Study Tip #4 – Choose Your Style

Each student is different when it comes to learning styles and it’s really useful to know how you learn so you don’t end up feeling like a failure when actually it’s the methods that you’re using that are the problem.

For example. I personally, have to contextualise my learning into clinical scenarios; be that anatomy, ethology, pathophysiology, or biomechanics, because that is the way I learn. I call it 3D learning and I talk to our students about it all the time. Being able to place your hands on a horse/dog and “see” through the tissues, so that you know what structures are under your fingers and what pathologies could be involved, is so much easier and more useful method than trying to learn from a book. Simply because it’s how you will need to use the information day-on-day.

Sadly, this model of learning is rarely used in educational institutes, where students are still expected to learn through repetition, even though researchers have proven this method is outdated and ineffective – especially for long-term recall. Moreover, because students have been taught through this method for such a long time, they push back when teachers try a different approach. This is really frustrating, because (especially when teaching osteopathy) contextualisation and cross-context learning is so much more effective.

Let’s bring this to life…

As a young child, I found myself hiding at the back of class, because I didn’t learn like other students and my teachers would berate me for asking too many questions. They just wanted me to be like everyone else and take their word as gospel, without adding context or depth to what they taught; this I found really hard to do.

As a caveat, I have subsequently learnt that this (deflecting students from questions) is a tactic used by teachers with limited knowledge, who don’t want questions asked, for fear they don’t have answers.

In fact, I have memories of an early teacher standing at the front of the class rattling off facts and figures, like words from a script. Then gleefully praising the students who copied her words like a row of African Grey Parrots. Honestly, I couldn’t see the point, and I learnt almost nothing. Why? Because she gave no context, and I needed to ask questions, that I knew she wouldn’t answer.

Consequently, I’d go home and look up the content for myself; seeking to find answers to the who, what, when and how, and, in this way, I could see the missing links and connect information together in a useful fashion. Then, I would remember what I was taught – and why.

I will mention however, that my approach to learning did make me shockingly bad at repetitive subjects and tests, and some mathematical equations, but I have always been able to think outside the box. And, fortunately, as I moved through graduate studies, my questioning mind became an asset and I realised that my method of learning was actually advantageous, especially in the real world. Concurrently, I recognised that my grades at school were not a reflection of my intelligence, but rather, a reflection of the way I had been taught, and this lesson I have tried to share with my students ever since.

Today, educational psychologists have proven that industrial aged methods of education are sorely outdated and generally create poor long-term success. Yet still, it is the most common way to teach.

I would urge you all to find your way of learning. Be that reading (or watching) the content from start to finish, before breaking it apart; or by digging deep from the off and writing notes supported by additional research. Neither is wrong. It just depends on what you need. Do this by playing with different options and seeing which method creates the best outcome. If reading books, just isn’t your thing (for example) find active resources such as videos, podcasts, and webinars to add depth and colour to your studies and use books only if you must.

Studies show that we learn in many different ways; be that visual, auditory, reading and writing, or kinesthetic. So, if you find studying hard, it’s likely that you’re just not using a style that works for you. To test this theory, think of something you have learned over the past year – anything – and recall how you learnt it. For example, did you learn to cook a new dish whilst watching your favourite (good looking) chef on TV? Was it easier with someone helping you along the way, showing you what to do and making you smile? Could you make that same recipe today without too much direction? If so, it’s likely that you gain from a mixture of audio-visual and kinesthetic learning and that sitting in a quiet room trying to drill muscle attachments into your brain, isn’t the style for you.

What I don’t want you to do is think that you can’t learn, because for most of us, that just isn’t true. We just need to find the methods that bring our studies to life and help us to contextualise what we’ve learned so that we can call upon it again, at a later date.

To finish off, here’s a quick note on Study Buddies

Students often feel that they’re alone with their fears and insecurities. But, as someone who has taught for over three decades, I can promise you that you’re not. All students have insecurities, even the smart ones; it’s just part of being a human-being in a culture that encourages perfection. That’s why we actively encourage discussion and questions in group webinars. We want our students to feel safe, pushing the boundaries of their existing knowledge by cross referencing what they know already and mapping it against that which is being taught.

One of the best ways to practice this process is to find a study buddy. Someone with whom you feel safe; someone who will encourage, not berate you. And, when you meet up you can teach each other too, which is a great way to solidify your knowledge. You will also find that some of your weaknesses are their strengths and vice versa, so you can learn from each other.

If this idea sounds like something you’d like to do, find someone in your cohort (be that as an AOI student or any other school) and agree to get together on a regular basis. Work together once a week/fortnight etc., and deliberately bring questions to the session so that you get used to debating and discussing certain topics with a new colleague. This will help to make your face-to-face studies all the more comfortable, and you will be used to be questioned and quizzed by someone else – as you would in an exam.

Moreover, working with a Study Buddy, means being accountable, and we’ve talked about this already, so you know its advantageous.

I hope you find this useful.

Have a great day!

Dustie x