Queen's University Logo
--IMPORTANT NOTICE-- Up-to-date COVID-19 information Click Here

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.