Dr Gillian Mooney, Dean: Academic Development and Support at The Independent Institute of Education. Picture:Supplied
Learners from Grade 9 to 12 should not only concentrate on mastering their academic work, but also on mastering study habits that will set them up for a lifetime of effective learning - from the time they enter university right until they enter the workplace, an expert says.

“Mastering the mechanics of learning is just as important as the learning itself, and is a crucial component of handling the demands of higher education once learners become students,” says Dr Gillian Mooney, the dean of Academic Development and Support at The Independent Institute of Education.

“When learners enter their final years of school, it is no longer just about the amount of time they spend in front of their books, but also about the quality of that time. These years are the optimal ones for developing the skills that will help them manage the increasing workloads of they will face in future,” she says.

Mooney suggests a few basics that senior learners can start putting in place as part of their regular routines, which will clear the administrative clutter on their desks and in their minds, allowing them to learn faster and focus purely on the subject at hand:

LEARNING TO TOUCH TYPE

Productivity is vastly improved both at uni and in the workplace when the effort and thinking around typing is removed, says Mooney.

“Note-taking is more accurate, assignments can be completed faster, and admin can be handled more effectively. In 2018, being a keyboard maestro should be a skill everyone gets under their belt sooner rather than later,” she says.

DEVELOPING GOOD ORGANISATIONAL HABITS

“One of the main challenges we see among first years, is their struggle to keep all balls in the air. The workload increases dramatically between Matric and first year, and being organised demonstrably improves your chances of keeping your head above water.”

Mooney says learners should start getting into the habit of filing their notes every day as well as spending a few minutes daily on administrative and organisational tasks.

“Very importantly, they need to start developing a logical folder structure and filing system, to ensure that confusion doesn’t catch up with them, and that they do not spend unnecessary time searching for things that are either lost or hidden in plain sight.

“Create different folders for different subjects, make sure your sub-folders make logical sense, and stick to effective naming conventions which make document searches easier.”

And very importantly, a habit of backing up regularly should become second nature.
 
LEARNING TO MULTI-TASK

Using your time effectively and creatively can generate a lot of additional time which will come in handy when the pressure really sets in, says Mooney.

“For instance, when going for a run, don’t just listen to music. You can use this time to listen to an audio book or discussion on the subject you are studying or revising at the moment. Find opportunities such as these, where you can claim two birds with one stone. Another example of creative time-management, would be to not play random computer games during your downtime, but to download one of the very entertaining typing challenges that will improve your keyboard game as well as serve as relaxation.”

 CULTIVATING A GROWTH MINDSET AND COMMITTING TO LIFELONG LEARNING

Some learners and students can’t wait for the end – the end of school, the end of exams, the end of uni, and so forth. But always looking forward to when your studies will be over turns each subject, test and exam into a chore that needs to be completed.

“Switching this attitude around however, and relishing the reality that your learning is a lifelong project rather than something that needs to be crossed off your to-do list, will instil a mindset that will open up a never-ending world of opportunity and discovery,” says Mooney.

She says this is particularly necessary within the context of the looming 4th industrial revolution, where employees need to be multi-skilled creative thinkers.

“We are no longer in a world where it is about what you know. What counts today and what will count in the future, is how you get to know things, and how you are able to cope with change. That is all dependent on your knowledge management habits, which young adults need to start cultivating as soon as possible.”

“When we look at those students who successfully navigate their first year in higher education, it is clear that they are the ones who bring with them the habits that enable effective learning, combined with a resilient mindset,” says Mooney.

“Many students don’t enter higher education with these skills, which is why good institutions have the support structures in place to assist and guide them. But those who heed the warning to start cultivating these skills in senior high school and arrive at the doors of higher learning with those behaviours already entrenched, are undoubtedly at an advantage.”