How do you tailor your studying to the way that your brain prefers to process information?
Knowing how makes life easier and learning more fun.
Do you know what sort of a learner you are? Do you understand how you already process, store and retrieve information in your day-to-day life?
When you sit down to revise, do you conduct your studies in a way that is natural and easy-to-use?
Of course, there is no right or wrong way of studying – all that matters is that what you’re doing actually works for you.
Because we are all Human beings, we have a lot in common when it comes to learning stuff. But there are also differences between us, and it’s true to say that none of us operates in exactly the same way as anyone else. You will already have noticed the difficulty we can get ourselves into, believing that other people are thinking the same way as us!
There’s your proof should you need it, that we’re all different!
So how does your personality and your modus operandi inform how to learn efficiently?
There are plenty of different ways of being profiled. You’ve probably experienced many of them.
One of the useful ways when it comes to learning, is the Myers Briggs Inventory. In NLP (neurolinguistic programming) the profiles are called meta-programmes.
Whatever you call it, it’s all to do with how we handle information.
Do bear in mind that we all slide up and down each continuum, depending on how we feel, the circumstances and context etc. Don’t imagine for one moment, that you are to be put in a box. But as a general indication, you might find the following useful.
Extroversion – Introversion continuum – How you focus your attention and energy
This continuum is about where you get your energy.
Extroverts tend to direct their attention outwards towards the external world of people and things. They like being with other people. They are energised and motivated by other people around them. Talking helps them to think.
Introverts, on the other hand, recharge their batteries by focusing their attention towards the internal world of concepts, ideas and abstractions. While sociable, they usually prefer being with and talking to people just 121 and 10 to be put off by crowds. They’re more likely to think ideas through before acting on them or talking about them.
Sensor – Intuitor – How you take in information
This is about whether you observe your surroundings directly, in a literal way or instead, notice impressions and imagine possibilities.
Sensors tend to focus on the here and now; the immediate, and rely on their senses. They observe what’s going on around them and are detail-orientated. They want facts and trust them. They remember things that happened in the past very well. They use their instinct and common sense and are usually practical, often coming up with sensible solutions to problems using their past experience to inform their way forward. They like clear information and dislike incomplete information.
Intuitors focus on the future. They look for patterns and relationships between different bits of information and facts. They trust their instincts and imagination to help them create new outcomes and new possibilities. They come up with solutions based on theory and understanding of the situation. They’re not bothered when presented with unclear facts or incomplete information because they will guess the meaning from the information available. They are big picture people and value imagination and innovation.
Thinker – Feeler – How you evaluate information
This is about how you reach conclusions and how you make decisions, either through logic or by using fairness and Human values.
Thinkers analyse problems impartially and weigh up the impact of their decisions quite objectively and based on logic and beliefs. They have strong principles and need a sense of purpose. They value fairness, focusing on the logic and objective criteria of each specific situation. They naturally see flaws and tend to be critical. They tend to be frank and honest rather than diplomatic, and accept conflict as normal when dealing with people.
Feelers, on the other hand, get to their conclusions by exploring their personal feelings and the impact of these decisions on other people. They’re sensitive to the needs and values of others and their decisions and actions are directed by that. They are the sort of people who value harmony and will seek consensus in a group because they dislike conflict and feel uncomfortable with tension. They’re often good at persuasion and facilitating differences within a group.
Judger – Perceiver – How you select your lifestyle and relate to the outside world
This is about whether you prefer to plan ahead or whether you tend to be more spontaneous
Judgers are decisive, self-starters and self-regimented. They like to plan in advance – and in some considerable detail. They focus on the task and finish it before they move on. The organise their life with routines and by setting dates. They’re happiest working well ahead of deadlines which are viewed as sacred, as they see time as a finite resource. They are usually quick to take action.
Perceivers though, are a little more laid back. They take things as they come and plan as they go along. They dislike being hemmed in by commitments. Perceivers are curious, adaptable and spontaneous. They may start many tasks and want to know everything about each. They are better able to multitask than some, so they’re good in emergencies, being able to think straight when bombarded with lots of important information. They’re flexible and receptive to new Information. Pressures of time do not seem to worry them and they tend to leave everything to the last minute – and only just in time to meet deadlines, seeking additional information right up to the last minute. Time is viewed as a renewable resource, and they like to keep their options open.
