How to Beat the Winter Blues

 By Sam Taylor, 3rd year Con Ed English Major

             It’s week five and reading week is just around the corner. We are almost half way through second semester. That means halfway to the freedom of summertime and halfway to the warm and bright summer weather. Reading week is a great time to help us rejuvenate ourselves to take on the last few weeks of the school year! But… you may be feeling lazy, sluggish, and unmotivated. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder is a prevalent condition in which weather negatively affects people’s moods (Ontario CMHA). CMHA states that potential symptoms for SAD during the winter weather are change in appetite, weight gain, decreased energy, fatigue, tendency to oversleep, feelings of anxiety and despair, etc. (Ontario CMHA). Unfortunately, it tends to appear in people over the age of 20, which is a lot of university students (Ontario CMHA).

Luckily, there are many ways to beat the winter blues! The first suggestion is to make your environment brighter. Our bodies are often craving more daylight because we are not getting enough in the winter. Try sitting closer to your window with your blinds or curtains open while you are doing homework. As well, you could join a friend for a winter walk. This is a great way to take a study break, catch up with a friend, and get more vitamin D!

Another tip is to eat smarter. We all have cravings, which is completely normal. Eating candy and carbohydrates can temporarily give you the fix you crave but it is said that these foods can increase feelings of anxiety and depression (Real Simple). Some of the best “winter time power foods” to eat are Brussel sprouts, pomegranates, cinnamon, citrus, beef, kiwi, cabbage, and sweet potato (Diabetic Living).

Another great way to both relieve the winter blues and stress is to exercise. There are many different types of exercise that you can do depending on what you enjoy. Yoga is a great way to help reduce anxiety, increase oxygen flow, and improve your overall mood (Real Simple). Pilates is an exercise to strengthen your core, which has been said to lead to better sleeping patterns (Real Simple). A good sleeping pattern is often difficult to achieve as a university student. As well as, studies show that lifting weights is good for toning your muscles and for your mental muscles. It is said that weight training can increase your ability to focus on planning, regulating behaviour, and multitasking. All of these are things that are required of us as university students. Utilizing exercise to help both your physical and mental health are ways to overcome symptoms of SAD.

Other ways to improve your symptoms of the winter blues are to turn on some upbeat music, plan a vacation (which doesn’t actually have to be far or expensive), and helping others. Researchers have proven that listening to upbeat or cheery music can improve your mood both short term and long term (Real Simple). Try setting your alarm with upbeat music so that you wake up to something already positive in your day! Planning a vacation is another great way to increase your happiness. Unfortunately, we are students and this is not always plausible. But! Going downtown shopping, eating, and skating during the winter is one way to take a break from school work for an afternoon and forget about the winter blues. Finally, helping others is a way to make someone else feel amazing, which in turn helps you to feel great as well. Take some time to volunteer with one of the many organizations on campus, you won’t be disappointed!

 

Works Cited

Canadian Mental Health Association, Ontario (n.d.) Retrieved February 2, 2017, from

http://www.cmha.ca/

Diabetic Living (n.d.) Retrieved February 2, 2017, from http://www.diabeticlivingonline.com/

“How to Beat the Winter Blues.” No date. Online image. 2 February 2017.

http://jkhairreplacement.ie/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/How-to-beat-the-winter-blues.jpg

Real Simple Food Collection and Lifestyle Network (n.d.) Retrieved February 2, 2017, from

http://www.realsimple.com/

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Why You Should Start Thinking About Your March Assignments Now!

By Emily McLaughlin, 4th year Devs/Psych student

It’s officially February! The cold blistering winds and freezing temperatures make the walks to campus seem long and extremely uninviting. But just as February as arrived so quickly, it will soon pass and final assignments will be upon us in a flash! It may seem a little preemptive to start planning out your final assignments now in Week 5, but you might actually want to consider it for a few reasons.

