NWU community gave ideas to help people learn best

Each week, New World University picks the most popular topic among the Facebook group contributions and features it as the board of the week. Last week, the Idea Board was: ‘What helps people learn best?’. NWU community gave insights about what boosts learning… Here are some key ideas:

When it gets real

It appears that people learn best when they work on something real. They need to have defined precise objectives and they need to know that what they are about to learn is useful, for themselves or in absolute terms. As a matter of fact, people are way more involved, motivated and better at learning things when they work on real projects, projects that actually have an impact or an application in reality. They often love being, working, discovering, exploring and experiencing in the field. Why is ‘real’ so important when it comes to learning? Because in real life, you encounter real difficulties, real obstacles, real fears, real apprehensions, … that you need to overcome for real… And the lesson you get from that is real. People learn when they try, when they explore, when they go step by step and especially when they fail, when they are out of their comfort zone… In order to learn, people shouldn’t avoid either difficulties, or failure, or reality.

When it gets social

The effectiveness of social learning has been proved long ago. Yet, it seems that it still can be underestimated: the current educational system divides students and measure intrinsic progress and achievements for each individual, who is taken and considered apart and uprooted from his learning and social environment. This is silly since we know someone can learn something very fast when he teaches it to others, when he asks questions about it to people, when he shares ideas with friends and family. This process alone helps solidify new knowledge in your brain. This is why, social learning, team working and study groups should be pushed forwards at school.

When it gets visual

Sometimes, people have to learn really thorny and problematic stuff. Tricky words or vocabulary, complex concepts, boring subjects… A lot of parameters can hinder learning, motivation and pleasure… This is true that not everything you have to learn in life is easy and obvious… When you struggle learning something that appears to you as being abstruse, you usually want to give up. The key idea is to keep positive about yourself and if things seem impossible, then, try to look at them in a different way. Basically, when people try to draw / sketch / mind-map something they want to learn but see as complex, they manage to find ways of understanding it in a different angle, making them learning things anyway. Drawing simplifies. You don’t even need to be good at drawing. Trying is enough. It allows you to shuffle everything, to deconstruct the problem. This is already a great part of the learning process.

When it gets personal

Easy learning comes with pleasure. It is a certainty that a person is more likely to master a subject he chooses to learn because he fancies it than a person forced to learn a subject he is not interested in. In some ways, people need enough freedom to blossom in learning, knowing, sharing and mastering things. When people are in a great and constraint-free learning environment, they feel good and free and this state enhances their chances at learning and working. It is even better if they can manage their own timetable and choose when to work on things, when to rest, when to share with others, when to study… People love and want and need to be the only master of their learning. They have to design, invent, create their own learning path, their own learning environment and their own learning goals, based on their values, interests and personal needs.

Focus: the secret weapon?

People manage to learn when they are focused. But how to focus when being focused is already a problem for you? Here are options you can try to facilitate concentration and improve learning:
1. Don’t focus on learning. Focus on the present moment. When you are focused on the present moment, you are able to enter a peaceful and stressless state of mind. To train yourself at focusing on being “present” in a physical and mental ways, you can use a reference or a piece of evidence of the current moment: breathing for instance. Take 3 minutes to be conscious only about your breathing. It would allow you to settle a opportune state for learning while being calm.
2. If you have trouble meditating but still want to cut yourself from the outside world in order to focus and learn or work, keep an element in your environment that shuts silence but prevents from distraction: music for instance (preferably the type that is not singable, with no lyrics, just a melody), or white noise, you can even keep the TV or the radio on but with a quite low volume.
Focus can’t be hold for a very long time. This is why you can manage a timetable switching between focus and distraction. When you really have to work on a project or learn a lesson but don’t want to or feel lazy about, sequence your study session as this:
1. Start setting your learning environment for it to be favorable for focusing: put away your computer if you can, at least close your social networks pages and nest yourself in a quiet and comfortable place.
2. Then try to focus, work and learn avoiding you to be distracted for 30 minutes
3. After that, let yourself go: stand up, move (even dance if you feel like it), go on Facebook, Twitter, Vine, Tumblr or whatever, read your emails… for 10 minutes
And start the cycle again and again: study for 30 minutes then relax for 10 minutes… You would be surprised how far and long you could go with this method!

What about you? Have you secret weapons to boost yourself when it comes to learning? Tell NWU what are your ideas! Don’t forget to join our Facebook group to inspire the next Idea Board…

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New World Education est un groupe éducatif alternatif au service d’un 21ème siècle créatif et entrepreneurial.