05 / 16 / 17

How to Study Effectively at All Ages


It’s a concern we hear from parents all the time: “I don’t remember working nearly this hard as a kid.” And parents aren’t completely wrong. It isn’t enough to have a 3.5 GPA or 1300 on your SATS anymore. Starting at an increasingly young age, it’s expected that students not only be top academic performers, but also all-around stars.

Travel soccer teams, debate tournaments, and well-building trips to Guatemala: These are the new normal for high achievers. I was always a good student, but I can’t help wondering whether I would’ve been able to keep up in today’s environment.

That’s why at SuperCamp we teach the best ways to use time effectively, especially when it comes to studying. Knowing how to study effectively, and especially how to study effectively in a short time, can start to bring things into control for overwhelmed students. Much of our curriculum is based on Quantum Learning, a system that I devised with my team, as well as Hebbian learning, from neuroscientist Donald Hebb.

To make sense of all of this, we’ll explore how these techniques apply during two distinctly difficult transitions that students make during their academic career: into middle school and into high school. With programs and strategies geared toward all three age groups, SuperCamp has got you covered!

 

Hebbian Learning and the SuperCamp way to study effectively

“The School Valley” – 5th and 6th grade. For many students and parents, this can be the first serious school hurdle. In most school systems, it’s at this age that students move from a single classroom into moving between five to seven teachers a day. Sometimes combined with a new school, this change can prove seriously difficult.

What’s more, each of these teachers wants to challenge and push students. This can lead to tons of homework (and accompanying breakdowns). What’s worse, it’s at this age that schoolwork can get beyond the level of most parents’ knowledge. Reaching out to unresponsive teachers, who often have over 100 students, can be another source of frustration.

It’s at this age that we believe students can get a jump on creating habits that will serve them for the remainder of their academic career (and life!). Introducing Quantum Learning techniques can play a big role.

The one that I would like to address here is what we call the first Quantum Learning Brain Basic: “Neurons that fire together wire together.” This may sound like a silly rhyme at first, but it’s actually based on the work of the neuroscientist I mentioned, Dr. Hebb, and a building block of a style known as Hebbian learning.

The principle is that information is learned by creating neural pathways, which in turn build a neural network. For students struggling in school, class, teachers, or even the structure itself may start to trigger a negative association in their brain. This means that the problem goes beyond a bad attitude: negativity is actually now a neural pathway.

At SuperCamp, we believe in the “SuperCamp shift,” that allows students to reframe how they think about learning. Instead of lectures we learn interactively, through games, music, and even physical events. As we do this, neural networks that were stuck in a rut begin to have a positive association with learning – that it can actually be fun! Hebbian learning gives middle schoolers a fresh perspective.

“Do it for the Resume” – High school. It’s not exactly breaking news that high school students these days are overwhelmed. As our culture shifts toward emphasizing accomplishment at a younger and younger age – even CEOs have been getting younger and some of the top players are still in their 30s! – high schoolers feel the pressure.

This can be especially tough on natural introverts, who would rather spend time alone than join a club, go on a class trip, or play a sport. With the rise of video games (I know some parents are nodding knowingly right now) the problem is even worse. Introverts can immerse themselves in virtual electronic fantasy worlds that don’t require them to leave home at all.

As if this isn’t enough of a problem on its own, some super-achieving high schoolers have a two-page resume by the time they reach the 12th grade. In fact, there is an increasing phenomenon of students completing high school in three years!

We address the high school arms race at SuperCamp in two ways:

First, we teach how to study effectively. We look at this problem from a number of perspectives. Psychologically, we have students create affirmational signs (e.g., “I believe in myself!”) to hang in their homes. More practically, we have students designate study areas, experiment with music to enhance their learning, and use daily planners.

On an even more fundamental level, we help students identify their preferred learning style.  Whether a student prefers learning through visual, auditory, or kinesthetic strategies, all learn through all learning styles to varying degrees. Being aware of learning styles and their impact on learning makes a big difference for students in their ability to learn effectively as well as their joy in learning. I’ve had breakthroughs with students who were kinesthetic learners (that is, they learned best by actively “doing”) and were forced to sit in classrooms and take notes for years of schooling.

Sometimes what parents and teachers mistake for a motivation problem is actually an issue with a disconnect in teaching and learning styles. School is a lot more fun once concepts start to click easily and don’t feel forced. Teaching a student about which learning style works best for him is also a major part of how to study effectively in a short time. This makes juggling multiple activities a whole lot easier.

The second thing that we do for our students is have them take ownership of their education. By the time your son or daughter is entering high school, he or she will probably have an understanding of why education and academic success is important. Even so, we often find 9th graders approaching school with a growing sense of dread.

We help create ownership by reminding students to ask themselves “What’s in it for me?” (or, as we say at SuperCamp, WIIFM). Sure, students will face boring classes, difficult exams, and group projects with classmates who are less than helpful. There’s no way around these truths.

But the next time you hear your child griping, remind them that there are actually some pretty important reasons for them to go to class, study for their test, and do their best to work in groups. By having a discussion that begins with WIIFM, students will end up verbally acknowledging the importance of what they’re doing.

 

Parting words

At SuperCamp we show students how to use time effectively starting at a young age. When middle-schoolers begin applying Hebbian learning concepts that some students never get a chance to learn at all, the results can be astounding. For your son or daughter, it makes becoming a super-achiever a whole lot more achievable.  Unlock their potential by enrolling in SuperCamp today!

 

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Since 1982 SuperCamp has increased the academic and personal success of 73,000 students. Participants experience breakthrough learning, the 8 Keys of Excellence principles to live by, self-discovery, deep friendships, and fun! They learn valuable collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and creativity strategies, and how to apply their SuperCamp experiences and skills to school, college, career, and life.
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