First of all, picking a topic is hard especially when you are crunched for time and have multiple things on the go. Writing an essay about a topic you don’t enjoy makes the writing process seem long and increases procrastination. But writing a topic about something you are extremely passionate means that you will have a lot to say but it can be difficult find a focus. Thinking about this now gives you time to visit your professor or TA and get their input on your topic. They can help you hammer out a thesis and make sure your assignment fits the criteria they are looking for!

The other reason I highly recommend thinking about your assignments now is to give yourself ample time for research! I’ll make a confession; I have left assignments until the last minute before and not had time to read the entire article so I have only read the abstract or the introduction. This is fairly obvious to professors and TAs when you are only citing the first few pages. Reading the entire article will give you ample background knowledge in the topic and prepare you to make a strong and cohesive argument! Another thing I highly recommend is finding a book you can use for your topic! This tip may be much more relevant to art students. The books in Stauffer aren’t just for looks! Reading a few chapters of a book can help you to find new ideas for your topic. Giving yourself time to read a few articles or a book can help to inform yourself before making a place

Finally making a plan is incredibly important. Divide up your time specifically. Work backwards from the due date to ensure you have enough time to finish the assignment and have time to edit it. Plan to finish two days before the deadline to give yourself extra time in case something happens and to have time to edit. Starting early also allows you to schedule an appointment with the Writing Centre to work with a professional writing consultant to help perfect your writing and learn skills to make yourself a confident writer. Using our assignment calculator will give you an idea of how much time you will really need to complete the assignment so you don’t fall victim to planning fallacy. Commit to a day to start and write it on a calendar. Dividing up your 10-page essay into small parts will also make the essay less scary. Writing 5 pages in 1 day and 5 pages the next day can seem overwhelming whereas writing 2 pages a day for 5 days (maybe with a day off!) can seem a lot less stressful! Think of your mental health and help yourself by beginning early!

Being in university can often cause you to fall into a shortsighted view of the semester. Remember that time flies by! Using our term calendar can help you keep a more long-term few of the semester. I’ll be completely honest; I used to think my professors were crazy when they told us to start our Week 10 assignments in Week 6, but after trying it, I can tell you that it will save you a lot of stress! Spreading out your assignment rather than cramming them into one week can also help to reduce stress when you have 3 assignments due in one week.  Start your research now and become really invested in your topic! It will allow you to explore new interests and give you time to explore new angles!

Planning is a something that is often forgotten; don’t let yourself fall into that trap! You will be especially thankful for looking to the long term now. Reward yourself closer to the deadline when you have extra free time because you have dominated the concept of forward thinking! And just a reminder, exams are only 8 weeks away!

 


Photo courtesy of
  Areta Ekarafi under Flickr Creative Commons Attribution license 2.0.

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Welcome to Week 4 – Time to check your progress

By Gaurav Talwar, 2nd year Life Sciences Student

With this new semester rolling along, the annual, trendy conversation starter, Can you believe it’s already week 4? has made its comeback. Having spoken to a few of my friends and fellow peers in the last couple of days, I feel that the typical conversation around this topic goes as follows:

“I can’t believe midterms are already here.”

“I know right, it feels like we just got back from the winter break. But the work has already started to pile up.”  

…… (insert a few more details)

“Agreed. I guess we just got to push through until reading week. 🙂

With midterms around the corner (or already started), assignments starting to pile up and reading week approaching in less than 20 days, I believe one of the best decisions you can make is to use week 4 as a check point to reflect on your progress thus far. But exactly how do you start to EVALUATE YOURSELF? Well, here is a little guide to get you started:

