This is a guest post written by Dataquest.
Learning from home can be incredibly convenient, but it can also be challenging to make real progress without the structure and rigor provided by a classroom environment.
Here are five science-based tips to increase your chances of accomplishing your goals when you’re learning from home:
Set Process Goals, Not Outcome Goals
Studies found that people are less successful when they’re focused on outcomes-based goals like “I’m going to become fluent in Chinese.”
One reason for that may be that when you share outcome-based goals like that one, people start to think of you as someone who speaks Chinese. You start to think of yourself that way, too. This gives you some sense of accomplishment before you’ve actually achieved anything, which is detrimental to your long-term success.
The study suggests that it’s better to set and share process-based goals. For example, rather than setting a goal like “becoming a data scientist” or “becoming fluent in Chinese,” you might set a goal of “studying for an hour each day”.
This helps you stay focused on what you actually need to do. You also get a little burst of well-earned accomplishment every time you stick to the process goal you’ve set.
Make Specific Plans
Once you’ve set your process goal, it’s time to set even more specific plans for your home learning. Studies show that people who make specific plans are more likely to accomplish their goals.
This is particularly important in the context of home learning since you’re often surrounded by distractions. Specific plans can help you avoid making excuses.
Sticking with the “learn Chinese” example, you might make a specific plan to study writing at 9:00 PM each night at your desk, and then have a half-hour call with your Chinese-speaking friend at 9:30 PM.
Because you’re learning at home, you should also have contingencies for when life gets in the way, like, “If I miss a session at night, I will wake up an hour early to practice reading and writing the next day.”
The more specific you can get with these plans the better. Spend some time thinking about what you can really commit to — When will you study? Where? For how long?
Take Notes the Right Way
Taking notes while studying is an effective way to help retain information. But studies also show that not all notetaking is created equal. You often don’t have the benefit of quizzes and tests while learning from home to help assess progress.
The available science suggests that there are three things you can do to make your note-taking more valuable:
- Don’t copy anything verbatim, and definitely don’t copy paste. A big part of the cognitive value of note-taking is the mental work you do when you take something that someone else has said and express that idea in your own words in your notes.
- Review your notes regularly.
- Quiz yourself on your notes regularly, particularly if your self-study program doesn’t include built-in quizzes or assessments.
And don’t forget…not everyone learns the same way! While writing things down or introducing pictures or graphs might work for visual learners, auditory learners would be better-suited to record audio notes or watch videos to retain more information. NoteLedge is a great home learning tool because it supports all learning types by letting you create multimedia notes that incorporate typed or handwritten annotations, photos, videos, audio recordings, web clips, and more.
Share Your Goals — But Maybe Not on Social Media
It can be tempting to start posting and reading a new learning challenge on social media. But the science suggests this may not be the best idea.
As mentioned previously, sharing an “identity goal” like, “I’m going to become a fluent Chinese speaker” publicly can work against you – sapping your motivation by giving a sense of accomplishment before you’ve succeeded.
On the other hand, a different study did find that engaging with the Twitter community was helpful for weight loss. How helpful or harmful social sharing might be could depend on how supportive and competitive the particular community you’re engaging with is.
The science about sharing your goals with real-world friends seems a bit clearer. Ｗhile sharing goals on social media can be demotivating, sharing goals with a friend can help.
That’s especially true if you can find a cooperative friend who’s willing to tailor their feedback to your needs. Studies suggest that just like how “process goals” are better than “outcome goals,” “process praise” is preferable, too. If you can coach your friend to give you feedback like, “Wow, you worked hard on that,” as opposed to, “person praise,” like, “Wow, you’re so smart,” you’ll be off to a great start.
If your friend is really cooperative, you can also ask them to shift the focus of their feedback over the course of your studies. Researchers found that people tend to respond best to positive feedback early in your studies when you need encouragement. Negative feedback then becomes more helpful later on your learning journey to prevent you from becoming complacent.
Try Teaching Someone Else
One of the best ways to figure out how well you’ve learned something is to try teaching or explaining it to someone else. This process will quickly highlight areas of the material that you don’t fully grasp.
In the classroom, this often happens naturally as students converse with each other about how to solve a particular math problem or how to approach an essay assignment. But when you’re learning from home, it’s a bit trickier to teach – particularly if you don’t have a friend or family member who’s interested in learning what you’re studying.
That doesn’t mean you can’t teach from home. One great idea is to try making a video to teach others what you’re learning. A recent study has shown that making a teaching video can actually enhance your learning more than re-studying!
Employing just one of these tips can enhance your home learning experience. But they work best when they’re all employed together, so start putting them into action and get ready to accomplish your learning goals.
Also published on Medium.