logo en full

Research

Effective learning means working smarter not harder. Professor Czesław Nosal, psychologists from the Wrocław Faculty of Psychology at SWPS University explains how to study to get the best results and pass your exams whether in high-school, university or a driving school.

Information Coding

Your brain includes two information coding systems that are linked with each other. They are called the visual-spatial system and the verbal-abstract system. The visual-spatial system is a primary analog, while the verbal-abstract system is secondary and is based on complex mental representations, such as conceptual networks and relations between them. Therefore, active learning requires frequent changes in coding of information. The best way to remember information is to develop and transform your own semantic maps, i.e. maps of your own meanings. It can be done by drawing, making graphs, tables or lists of key words. This method requires constant shuffling of the source materials. It is important because people learn in different ways, they have different interests and have different knowledge. Understanding of the material is as important as acquiring information. Mechanical memorizing is prone to distortion, but when you understand the subject, you are able to recreate the rule, the formula or the process, because you understand how it works.

Regardless of the individual learning style, the key to active learning is asking questions and shuffling information.

Professor Czesław Nosal

Learning Styles

Your cognitive abilities will determine how you organize your work, avoid distractions and how you formulate your learning strategy. Some people learn best by faithful and systematic repetition. This process is based on attention and the short-term memory. Another learning technique relies on processing of a wide range of information and people who learn in this way have difficulty with detailed and short texts.

The first group of learners displays an analytical and fragmentary approach while the second group learns by understanding and research of many elaborate sources. Regardless of the individual learning style, the key to active learning is asking questions and continuous shuffling of information. If you have a photographic memory, but you do not understand the acquired information then every error will disorganize you.

Energy and Motivation

When you are preparing for an exam or a test, it is good to define your goals as well as the conditions and methods of learning. This will help you to develop a learning plan, select your books and other sources as well as assign the appropriate amount of time for studying. Concentration is as important as the learning plan. Therefore, it is essential to create a learning environment that eliminates most of distractions. Consolidation of the acquired information in your long term memory takes place when you are asleep, so make sure to get enough rest.

Apart from the information shuffle, the learning process also requires the right level of motivation and alertness. Alertness is supported by physiological stimulation, good mental state, sufficient rest and lack of stress. Alertness is easily diminished by too much comfort, e.g. sitting in a lounging position, because it makes you sleepy or even causes you to fall asleep. When your brain is giving you signals that it is bored, you must peek its interest by shuffling the information, presenting a different semantic map or by asking different questions. However, developing motivation is much harder, because it relates to the purpose of learning. Therefore, it is very important to ask yourself how the knowledge that you are gaining now will benefit you in the future.

Study-Learn-Repeat

The so called “forgetting curve” of Hermann Ebbinhause, a German psychologist who studied memory, indicates that people forget the memorized information very quickly (after a few or several minutes). To overcome these limitations, you can use a few simple tactics, such as multiple repetition, grouping sources into thematic sets, highlighting structures, verifying your understanding of the studied material, asking questions, solving problems, and, most of all, remembering to take breaks, rest, and minimize distractions.

Ancient scholars had already discovered that repetition is the mother of all learning. Nearly the whole philosophy of learning can be summarized in four simple rules: repeat what you have just learned, structure the material, change the types of coding and verify your understanding of what you have learned.

Programs in English
at SWPS University

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Professor Czesław Nosal - psychologist, Head of the Department of Cognitive Psychology and Psychology of Individual Differences, at SWPS University in Wrocław. His research interests include the theory and application of cognitive psychology and psychology of individual differences in education, management, the mass media and in creative processes. His research topics include intelligence, cognitive abilities, learning styles, impact of media on cognition, management styles, creative thinking and problem solving. He has been the research mentor at the Polish branch of Mensa International, since its inception.

Popular Science Blog

Popular Science Blog 17-10-2017

Work-Life Balance or Burden?

The more you work the more productive you are. It seems logical. If it takes X minutes to produce Y number of products then one should be able to produce...

Read more

Popular Science Blog 09-10-2017

Holidays, Pop Culture and Marketing

According to the 2013 survey conducted by the Public Opinion Research Center (CBOS), as many as 72 per cent of Poles opposes commercialization of holidays. Despite this opposition, many people...

Read more

Popular Science Blog 29-09-2017

Effective Learning - How to Study to Get Great Results

Effective learning means working smarter not harder. Professor Czesław Nosal, psychologists from the Wrocław Faculty of Psychology at SWPS University explains how to study to get the best results and...

Read more

Popular Science Blog 11-09-2017

Becoming Yourself

“Be yourself” is a popular tenet of the Western culture. According to this viewpoint, to have a good life and garner admiration of others one must live in harmony with...