  1. Reflect on the experiences you had during your first semester. Look back at what strategies worked well (for exam prep, self care…) and which you could have improved on. Was there a particular course you did well on or really enjoyed? If so, how did you approach it and is there a way that you can stay on top of your game again? Likewise, were there any really stressful times (e.g. having to cram some study sessions the day before your exam, like I did) and how could you have prevented it? Remember, university is a time to learn and grow. Embrace the skills you learned and start throwing away the habits you want to lose.
  2. Ask yourself: do I feel satisfied with how I am doing so far and am I headed on the right track? This may be a tough question to answer, but be truthful to yourself and you will get a better picture of how you are doing.
    1. Start simple: Are you keeping up with your self-care? That is, are you getting the ideal 7-8 hours of sleep (or the amount that keeps you energized and focused during the day), eating a well-balanced meal (if not, make yourself a nutrition log and start eating better!) and getting your minimum 150 min of weekly exercise? As simple as these questions may seem, you want to make sure that you are practicing your healthy habits and are staying physically and psychologically fit.
    2. Dig a little deeper: Was there a New Year Resolution or goal that you promised to achieve at the start of the semester? How far are you in accomplishing it? Also, I’d recommend you think about your passions and get involved in the community if you haven’t done so already. It’s a nice feeling to be able to do something productive, fun and rewarding all at the same time.
  3. Develop an action plan.
    1. Start by setting some SMART goals. At Queen’s Learning Strategies, we recommend students to set goals which are: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time Bound. For example, a few of my friends and I are starting up a new club here at Queen’s. We have thought about it since first semester, but didn’t take much action. So as one of my goals, I will be working to finish up a couple of grant applications by the end of this week. Each day, I am setting aside an hour to answer two application questions (which is how long I gauge it will take me), and by doing so, I hope we will be productive to get the club started.
    2. Make a weekly schedule. Often, it can be hard to think far ahead and to plan out what you need to get done. However, with Reading week coming up, I think you can make this task a little easier by trying to plan what you need to get done before the break. Once you have a good idea, I suggest you look at our Weekly Schedule template, follow the instructions on the back, and start checking off your goals one at a time!
  4. Finally, keep yourself motivated and energized! Whenever you feel tired or overwhelmed, think about the big picture of how you want the year to go. Then, look back at your goals, remember their importance, and get back to work. Also, feel free to share your goals with friends and family or reach out to a learning strategist to help you along your journey!

By taking this proactive initiative to check on your progress, I hope you get a better sense of you are doing and what steps you need to take to make this semester even more successful than you can imagine. And ultimately, always keep this in mind: Your university years will continue to fly by. All you can do is to try your best, have fun, and make the most out of your experience.

 

Photo courtesy of we collaborate under Flickr Creative Commons Attribution license 2.0.

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Healthy Body, Healthy Mind

By: Sam Werger, 4th Year History Student

Many of us make New Years Resolutions on January 1st or during the first week of class. We try to set attainable goals for ourselves which are usually aimed at general self-improvement. The ARC tends to be the busiest in January and the produce section at Grocery Checkout is constantly being depleted by hoards of students who have resolved to eat more leafy greens this semester. Many resolutions revolve around health and this is for good reason. As we all know, one’s health is the most important thing. Everything else is rooted in health, including academic success. Maintaining one’s mental and physical health are central to achieving academic success at school.

Physical health is probably the first thing we think of when we hear “health”. Certainly, physical health is greatly important and must never be neglected. First, as we all learn during Frosh Week, you gotta get your 150! Queen’s recommends getting at least 150 minutes of exercise each week to maintain a healthy body. This can be as simple as taking a walk around our lovely campus once a day. For those of us who would rather stay inside during these slushy winter months, why not use your free ARC membership? Is the gym not your thing? There are plenty of ways to get some exercise at the ARC other than the weightlifting rooms. Beautiful basketball and squash courts are available for recreational use as well as our lovely swimming pool. All exercise is good exercise. Remember that your brain is part of your body and a healthy body is the first step to a healthy brain.

Exercise is not the only aspect to maintaining one’s health. It is also important to eat well. That means lots of delicious fruits and veggies as well as whole grains and good proteins. Vegetables can be boring but they absolutely do not have to be! We’re lucky to live in an age where millions of recipes are right at our fingertips. Plenty of websites have hundreds of vegetable recipes that are sure to kick your broccoli game up a notch or two. Good food gives you the mental and physical energy you need throughout the day to achieve your goals. Junk food will leave you feeling sluggish mentally and physically. The things you put into your body can have a surprising effect on how mentally alert and focussed you feel.