Remembering that each pair is a continuum, and circumstances have you tending towards one end or the other, do you recognise yourself in any of these descriptions?
And so what?
How might knowing a little bit about your personality help you make decisions about revising?
Extroverts often learn well by taking part in discussions and also by working with others. Look for any situation which involves doing stuff. Taking part in a group exercise is helpful to extroverts. Always fully engage, because research demonstrates that the more you engage, the more you learn. Extroverts benefit from teaching others what they’ve just learnt. It’s often the case that they don’t fully understand a subject until they try to explain it to themselves or to somebody else. In fact, many times extroverts think they understand a topic until it comes to explaining it to somebody else. That’s when they realise they haven’t quite got a grip on it yet.
Introverts often learn best when they work quietly on their own. Activities such as reading and manipulating information by making study notes, are useful, as well as listening (either to audio recordings or to themselves talking through the information). Introverts usually need to develop frameworks into which new information can be integrated as they learn. Knowledge becomes the interconnection of material – the old with the new so they can create a global view of the whole lot. Introverts do well to focus on the big picture and chunk relevant information together.
Sensors like to rely on their 5 senses – or even their 6th sense, intuition – gut feelings. They prefer organised, linear and structured programmes, systems and step-by-step learning. They do well to focus on the big picture of what needs to be known in advance of organising and structuring the studying that comes next. So it’s a good idea for them to establish the topic’s most essential general principle and then establish a scenario, a situation or a problem which can be analysed and solved in the context of this topic.
Intuitors like to discover patterns and relationships in the facts they are studying. They appreciate the big picture, general principles – and love theories and ideas. Intuitors would do well to create a framework, the big picture, first – and then integrate the new details afterwards. They are creative and can see connections within a framework. Compare and contrast tables and MindMaps work well for Intuitors.
Thinkers prefer to work with factual, abstract material, rather than diving straight into real-life examples. They like clearly defined goals and objectives, precision, and taking action, and they want to know up front exactly what it is they have to do to learn the material. They do well to think about their own objectives for learning a specific chunk of information and ultimately, for passing the exam. They need to concentrate on what they’re going to do to pass the exam, rather than what other people can do to help. That doesn’t menthe shouldn’t go on training days or ask for help. It just means they should focus on their motivation and their own ability to make things happen.
Feelers like to relate what they’re learning to their own personal experiences. They often prefer working in small groups and usually learn very well by helping others to learn too, especially in a friendly, supportive environment. They would do well to set questions for themselves, applying the material they need to learn to real-life situations, then answering those questions with the information they’re learning. Explaining their answers to someone else is another useful approach. Another is to set a question for a group discussion, allowing each member, in turn, to share information and ideas, before coming to a consensus on a solution.
Judgers like to tackle one thing at a time and need to know as they revise, how this new knowledge is going to be assessed. Therefore it’s important for Judgers to understand the marking criteria in the exam, to inform the weight they give to different areas of the revision they do. They are usually are self-motivated and self-disciplined. They need tools to help them plan execute their learning. They do well to condense processes into short lists of what to do and in what order, making sure they refer to them as they make their revision notes. They are encouraged by noticing their progress and accumulation of knowledge.
Perceivers tend to be those laid-back people who like to leave things the last minute! They enjoy study that is problem-based, grounded in real-life situations. Relating the information they’re learning to real-life situations with clients helps to make sense of it. They might imagine that they work best under pressure, but stress they create themselves hampers progress. Instead, splitting large assignments into smaller chunks, each with their own deadline tends to keep them on target. They are process-orientated, focusing on how the task is completed. Finding out exactly how to do something so that they can adapt easily to the job in hand is motivating.
This is a quick overview, illustrating how organising your learning according to how your brain already prefers to process information can make life a lot easier for you. Understanding more about how you already prefer to handle information day-to-day make your learning so much more efficient, not to mention much more enjoyable.