that can be illustrated through whiteboard illustration, charts, PowerPoint and other visual aids.

Strategies for Visual Learners: If you fall into this category, it means that you learn through looking at things. When you learn a new concept, try to illustrate it in the form of a graph or a table of comparison. You may even like to use Mind Mapping, a powerful tool to summarise and simplify complicated concepts. You may like to read more about Tony Buzan and his Mind Mapping strategy. Alternatively, think about drawing simple sketches to represent your thoughts.

When taking notes, make sure the key points are highlighted and made obvious. Write the important points in large print and the lesser details in smaller print. Visual Learners enjoy visual stability, so the difference in size helps to create a hierarchy of the different concepts.

Aural
Aural learners learn through sound. They learn better when concepts are read aloud to them and when they hear what is being said. Because of their heavy preference for sound content, they tend to have trouble absorbing information that is found on paper. The need to hear in order to think may result in aural learners talking to themselves.

Strategies for Aural Learners: If you belong to this group, you learn primarily through listening. You will probably learn best by talking about the subject matter and listening to others talk about it. Think about studying in a group and holding discussion groups to talk about a certain subject. Try to engage your friends and exchange views on the subject. Being an aural learner, you would probably benefit from their input.

In class, attempt to pose questions verbally to clarify problems. If you fail to understand what is being taught in class, do not hesitate to arrange a private consultation session with the teacher.

Aural learners work best with auditory stimulation. If you are studying, you may like to consider studying with some music. The music could be classical and country music. The important thing is that it should not be too distracting.

Kinaesthetic
Kinaesthetic learners basically learn through movement. They learn best when they are required to move around and feel the environment. Most kinaesthetic learners have the constant need to move in order to think. As a result, many students with this learning style resort to doodling and drawing in their textbooks. They may be attracted to colours and bold styles. They also tend to understand lessons better when they involve movement such as in role-play exercises. Such learners require constant external stimulation. As a result, they often take to public speeches, and events with music and sound.

Strategies for Kinaesthetic Learners: Even though this learning style is not exactly common, a substantial number of students are kinaesthetic learners. Kinaesthetic learners study by movement. As a result, if you are in this group, you would like to take stretch breaks often during your study times to keep your mind active and alert. In order to keep your hands busy, make your notes using a wide variety of material like highlighters, pencils, pens and crayons. Personally, I advocate having a soft squeezable ball (stress ball) at reach to squeeze periodically while studying. Try to transfer what was taught into a different medium. For example, you may wish to type out your lecture notes or to draw out a huge mind map.

Deductive
Deductive learners master their concepts through logical reasoning and by thinking through the process. Thus, they work best if the concepts are not presented on a silver platter. They prefer instead to think through the concepts and arrive at the answers in a systematic and logical manner. They work best with the cause-and-effect model. Being deductive in their learning style, they embrace analogy and inductive exercises.

Strategies for Deductive Learners: If you learn through deduction, it means that you rely heavily on analogy to understand concepts. You may wish to use Mind Maps to summarise concepts and the central concepts involved. Alternatively, you make like to draw flow-charts to illustrate the logical flow of ideas. A third strategy, which I propose for such learners, is the concept generalisation technique. This
involves understanding the central principle through studying a few examples and deriving a common principle that governs each example. This is concluded by a generalisation.

Example:
Subject Matter: Acidity – Science
We want to find out what substances are acidic?
Some examples of acids are: Lemon juice, orange juice.
Common point with the examples: They are citrus fruits Hence, we conclude that citrus fruits are acidic.
The steps for this strategy is as follows:

Step 1: Define the problem.
Step 2: List the examples that fulfil the criteria (in the above example, it is acidic substances).
Step 3: Find the common point for the examples.
Step 4: Associate the common point with the problem (in the above example, the common point is that all the substances are citrus fruits and so since they are acidic, we conclude that citrus fruits are acidic).

After deriving the hypothesis, it is important to verify it by consulting the different sources of information. The hypotheses may be erroneous, given that the examples chosen may be too limited or the wrong analogy may be made.

In any case, this is a powerful tool for deduction and it is especially useful when confronted with a problem that is unfamiliar.

Most students have one of the above-mentioned learning styles. That said, it is important to highlight that the learning styles presented are inexhaustive, and neither are they restrictive. Some of us may fall into two or more of these categories and may possess hybrid learning styles. And yet some of your learning habits may not fall into any of the four categories. But it is probable that one of these learning styles summarise, to some extent, your learning approach.

Understanding your learning style will help you tailor your learning approach to your own personal needs. As classroom lectures favour visual and aural learners in general, an awareness of your learning style would be useful, especially if you fall into the Kinaesthetic and Deductive categories. In this case, you may like to take special measures to keep up with the lessons.

Top-scoring students know how to take time to understand their own learning style, and adopt them to use the correct learning pattern. It is important to choose the appropriate strategies to help us assimilate information more effectively. Only then would the top scores be within reach.

To find out more about the book "Secrets of a Top-scoring Student", email ARMOUR Publishing at mail@armourpublishing.com

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