Diet and exercise are integral to one’s physical health but there is another kind of health that often gets forgotten and that is Mental Health. Our psychological and emotional well-being is a main factor in our ability to cope with the normal stresses of life. At university this stress can be related to due dates, social anxiety, and thoughts about our future. All of these things can contribute to stress and it is important that we are able to handle this stress in a productive manner. If ever you feel that you cannot cope with this stress, do not hesitate to reach out to the professional services we have here at Queen’s. There are people that want to help you be your best self.

All these aspects of health contribute to academic success at university. It is an unfortunate myth that I sometimes hear being spread that the only way to succeed at university is by confining yourself to your studies all the time. Balance, as in all things in life, is necessary for achieving academic success. A healthy body leads to a healthy mind and a healthy mind leads to academic success. Your health is the most important thing you have and it must not be neglected.

 

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Transitioning Between Ideas In Your Writing

By Michelle Bates, 4th-year English/Sociology student

Figuring out how to transition between all of your strong ideas in a paper can be challenging. For some, it is the biggest road block in effectively communicating an argument! However, topic and concluding sentences in paragraphs are not to be feared. They can help focus your ideas and make all the difference in a paper’s coherence. I have three suggestions worth considering if you want to improve these key sentences in your work.

What is first basic to understand about topic and concluding statements is that they must begin and conclude only one complete thought. So, it is up to the topic sentence (the first sentence of a paragraph) to introduce this point, while the concluding sentence will explain why the information you have provided in the body of the paragraph is important. The next paragraph you write, and any after that, should not try to prove the same point. Once you understand their roles, you can try improving these sentences to be as effective and argumentative as possible through other techniques.

When considering how to make your opening sentences flow, you may try acknowledging the previous paragraph’s conclusions. There is a difference between making the same point and relating a previous point to the current one to make it even stronger. These types of transition sentences are most common in compare and contrast papers. However, in any type of paper they can effectively display an accumulation of valid points, reminding the reader of how these points relate to and support the main argument.

In addition to these two very useful pointers, the most important part of writing these sentences is that they always refer back to your thesis. Specifically, the topic sentence is there to introduce the paragraph’s point and how it supports your thesis, while the concluding sentence states exactly how this is accomplished with your evidence. This explanation is necessary for a great paper, and is most effectively accomplished by being as specific as possible.

Constructing these sentences is a little extra work. However, I can’t stress enough how much it can make the difference between locking down a strong argument, and having a sporadic, weak one. Hopefully these tips help; good luck with your future writing!

 

For more information on this topic, see:

http://sass.queensu.ca/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2013/06/Transitions.pdf

 

Photo courtesy of nicodemo.valerio under Flickr Creative Commons Attribution license 2.0.

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Mnemonics: My Favourite Memory Technique

By Alexandra Bosco, 3rd year Con-Ed LifeSci/Psych student

As a Life Science and Psychology student, there is often a great deal of information to know. Often, there is no way around memorizing a good chunk of this information. I always do my best to UNDERSTAND rather than MEMORIZE facts and details but there are some things that one must memorize in order to be able to go on and understand it.

I often find that repetition helps to ingrain facts or pieces of information into my head. However, there are times when I need a little bit of help to remember something because that fact just won’t “stick”. These tend to be facts or pieces of information that I have a hard time making a meaningful connection to other information with. This is where mnemonics come in.

What are mnemonics?

Mnemonics (pronounced ni-MON-iks) are a memory tools that help you remember things. It can take the form of a short song, phrase, or story that aids your memory through use of association. By associating the new piece of information with something that is easy to remember, the new piece of information therefore becomes much easier to remember and recall.

Do you remember these common mnemonics?

As a kid you may remember the rhyme “Thirty days hath September, April, June, and November; February has twenty-eight alone, All the rest have thirty-one,
Excepting leap year, that’s the time, When February’s days are twenty-nine.”

Or perhaps you were taught the phrase “King Phillip Comes Over For Good Spaghetti” or “Krabby Patties Cook On Fry Grills, SpongeBob” to remember Kingdom Phylum Order Class Family Genus Species. These are all examples of different mnemonic devices.

