Students who don't get particularly high grades on their tests are often labeled as lazy or inattentive. If you're not very successful in school or have problems with the material, don't discount yourself as stupid or the teachers as useless -- there may be some subtle things underlying your inability to develop your study skills. Make things more interesting and you will immediately start learning more effectively. Simple things like learning to listen, taking notes, and being more organized can develop your potential for learning beyond what you ever thought possible.
Step 1. Find out which learning styles suit you best
The basic forms are learning by seeing, doing and hearing. Think back think of something you remember well from your class; was it an active assignment? Did the teacher give you a detailed essay? Did you receive a sheet with study material? Once you know how you learn, you can improve it. However, it is important to note that most people respond better to a combination of learning styles. There are tests available on the internet to determine your learning style.
Step 2. Learn by doing
Manual activities are great because they improve your retention and can help you:
- When conducting experiments in the classroom, make sure you focus.
- Take actual notes even when they are not needed during a lesson. The more open your mind is, the faster the information will stick.
- As an alternative to taking notes, record the lesson with a memo recorder and focus on listening; use the recording afterwards for taking notes. This extra step takes time, but takes advantage of what psychologists call the "dual coding hypothesis," where the chance of learning something increases if you experience it in two different ways (i.e., listening and writing, in this case).
Step 3. Free yourself from distractions while learning
Mobile phones, music and your chatting table companion can distract you from the teacher. Sit in a good place, because classes are meant to focus, not talk with your friends. Keep valuables in a pocket, or far enough away not to distract your attention.
Step 4. Establish good relationships with your teachers
If you hate your teachers, then you will have a lot of problems with learning. Be polite and show respect, and make an effort, which will favor your teachers and make classes a lot more enjoyable.
Step 5. Set yourself small goals
For example, take notes during class, and see if you can write a short essay about them at the end of the week based on the material you've learned. Before starting a new unit, write down some questions on the topic, and at the end of each lesson, see how many of those questions you can answer. Every time you reach a goal, reward yourself by buying a CD or piece of clothing, going on an outing, having fun, or simply taking a break.
Step 6. Make things more interesting by making the lessons more fun
Find ways to motivate yourself:
- Find something about the subject you are learning that interests you, try to learn as much about it as you can. The more you want to learn something, the more you will learn.
- Find a "study buddy" -- that is, a friend or classmate to study with. Subject each other to small tests/quizzes, discuss things you don't understand or interest you, or take notes together. Studying together with someone can motivate you more.
Step 7. After the lesson, see if you can summarize what you learned in a small notebook
Write down a sentence or two that takes you back and remembers the day.
Step 8. Ask for help if you are having trouble with something
Many people don't do this. If you find yourself struggling with something, know that almost all teachers want to help you keep up. See if your school has a library where you can study during homework hours, or go directly to your teacher. Don't be ashamed to ask.
- If you have trouble understanding the subject matter, ask a teacher, parent, or classmate who does understand the concept to help you. Don't be ashamed or feel stupid about that, because education is very important, and any problems you experience should be addressed.
- Try to be more attentive. Inside and outside the classroom you can practice listening and remembering details. Think of the lessons as another way to hone your observational skills.
- Set yourself up for a big reward to motivate you across the board. For example, promise yourself an expensive object or something luxurious to do if your grade point average has improved a lot.
- If your school offers tutoring or some other form of special help, you can take advantage of that.
- A bad relationship with a teacher can mean that they judge you more harshly on tests, or be less lenient if you forget your homework or risk getting into trouble. It doesn't always happen, and you don't have to be a snob, but keep in mind that teachers can hold a grudge, too.
- If your grades are very low or bad, it takes time and determination to bump up your average again. Hang in there and things will improve.