Learn Calmly in the New School Year

It’s mid-August, and here comes your new school year! Even a normal new school year provokes excitement and anxiety – and this year is not normal. This strange year of COVID brings extra challenges. Are you actually “going back to school” or will you be “learning remotely”? Either way, a bit of advance planning can help you prepare for a great start to your school year. Here are a few things we think about in Academic Life Coaching: (1) manage your time, (2) organize your schoolwork, and (3) keep the “Study Cycle” in mind.

Are you ready to “make time visible”? Do you have your calendar or planner and easy, effective ways to use it to support your learning? Maybe you use a paper planner. Maybe you prefer an online calendar. Or did you manage to get this far without using a calendar at all? We’ll share helpful information in an upcoming Insight, but in the meantime think about which you might prefer: a tangible, physical paper planner and a set of colorful pens, or an “electronic calendar” on your laptop or online? Each system has its advantages.

Are you ready to keep things organized? What’s your plan for storing all that paper in places that make it easy for your future self to find and learn from? Maybe you have separate sections set up, for different classes, in a three-ring binder. Maybe you have a set of binders, one for each class. What about a little, portable file holder and individually labeled folders? How good is your system for naming and storing documents on your laptop or online? We’ll have helpful information in an upcoming Insight, but in the meantime think about how you’ve organized paper and electronic documents in past school years – and whether that’s helped your learning.

You may or may not know it, but you learn using the Study Cycle. If you keep the Study Cycle in mind and practice using it creatively, you’ll learn more easily, more calmly, and more effectively. The Study Cycle has three steps: Encoding, Retrieving, and Re-encoding.

    1. Encode – You move a piece of information from outside your brain into your brain.
    2. Retrieve – Later, you assess what you remember and what you don’t.
    3. Re-encode – Then, you take the things you didn’t remember and, in a new way, move them into your brain.

The Study Cycle is called a “cycle” because it goes around and around. You keep repeating Step 2 and Step 3, Step 2 and Step 3, until you know all the information well.

Well, actually, something important up above isn’t fully accurate. Until now, maybe you haven’t used the Study Cycle completely.

Unfortunately, many students stall out after Step 1. We read the text, watch the video, listen to our teacher’s presentation – and yes, some of the information gets into our brain. But that’s all. Maybe we later repeat Step 1, re-reading the same text or watching the same video.

Later, when the time comes to take a quiz, to participate in a discussion, to write a paper, or to take an exam, Step 2 finally happens without us even knowing it. Some information is remembered, other information was forgotten, and the teacher uses this inadvertent Step 2 to assess what we did and didn’t know. Step 2 happened too late to help us learn.

Much better to think about the Study Cycle and learn to use its steps creatively. You can get good at using Step 2 to retrieve information from your own brain, purposefully. In this way – well before the quiz, discussion, paper, or exam – you assess what you know and what you don’t yet know. Then, you can use Step 3 creatively, to get what-you-don’t-yet-know into your brain. Using the Study Cycle creatively is itself a skill – one of the most important skills you can develop to make your learning easier, more fun, more relaxed, and more effective.

If you want to know more and practice (1) managing your time, (2) organizing your schoolwork, and (3) using the “Study Cycle” effectively, look out here for upcoming Insights or, to work one-to-one with an Academic Life Coach, email info@academicpathwaysec.com.