How I use mnemonics in university

The possibilities are endless when using mnemonics in your own studies! It is only limited by your creativity! During exam time, when I begin studying, I am constantly coming up with silly phrases, funny sketches and ridiculous stories that help jog my memory and help me recall information. My #1 mnemonic strategy is the sillier, the better! Silly nmemonics are the ones I always remember best and are the ones I’m most likely to recall in the middle of an exam.

Examples of Mnemonics

Music Mnemonics: Music mnemonics work well when trying to remember a long list of things. Ex. The alphabet, The Periodic Table Song or even Hannah Montana’s “Bone Dance”

Rhyme Mnemonics: Putting information into a short poem or rhyming phrase. Ex. “In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue” or to help chemistry students differentiate these two chemical compounds, “Cyanate-I ate, Cyanide-I died.”

Image Mnemonics: Making a mental image or sketch on your notes of a picture that helps your remember information. You don’t need to be an artist to use image mnemonics! As long as the image makes sense to you, that is all that matters!

Connection Mnemonics: Connecting information you already know to a new piece of information. Ex. Remembering the direction of longitude and latitude. There is an N in longitude so longitude runs north/south. Latitude has no N, so it goes east/west.

Expression or Word Mnemonics: Making an expression or word from the first letter of each item in a list.

Things to keep in mind

Remember that while mnemonics can be incredibly useful recall tools, they are not tools for compression or understanding. Additionally, mnemonics are great memory aids, so long as your chosen mnemonic makes remembering something easier, and not more difficult. If the mnemonic is difficult for you to remember, then don’t focus your time on it! Instead, focus your attention on remembering the information using another method such as reciting out loud. If you would like to know more about memory strategies you can check out resources on the learning strategies website or booking a one on one appointment with a learning strategist!

 

Information about Mnemonics from:

http://sarconline.sdes.ucf.edu/files/2014/05/9_Types_of_Mnemonics_NF.pdf

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New Year, New Me?

By Monica O’Rourke, 4th year Con-Ed History/English student

With the end of frost week and the realization that there’s more to being back at school than catching up with friends, the inevitable cycle of procrastination and cramming begins. Despite the well-intended New Year’s resolutions made on January 1st, it’s easy to fall back into bad habits such as putting off readings until the night before class. Luckily, that’s where Learning Strategies comes in.

Motivation is defined as, “the reason or reasons one has for acting or behaving in a particular way,” and one of the biggest myths is that motivation will appear and allow you to do all of your work with a smile on your face.

Often, this just results in procrastination and panic. As humans, what makes us do something is the idea of the reward we will receive in the end; however, what most of us don’t realize is that that there are two types of rewards and one yields better results than the other. Extrinsic rewards are tangible things, such as your parents giving you money for a good grade. In other words, an extrinsic reward is an incentive, a false motivator. You’re doing the work for a material reward, not because you actually want to. This often means a job not done as well as it could have been if you were motivated by an intrinsic reward. While this type of reward is not tangible, it is a feeling you have inside you when you complete a task; be that task making you feel proud or satisfied or delighted, it is a feeling of elation you have within yourself. Now you may be wondering what motivation has to do with procrastination, and the answer is, a lot. People consider the mounting panic of procrastinating as motivation, however the reward for that is extrinsic (i.e. your teacher NOT giving you late marks).

The first step in making your resolution not to procrastinate is to acknowledge that it’s a habit and the most effective way to change a habit is to have a complete change of attitude and forming new habits.

Winston Churchill once said, “You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks.”

Meaning, if you let yourself get distracted, you’ll never get to the end or your goal. This is common enough – often as students we have a million and two thoughts running through our heads and get easily distracted as we remember yet another thing we have to do this week. I find that the best thing for me to do is to have an empty sticky note beside me and when I’m doing my work, if I remember something I have to do, I write it down so I’m not stressing about remembering it and detracting from my readings.

