Why You Should Develop More Ways of Learning (Even When You Think You Don’t Need To)


What’s your favourite way of learning?

Reading text? Mind maps? Lots of images? Listening to lectures and audio content?

Would you rather take in knowledge through a one-to-one discussion, or within a group seminar?

Over time, you get used to certain ways of learning. You’ve built up an appreciation of those styles.

But what does the term ‘learning style’ REALLY mean?

It doesn’t mean you’re a visual learner, kinaesthetic learner, or similar. It simply means that you’re more practised in some areas than you are in others.

In short, you’ve become a bit of a specialist in one or two learning methods, at the expense of other techniques.

Experience is good. That’s why you’re probably more confident working the way you’re used to.

But it’s good to mix things up. With a bit of practice, you can develop other styles of learning. And that means you’ll get a bigger range of tools to use as you work.

Thomas Frank of College Info Geek says you need to use different tools for different subjects:

“…math and science aren’t subjects reserved for some upper-echelon group of students. Rather, they simply require some different study methods.”

Okay, so perhaps you’re focused on one subject and you know it well. You may think it’s pointless to develop new ways of learning when you’re already succeeding with your current approach. Why push yourself further?

I’ll put it another way. You may be able to improve in ways you didn’t realise. For instance, the learning may be enough to ace the tests and craft excellent essays. How would you feel if you could reach the same quality, but much quicker?

Or what if you’re doing well on the academic work, but feel overwhelmed about taking on other activities? How would you feel if you could separate the workloads and take on more challenges with ease?

These are a couple of reasons to develop your learning, even when things are looking good.

The more techniques you can rely on, the more you can build up the learning possibilities.

Armed with several techniques, you’re:

  • more likely to remember the content;
  • more likely to make useful links;
  • more likely to develop associations in new ways.

You can tackle one area of content with one learning experience, another area in a different way, and so on. Or you can mix and match to your heart’s content.

It’s like when you work in several different areas. If you do all your work at your desk, you’ve only got one area to associate the learning with. So imagine working in a study room, in the library, in a park, in a quiet area on campus, in a coffee shop, and so on. You associate different parts of your learning with the different places you did the work in.

Your goal is to have as many systems and approaches to learning as you can.

And perhaps it’s best to start with the visuals. Hank Green explains on SciShow that we all seem to be pretty good at learning with pictures:

Instead of thinking about your preferred learning style, think about owning a learning toolbox. A toolbox that you can keep upgrading and improving.

With a traditional toolbox, you don’t always use the same tools. You know when one tool will work better than another. And when you pick the tool, you swap one size or shape bit with another, so it’s the right fit for the job.

You can’t do every job with a screwdriver, so why limit your experience to just that one tool?

The same can be said for how you learn. As you expand your repertoire, you get a better choice of tools. And your fully-complemented toolbox will let you do the best job each time.

You still need to master those tools. And that’s perfectly possible. After all, that’s exactly what you did to find the methods you currently prefer to use.

There’s no limit to how you can develop and how far you can take the methods. But you don’t need to visit a DIY store, overwhelmed and without a clue where to start. You just take your learning journey one step at a time, and in your own time.

Sure, this isn’t about making quick fixes. But the more you master the tools, the quicker you’ll get and the easier you’ll find each problem that arises.

Ask yourself every day: How can I upgrade and improve my learning toolbox today?