Read more

Popular Science Blog 31-08-2017

How to Overcome Post Vacation Blues

The end of vacation and the return to your daily routine and the usual responsibilities may cause uneasy emotions. Joanna Gutral, psychologist from SWPS University, explains how to deal with...

Read more

Popular Science Blog 22-08-2017

Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road? Curiosity as Motivational Force

What motivates people? What makes them venture into uncharted territories despite doubts and apprehension? What pushes people to constantly experiment? Why do people look for new solutions when they could...

Read more

Popular Science Blog 10-08-2017

Summer Vacation, Your Pets and Animal Rights

When the weather gets warmer and temperatures rise, leaving your pet in the car, even for a few minutes, may result in tragic consequences. Unfortunately during the summer, the number...

Read more

Popular Science Blog 07-08-2017

Internet Generation and Phenomenon of Entrepreneurship

The development of technology has always been one of the key factors of entrepreneurship growth, but who are the modern day entrepreneurs and how they succeed? Magdalena Kubów, management and...

Read more

Popular Science Blog 25-07-2017

Can Lack of Sleep Actually Kill You?

In today’s fast-paced 24/7 world that never unplugs, there are so many responsibilities, tasks and online distractions that tend to creep up on the time previously spent on exercise, cooking...

Read more

Popular Science Blog 24-07-2017

Virtual Vacation

These days more and more experts suggest that to enjoy your vacation and to fully experience the beauty and richness of the world, you need to log out and unplug...

Read more

Popular Science Blog 21-07-2017

The Power of Simple Acts of Kindness

How do you define kindness? Most people would intuitively answer that being kind means doing nice things for other people. Others might add that kindness includes being kind to oneself...

Read more

Popular Science Blog 19-07-2017

Can work make you happy?

A popular belief is that high earnings are the most important aspect of job satisfaction. However, research shows that although the salary is a significant factor of professional happiness, it...

Read more

Popular Science Blog 13-07-2017

How to Like Yourself

Self-esteem is a very important aspect our wellbeing. It affects the way we look at our achievements and relationships and it impacts the way we perceive our future. High self-esteem...

Read more

Popular Science Blog 21-06-2017

Five Tips on Decision Making

Every day we make choices. Most of the time, we make decisions about insignificant things, such as: latte or cappuccino, white shirt or blue shirt. However, from time to time...

Read more

Popular Science Blog 14-06-2017

Five Strategies for Overcoming Procrastination

“Procrastination is like a credit card: it's a lot of fun until you get the bill” – this apt and humorous simile was coined by an actor Christopher Parker. Many...

Read more

Popular Science Blog 01-06-2017

Robot Teaches Programming and Helps to Name Emotions

During my flight to Earth, my spacecraft crashed into an asteroid. Its parts scattered all over the world and now children help me find them. This is a story of...

Read more

Popular Science Blog 26-02-2017

Oscars as Element of American Mythology

Nowadays, the annual Oscar Gala has become a global celebration of cinema. It is an event full of glitz and glamour attended by artists and celebrities from around the world...

Read more

Popular Science Blog 14-12-2016

Quo Vadis Pakistan? Radical Islam and Religious Minorities

In Pakistan, torn by internal conflicts, radical Islamic groups are growing in strength. They often use the so called “blasphemy laws” as the justification for brutal attacks on their victims...

Read more

Popular Science Blog 18-11-2016

Artificial Intelligence in Recruitment and Career Planning

In today’s economy, companies that know how to attract and keep well qualified employees are the most successful. The task of finding the best talent with great potential is a...

Read more

Popular Science Blog 01-11-2016

Memories, Identity and Mortality

November is a month of remembrance in many countries. North American nations celebrate Memorial Day and Remembrance Day, which are devoted to commemorating fallen soldiers and surviving veterans. Catholics around...

Read more

Popular Science Blog 17-10-2016

Test of Salt for Seasoned Managers

Professor Mark Snyder, a social psychologist from the University of Minnesota, once joked that he would not like to have a boss who seasons his meals prior to tasting the...

Read more

Popular Science Blog 19-01-2016

Influence of Money on Human Behavior

A study conducted in a group of children, has shown that handling money may reduce helpfulness and generosity, but increase perseverance and effort applied to difficult tasks. The study was...

Read more

Popular Science Blog 07-10-2015

Designer Drug Generation

Designer drugs are the fourth most popular recreational stimulant used by young people today. The majority of users know these psychoactive substances only by their street names, such as “Cocolino”...

Read more

Popular Science Blog 23-02-2015

Weighty Data

Can abstract properties of an object influence its weight estimate? An international group of researchers, including psychologists from SWPS University in Sopot, studied what properties influence weight estimates with respect...

Read more