Time invested in studying and learning new information and skills is valuable in its own right, no matter what the topic or how much we ultimately “use” it. It’s not always necessary to chase a ‘purpose’ for learning - the experience alone is well worth the effort it requires.
However, when studying for professional development, if we don’t hang on to what we’ve learned, the time and money invested returns considerably less benefit. Well-designed courses based on clear, defined competencies will build in many of the tactics needed to retain the content long after the quizzes are done. Quizzes and exercises do more than verify learning but help to solidify retention over the longer term.
Though what works for each individual varies, here are a few ideas to consider:
Create and stick to a note-taking system: There are dozens of note-taking systems and styles, but more important than the specific system you choose is that you use it consistently and overtime to consolidate what you are learning. Whether you keep digital notes, paper ones, or some combination, the process of creating them is critical to learning, no matter how excellent the course materials are.
Give yourself enough time to forget: Allowing yourself enough time to forget some details as you move through a course may seem counterintuitive, but there’s good evidence that the “re-learning” of information helps with retention. Speeding through content might be efficient, but if you don’t allow yourself enough time to process, it may leave you just as quickly.
Practice with different parts of your brain: Knowing what “kind” of learner you are is very useful as you move through your studies, but regardless of your preferred learning style, accessing information in different ways will help to cement concepts. A visual learner still benefits from kinesthetic exercises and recorded lectures - don’t box yourself into content geared to your “type”.
Finally, remember that each of us has topics that come easier than others when it comes to learning. Factor in that some topics will require more time and concentration than others and this may change over time as you grow in your career and focus on different aspects of your practice.
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Last Updated: September 2018