Professional writer, Matthew Stibbe has a mine of useful information on his blog – including some helpful tips for learning new material. Study skills is something that I focus on when teaching the CIPR Diploma and Advanced Certificate and concur with all Matthew’s advice.
In particular, drawing on all your senses is vital to maximising the opportunity for successful recall. As well as the use of scent on revision cards as Matthew recommends, we’ve found that aromatherapy oils can be useful for relaxation in exam situations or when working on an assignment.
I also use music a lot in my sessions. Stephen Halpern is one of my favourites and I never fail to play his Music for Accelerated Learning when a new class is arriving. This helps to create a calm environment that seems to relax everyone who is nervous when starting to study. I have also put iTunes on my new laptop, which gives me such easy access to hundreds of pieces of music – so I can select something appropriate as background music for activities, returning after breaks and so on.
I rarely teach in “stand and deliver” mode and avoid “death by powerpoint” sessions. We learn much more by doing than listening or reading, so I tend to draw on a variety of class exercises drawing on as many different techniques and multi-sensory experiences.
From the feedback cards, and results, I know these techniques work – but I do recognise there are different learning styles. Some candidates request lecture style – and although I don’t find this an effective approach, I do include a certain amount of explanation of core principles.
The ultimate challenge though is not for me, but for the student – since learning is a cognitive process that involves, literally, changing your mind.