Some other tips and tricks courtesy of the Queen’s SASS Learning Strategies website have some of my personal favourite anti-procrastinating tips including:

  • Setting realistic goals (Once, I told myself I could do an entire psych module in a night- NOT possible, however, a single chapter might have been more doable)
  • Create a weekly schedule (You get a visual of everything that is due for the week and what readings must be done when. I have an organizer that at the beginning of the semester I put down all my due dates and add readings throughout the semester)
  • Watch out for the “downward spiral” that includes falling way behind in class (ESPECIALLY if the class is challenging for you, go in and talk to your professor or TA)

These are just some of the strategies, you can find more at: http://sass.queensu.ca/learningstrategies/motivation-and-procrastination/

And now approach the rest of the semester with the wise words of Michael Scott (Wayne Gretkzy) in mind: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” So approach the semester with a can-do attitude and your anti-procrastination steps as your guide to really, actually achieve your New Year’s Resolutions (for once).

 

For more anti-procrastination tips, check out the Peer Learning Assistant run event ProcrastiNOT: Find Your Procrastination Solution on January 29th from 1-6pm at Stauffer Library in the Speaker’s Corner.

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Couch to 5K Training: Syllabus week is over

By Satinder Kaur, 4th year Biochemistry student

After the glorious three week break we had for the holidays, syllabus week was a nice transition into school. Though I did have a professor who read the syllabus and quickly began the first chapter. But he showed us a Kermit meme and that made it okay. All jokes aside, as week two begins, I feel as if I am getting ready to run a marathon.

As the final semester of my undergraduate education begins, I find myself reflecting on the learning strategies I have applied to my school work. The one that stands out the most is creating a Weekly Schedule on Sunday nights. I have made one every week for as long as I can remember and I follow a series of steps.

  1.  Class times. I begin by adding in all the hours I have class. My favourite colour is green, so my class blocks are green to get me excited about the upcoming week. It’s all about personalization!
  2.  Health habits. This is where I schedule in exercise, lunch, dinner, and sleep. While I only need about twenty minutes for lunch, I leave an hour for dinner, sometimes two if I’m doing meal prep. I also give myself a cut off each night to ensure I get at least 8 hours of sleep!
  3.  Work. I have a job that requires me to be in the office 20 hours a week. My set office hours are the same every week, so I like to schedule these in with a new colour!
  4.  Other fixed commitments of that week. When I have meetings for group projects, a doctor’s appointment, or I’m having lunch with a friend, I schedule it in. These events are specific to one week but I make sure I add them in!
  5.  Homework. On Sunday nights, I also make a major to do list for the upcoming week of school tasks. I then schedule them in based on when I need to complete tasks. For example, a discussion post due on Friday may be scheduled in for Wednesday afternoon, with an editing period on Thursday.
  6.  Flex time. This time is for grocery shopping, laundry, hanging out with friends, or catching up on homework you may have missed during the week.

Everyone learns differently and creating a weekly schedule in this way is what works for me! Knowing your learning style and understanding the strategies that will help you succeed are ways to carry on doing well all throughout your school career.

 

Photo courtesy of Charles Smith under Flickr Creative Commons Attribution license 2.0.

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What Can Star Wars Teach Us About Growth Mindsets?

By Ian Farndon, 4th year History/English student

In The Empire Strikes Back, Luke Skywalker visits the swampy home of Yoda to receive Jedi training. However, Luke swiftly becomes frustrated by his inability to quickly master the Force, leading him to gain a defeatist attitude that further hampers his efforts to improve himself. If you find yourself facing academic or non-academic setbacks, it is important to avoid getting yourself stuck in a rut, which could cause failure to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Therefore, I recommend that you don’t follow Luke’s example, and instead approach challenges, or disappointments, with a “growth mindset.”

A growth mindset involves understanding that challenges and setbacks are stepping stones on your path to success, rather than testaments to an inability to achieve desired results. For instance, while you may have had a less-than-satisfactory outcome in the first semester, dwelling on any let-downs can foster an attitude of negativity and defeatism that will certainly not help you motivate yourself to do any better in second semester. Just look at Luke – when he interprets his training difficulties in a negative manner, he loses both faith in himself, and the motivation to continue training.

