Posted by: ayrshirehealth | October 14, 2012

Learning to learn by @mz_kimb

The beauty of hindsight

I chose to write my blog about the process of learning to learn because of my own personal journey through my M.Res. Currently, a year into the process, I wish I had been able to implement these strategies long ago, but that is the beauty of hindsight.

The most important thing I have learnt is to learn from the mistakes and successes of myself and others, so I hope you can learn from some of mine.

Traditional Learning Approaches.

There are various theories which can help you to establish how you best receive information and learn (VAK, KOLB, Honey & Mumford).

While it is not always possible to tailor your learning exactly to your style due to resources or types of information; utilising what you can will give you a boost.  Jarvis et al (1998) advise that we must know not just how to learn but how to put that into practice.

Trial and Error (Jarvis et al 1998).

It alleged that Einstein said if you always do what you have always done you will always get what you have always got.  Try studying in the morning or in the kitchen, it might just work!  I’m still trying to find my perfect way to study, just call me Goldilocks.

I have found that the middle of the living room floor is great, as bizarre as it sounds there is plenty of space for all your papers!

Your Environment.

Long gone are the days of sitting on my bed with the music and TV on studying away, I think it’s age thing!  It is essential to work out where, when and for how long you best study. It is generally accepted that under 50 minutes at a time is recommended, but how many sessions of less that 50 minutes can you do effectively?

Take Breaks (Becker 2004)

While less than 50 minutes is recommended I found that you must be careful what you do in your break times as distraction can easily creep in or in my case eating and the pounds creep on!

Begin with the end in mind & Big Rocks (Covey 2004)

I find ‘begin with the end in mind’ a very useful tip in various areas of my life but incredibly useful in individual study sessions and to boost my overall motivation. Small goals adding up to a bigger goal is ideal.  GANTT charts are perfect for your overall course plan, for me I had to break that down a little further.  Timetables that you can stick to are hugely helpful in balancing your life and studies. Setting goals has also been found to be effective in adult learning (Knowles et al 2011), I find goal achievement followed with by giving myself a treat, works a treat!

The effective use of timetabling and prioritising is illustrated by Covey; he describes your life like a kind of jar, if you fill your jar will little rocks first your big rocks just don’t fit in; however if you put your big rocks in first the little ones manage to fit in and fill the spaces.

In this context your studying is one of your big rocks, you must prioritise it if you want it to fit in your life.

The prioritisation of rocks can be a painful process and at times, some rocks may have to be left outside the jar.

Make it real.

Knowles et al (2011) advise that adults learn better, when the learning is within a real life context. As a nurse, I have found that I need to retain a grasp on how this is going to help people that use our services.

Exploit your talents (Becker )

Becker advised to make the most of your talents and use them to the best of your ability. While I wholeheartedly agree I am aware of the risk of using your talents at the expense of developing new ones. Stepping outside your comfort zone can yield great results. Chosing an MRes instead of and MSc took me straight out my comfort zone, but so far what I have been able to learn and the pride I have that I was brave enough to do that has really helped boost me along the way.

Surround yourself with it.

Going to events related to your studies was advocated for by Becker (2004), not only do you get to look at your subject from a different perspective; it allows some great networking opportunities.

Becker (2004) also advised to keep variety, it will again show you a different perspective and help keep you interested and motivated.

Talk to people!  The more you talk about your studies the clearer they become in your head, particularly if you are working on a research proposal.  You can often get good feedback and good questions asked which help you clarify points – especially from those who are not involved in your field at all.

Be kind to you!

Learn and practice self compassion (Gilbert 2009). This is my latest lesson from my supervision sessions. You won’t write better or study harder by being hard on yourself – nor will you by making excuses for yourself, excusing yourself.

Compassion is about accepting and understanding yourself and your situation in a kind way and establishing the most effective route for you to take.

The best illustration of this is to think of two teachers, one who shouts and criticises and another who is firm but supportive and guides gently.  Be the second teacher to yourself!

Just write!

This piece of advice comes straight from my academic supervisor.  Whenever you get stuck – just write.   Worse case scenario – It helps you clarify learning and ideas and will expose deficits to your supervisor that you can then work on;   best case scenario – you know more than you think you do and you have a good piece of work.

Win win!


Becker, Lucinda (2004)How to Manage Your Postgraduate Course. Palgrave

Covey, Stephen (2004) The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Simon and Schuster. London.

Gilbert, Paul (2009) The Compassionate Mind. Constable. London.

Jarvis, P Holford, J

Griffin, C (1998) Adult Education and Lifelong Learning: The Theory and Practice of Learning London Kogan.

Knowles, M. S, Holton, E. F. & Swanson, R. A. (2011). The adult learner: The

definitive classic in adult education and human resource development – 7th
edition. Elsiever. Oxford.

Tomorrow on day 4 of 7, @suzi_hannah discusses with #ayrshirehealth readers the autumn harvest of the Scottish Patient Safety Programme


  1. […] Learning to learn by Kim Barron on the  Ayrshire Health blog. […]

  2. […] Learning to learn by Kim Barron […]

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