If you’re a student, you can help the learning process and improve your memory by using focus and attention techniques.
Being a student means studying for exams, writing assignments and preparing notes – often all at the same time. If you find you’re struggling to focus on the multitude of tasks, mastering skills in paying attention, focusing and retaining information can help you to improve the learning process.
A review of research has found your ability to concentrate and how memory works together to store information, influences your understanding and knowledge, also known as your cognition.
How is concentration important in learning?
Paying attention and focusing, or concentrating, is your ability to focus exclusive attention to one activity to the exclusion of unwanted or irrelevant information. Being able to concentrate while you’re learning means you can absorb more information while you study, which may help you perform better on assessments.
Think of your ability to concentrate like a sponge. The better you can focus while you’re learning, the heavier the sponge gets over time, allowing you to absorb more information.
Storing what you learn in your brain
Once you have successfully processed and absorbed new information, you need to store it to memory for retrieval during assessments. Information that is effectively stored in your memory determines how easily you can retrieve the information later.
Neuroscientists who have studied the brain have found during the learning process, nerve cells (neurons) in different parts of your brain store memory in the gaps between nerve cells, known as the synapse. The efficiency of the transmission at the synapse can help improve your memory.
New synapses and connections can continue to form between neurons depending on the external environment. Research has also found memory is improved when shaped by an enriched environment, such as physical exercise and increased mental stimulation.
Active reading and listening
When you focus your attention, participate in the process by using an activity when you read or listen. This may include using flash cards, taking notes or forming a study group.
Active reading can also involve having a reading strategy instead of reading a whole text at once. You may like to break down sections of text using headings to first learn ideas before details.
A recent study found that meditation may improve your ability to be attentive and focus on a selected task for a sustained amount of time. If you’re considering meditation to help you concentrate, take twenty minutes a day to help take your thoughts away from studying.
The break can help to clear your mind and re-focus on the information you’re learning.
Maintaining focus while you study means being able to focus on one task at a time. This means eliminating any distractions, such as turning off your mobile phone, not reading emails and finding a study environment that helps you focus.
However scheduled periods of distractions can also be good for your focus. Research has found that taking a break from reading or listening can improve your ability to focus once you return to the task. If you’re able to set blocks of time for study, then take a short break to reward yourself too!
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