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8 Elaboration strategies - How to learn in an effective way

Elaboration strategies
Together with organisational strategies, elaboration strategies fit under the umbrella of cognitive learning strategies. These strategies are designed to help you learn, process and memorise the content you have studied, as well as helping you to better understand and apply the content.

1. Linking new knowledge to existing knowledge

Elaboration strategies are all about linking new information to your existing knowledge. In school, new topics are introduced all the time. Most of these are based on prior knowledge. For example, in maths, calculating powers requires knowledge of multiplication.

2. Your own examples and metaphors

To help you remember new concepts, it's a good idea to look for your own examples and metaphors which help explain the topic in a simple way. This is because when you come up with your own examples, your brain is engaged and you can see if you have understood a topic which in turn allows you to remember the information you've learned more effectively.

For example, if you're studying how to analyse symbolism in a story, you should get a book and find your own example of symbolism to analyse and check that you've properly understood the process.

3. Self-explanation

By explaining a subject to yourself, you are actively working your brain. You are the one who has to actively reproduce the material and the one who has to make an effort. By explaining a complicated topic to yourself, you aren't simply passively reading the information and hoping that it miraculously stays in your head. Furthermore, thinking out loud can be extremely useful for solving problems. If you don't like monologues, you could also write down what you have learned or you can find someone else to explain the content to.

4. Visualisation

Your brain remembers images more easily because it tends to react better to visual data. In other words, if you try to visualise facts, your brain associates this information with an image and can therefore record it better.

For example, if you need to remember a story, run through the events in your mind like a movie so you can remember it better. The same trick can be used for historical events, if you need to know the events of WWI off by heart, try to create a story with all the important facts in order to remember them.

In addition, mind maps, diagrams, drawings, posters and sketches can also help you remember material better. If you want to know more, read our article on organisational strategies.

5. Meaning

Giving meaning to the content you are studying not only helps you remember information more effectively, but it can also motivate you to persevere. If you recognise the meaning behind or purpose of a learning unit, you will be more likely to feel motivated to study it. So always keep in mind why you need to learn the subject. In English, for example, you need to learn vocabulary and grammar to be able to understand, speak and read the language well.

6. Post-its

To help you memorise difficult vocabulary, complicated formulae or concepts, write them on a post-it note and stick it somewhere you will come across it regularly, such as on your bathroom mirror. Every time you pass it, you should read it, whether you’re washing your hands, brushing your teeth or combing your hair. This way you’ll more familiar with the content and you’ll be more likely to remember it.

7. Mistakes

It’s perfectly normal (and sometimes important!) to make mistakes. They open up the process of understanding. In other words, mistakes show you if you have not yet understood something and they give you the opportunity to learn. The most important thing is that you correct them, you learn from them and you don’t repeat them.

8. Practise makes perfect

Learning something off by heart is not enough, you have to practise, practise, practise! Knowing the theory is fine, but only practise can help you really master an exam. For example, it doesn't do you much good to know the theory of maths by heart if you don’t know how to apply it. The same applies to foreign languages. You can learn vocabulary and grammar, but it’s of no use to you if you don't know how to use it correctly. Try solving some exercises with evulpo to practise and cement your knowledge!
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