Successful Learning – Clever Strategies for Studies

All News, Faculty, Inside CBS   -  30. October 2018

For many students, learning under time pressure is part of their studies. In an intensive workshop to the topic successfully learning, which was accomplished in co-operation with the health insurance company Techniker Krankenkasse, Stefan Burggraf, university lecturer for learning psychology, goal and time management and rhetorics as well as founder of the Calleo Institut, presented learning strategies, with which the exam material can be learned stress-free and above all more lastingly. “I often notice that only few students dealt intensively with learning and noticing techniques. Straight advanced techniques, like so-called mnemonics, help to note and purposefully can be called up definitions, numbers of the year paragraphs or vocabulary. They have a large influence on the success of a clause or even the study conclusion”, described the Coach.

From short-term to long-term memory

At the opening of the Career Service event, he came up with some amazing figures on short-term and long-term memory: A rule of thumb in learning research is that a learner will only remember about 10 percent of what he reads, 20 percent of what he hears and 30 percent of what he sees without repetition. On the other hand, one of the most sustainable learning strategies is one’s own actions: 70 percent of those contents that we can explain ourselves and 90 percent of the subject matter are kept in mind if we carry them out ourselves. Therefore, subject matter often finds its way into our long-term memory when, in addition to regular repetition, various learning approaches are also used to process the information. The deeper this processing takes place, the better the effect this has on the learner’s memory of subject matter.

Inner attitude and self-motivation

Learning success depends to a large extent on one’s inner attitude and self-motivation. Students always go to exams with their personal experience background, which is made up of various convictions and beliefs. Someone who has only just passed mathematical exams in the past may therefore often encounter statistical exams with low expectations, which are reflected not only in the learning behaviour adapted to them, but also often in later censorship.

Self-motivation also has a great influence on the exam result. Students who, for example, prepare for their exams with a concrete career wish in mind often achieve higher results. Before taking an examination, students should therefore be clear about the 6 Ws: What for? What? How? When? Where? Where? and With whom? Each of these points can be controlled by the student himself and adapted to his own needs. Those who learn better in groups should join forces with fellow students at an early stage. If you need a quiet learning atmosphere, you could perhaps find it in a library.

Your own rhythm and the right time management

“Our performance curve varies according to our biorhythm. It is therefore crucial to ensure a healthy balance between demanding and less demanding activities, especially during the examination phase, in order to be able to learn and work persistently. Therefore, breaks in particular do not represent unproductive phases, but increase one’s own energy level and enable more efficient work. “It helps many learners to get used to fixed working hours and rest periods and to set priorities in their daily planning. It is important not to overexert yourself mentally, especially on the last day before the exams, and to start the day well rested,“ says Stefan Burggraf.

The ABC method, which is often taught in time management, also helps to improve the prioritisation of everyday tasks: All tasks are divided into the categories A, B, C, D, or E according to their urgency and processed in this structured order. This is crucial because many students complete a large number of tasks during the examination phase, but intuitively tend to prefer tasks that are easy to master to more difficult but often more important tasks (e.g. exam preparation).  Category A, according to the ABC method, therefore includes activities which must be completed at all costs and which have serious consequences if they are not completed. Category B activities are also important, but if they are postponed they only have minor consequences. Category C sorts activities that are welcome but have little impact, while category D and E activities can either be delegated or, on closer inspection, cancelled altogether.

Characteristic Methods for Each Written Exercise Material

Learning with menomics

Mnemonics, also called memory art, are used to store information better and to be able to call up subject matters on a long-term basis. The techniques help to develop individual mnemonic trick for the learning material in the form of pictures and stories and in this way to remember a variety of complex subject matters. The areas of application range from facts, mathematical formulas, dates, paragraphs and vocabulary to extensive theories, which can be kept in mind differently depending upon kind of the information and recalled if necessary.

Phonetic coding: With this method numbers are assigned to certain consonants in order to form signal words in combination with freely selectable vowels. The sequence of numbers 2 (n) – 3 (t) – 4 (r) can be coded and stored in this way, for example, as the word “anteater”. Phonetic coding is ideal for remembering paragraphs, years and other numbers for exam preparation.

Number-form-system: In this system numbers act as basic structure, so-called hooks, by forming a sequence in which the words can be remembered and sorted. The number “7” in this system corresponds to an axe, which should be connected to the learning object in a picture, because of its similar appearance. The image with an axe splitting a “spray” could thus represent the seventh longest river in Germany, the “Spree”. This system is suitable for learning content that should be kept in the correct order.

Link and story method: In this method elements are creatively connected and embedded into a strange, abstruse and conspicuous story by embedding. It is crucial that all information is visualized and that the story is divided into sequences. If, for example, the story begins with a “con artist” transferring the wide open Rio Negro and then has to serve as part of a “contract negotiation”, business psychologists may already have remembered two of the Big 5 of personality psychology: “neuroticism”, “openness” and “compatibility”. Mnemonics helps to keep definitions, characteristics and formulas safe.

Keyword method: This method facilitates vocabulary learning. Each vocabulary is linked to its translation as a brain-compatible image. To the foreign-language word (e.g. the German “Mus” (English: purée) for The English word “moose”) a similar sounding word must be found in the mother tongue. It is also sufficient if the word in the mother tongue sounds only like a part of the foreign-language word. The visual representation of the mother-tongue word is then combined with an image of the translated foreign-language term (an elk spooning apple purée). By simply reading these mostly entertaining and strange scenes, the vocabulary is learnt and can later be retrieved quickly via the visual access.

Loci method and memory palace: The Loci method uses locations (loci) by placing learning content and memories in the form of pictures and scenes along a path. The learner is best advised to choose a well-known path, such as walking through his own home or to the university. If the user has several of these linked learning paths, it is also called a “memory palace”. The method is suitable for learning large amounts of knowledge and often combines a number of different mnemonic techniques.

The students were able to experience for themselves how well these methods work in the course of the workshop: They memorized the 10 longest rivers of Germany in the correct order with the help of the number-form-system. They also kept in mind technology complex definitions and formulas from business studies, economic psychology and International Business by the Link and Story method as well as the Loci method.

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