Having a growth mindset is not something that you can simply switch on overnight, because re-framing your self-expectations takes time. While it’s fine to hold yourself to a high standard of performance, in regards to academics or otherwise, you should recognize that you will most likely not be able to do everything perfectly the first attempt. Rather, it’s important to accept setbacks for what they are, and think about how you will work to improve for next time. For example, you could plan to ask for help and feedback from professors and TAs to ensure you understand their expectations for course work. Or, if you recognize what you need to improve on, you could actively seek to demonstrate these improvements in the next class assignment.

Having this positive mindset will make it easier, and certainly less stressful, to work towards whatever goals you set for yourself – whether you wish to lift your grades, or an X-Wing.

 

Photo courtesy of Kory Westerhold under Flickr Creative Commons Attribution license 2.0.

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Wait, when do I get to make my own MARK? A New Year’s Resolution, Inspired by Arlow

By Ann Choi, 4th Year Con-Ed History/English student

Today’s the second day of class, the first week of a new semester. You may be feeling a bit nervous (I thought this feeling of anxiety – would I make new friends? Do I look presentable on the first day? – would go away in the elementary school, but even at university it’s okay to feel a bit apprehensive) or determined to improve your grades for the new year. You may wonder, “But are my grades dependent on my resolution alone? Don’t I have to be super smart to do well at university?” However, the studies have shown that your optimism and time management skills are better predictors of the academic success than your IQ. So this may be the perfect place to start if your New Year’s resolution is to do well at school – your determination is the KEY!

One of the most important aspects of learning is that it’s not universal. It’s very personal. What works for one person may not work for all and it’s important to understand your own study habits. I entitled this blog post as “Find your MARK this new year” after watching a movie, Good Dinosaur because I thought it was a wonderful analogy for studying. Arlow, who is under-confident and is the smallest in the family, realizes that he can make his mark in his own way by discovering the way he works best. It’s same with studying – you can feel good about your studies and make your mark at university by understanding your learning styles.

Ah, but I know what learning styles are! You say. Aren’t there three learning styles: kinesthetic, visual, and auditory? It’s true that when many people think of learning styles, these three pop up. They are a useful indicator of how you like to study: kinaesthetic means that you prefer to use your hand and engage in activities as you study, visual means that you process information better through images, and auditory means your understanding improves through lectures or audios. However, this is not all. Learning is more than memorizing: It’s about making connections and creating your own meaning out of the materials.

Then how do I find my learning style? Well, there are three important questions to ask:

  1. How do you connect with materials? Do you prefer facts or theoretical concepts? Personally, I love theories. However, with the learners who prefer abstract concepts, they tend to get side tracked from their actual learning. Make sure you pay attention to details. If you are a fact-oriented learner, try to break down materials into smaller chunks and create structure to understand connections around different factual details.
  2. How do you create meaning? If you prefer learning in labs or in small groups, you may try teaching the materials to someone else and even talk to yourself at first to process the information before you do group work. Personally, I prefer independent study and find study notes such as Cornell note-taking methods and mind maps to be very helpful. You can access more information about different note-taking methods here: http://sass.queensu.ca/learningstrategies/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2013/09/Using-Graphic-Organizers-Mind-Maps-Cornell-and-More.pdf.
  3. What’s your pattern of learning? Some learners process information sequentially, which means that they build upon previous knowledge and value chronological order. Other learners understand new materials “globally” which means that they see big pictures and relationships of different concepts. If you are of a former type, create your study notes so that the details and steps that lead to new knowledge from the old are clear; if you are a latter type of a learner, ask “how” and “why” to make sure you understand all the details.

HOW you study and understanding yourself is one of the most important ways to feel satisfied about your studies at university.  In 2017, I hope Arlow is not the only one who gets to make his mud-printed mark for his family: I hope you also find your own footprint of success at university.

 

Photo courtesy of Bago Games under Flickr Creative Commons Attribution license 2.0.

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