Learning to Learn Better: Student Reflects on New Learning Science Course at NUS

Students convene for the Learning to Learn Better Welcome Tea, an orientation for a new course that was hosted by ALSET on Aug 17. Azlinda Jumahat (back center)  one of 30+ students who enrolled in the pilot. In this post, she shares thoughts on her experience.

What inspired you to take the L2LB class?

 I have always wanted to figure out how to study better, so when I learned about ALSET’s new class, I was excited to try it. I was intrigued by the “blended learning” approach that the organizers were using—I figured it would allow me to brainstorm more during the in-class discussions and get creative. Finally, I was motivated by the opportunity to develop a close relationship with my professors and make new friends. Since the class was structured as a small group seminar, this was easier than it would have been in a big lecture.

What were some of the key learnings from the class?  

The class taught me some key principles from learning science. This includes the importance of spacing out study sessions over time, rather than just cramming right before an exam, as well as a concept called “interleaving,” which means mixing the study of multiple subjects rather than getting excessively focused on one idea or task.

Another thing I learned was the importance of varying my study location. Many people think it’s a good idea to have one go-to place for studying, but science indicates that it’s often good to try studying in different places. Doing this helps the brain make more connections between a wider range of ideas and learning contexts, which is important for being a flexible and dynamic learner.

Finally, I learned some strategies for setting goals. In the past, I always set vague goals for myself, which made it hard to track progress towards achieving them. In this module, I was taught the importance of setting SMART goals in order to measure progress, feel productive, and reward myself effectively. That means goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-Specific.

How did you incorporate what you learned into your own study practice? 

Before attending this module, I used to always study in a quiet place like the library or my room because I thought that this would help me concentrate better. I also tended to focus on just one subject at a time, and I sometimes wouldn’t allow myself to take breaks until I finished an assignment. In addition, I frequently spent a lot of time highlighting information from my texts and copying the highlighted notes into a new notebook.

After taking L2LB, however, I learned that these strategies are not always the most effective for learning. The class inspired me to try studying in coffee shops rather than quiet rooms, and I found that the busy atmosphere and coffee aromas was stimulating. It also inspired me to use my study sessions to tackle 2 or 3 different subjects, rather than just focusing on one. I also started to spend less time highlighting my text. Instead, I spend more time thinking about what I’m learning, elaborating on the material, and testing myself to make sure that I really know it.

After taking the class, I noticed that I was starting to make interesting connections between different subjects that I hadn’t considered. For example, I am learning Java programming, and I found myself coming up with better ideas of what certain terms means, how certain functions work, and how to implement the programs. It was great to see that this class had practical applications and delivered results that I could see right away.

You can find out more about the Learning to Learn Better pilot here.

Founded in 2016, ALSET’s mission is improve education through the application of learning science and education technology. The Institute conducts original research on learning science, technology, and pedagogy; promotes novel and entrepreneurial projects that improve learning outcomes; and works to ensure that the latest research and learning technologies have broad impact, both at NUS and also in the broader education community.