5 Tips to Study By – An Extended Creative Discussion #3

During this month’s Creative Discussion on Learning vs. Being Taught, Su commented about these techniques her professor taught that really aided in her studies and even stayed with her to this day. Given the number of us in the creative field, whom never stop learning, and strive to teach ourselves new tricks, we asked Su if she would be interested in writing a post about them, and by way of doing so, extending our Creative Discussion. ~ Editor’s Note…now on with the show.


In my freshman year in college, I was fortunate to have taken Psychology from a professor who, with her own research and teaching, had determined several ‘learning techniques’ that were invaluable to any education. Dr. April O’Connell was probably the best professor I had, for a lot reasons. Now, some years later, I can still recall those techniques, mainly, because I applied them to her course and learned them very well.

Briefly, learning is defined as, a relatively permanent change in behavior or behavioral potential as a result of practice or experience. Most of what we learn is behavior that we have observed and mimicked, with some of it being innate, or instinctual to our species. We receive external stimulus, process it and, either, act on it or store it away. There are many ways in which we absorb and process things, conditioning, modeling, etc. Do Pavlov’s dogs ring a bell?

Here, for the average “student”, I am addressing some of these techniques, or habits, which are beneficial to gleaning useable knowledge from that which we wish to know.


It is super important that you get enough regular-for-you sleep. It not only helps your body, but, it is during sleep that we process much of what we have learned, or taken in, during the course of a day.


Foods that we refer to as “brain foods” are good for your diet, anyway, but, eaten prior to an exam, these foods have shown to be beneficial in recalling memory. “Intellectual performance requires the specific type of fat found most commonly in fish, known as omega-3 fatty acids.” – PsychologyToday.com, “What is Good Brain Food?” By Hara Estroff Marano, October 2003; reviewed February 2007


Cramming or ‘massed practice’ is a popular method among college students of preparing for an exam. However, pacing, or ‘distributed practice’ proves to be more beneficial. Taking frequent, short breaks proved more effective than a constant stream of study, in recalling lists of words, in research that has been done. My professor also suggested that the “last thing you crammed in is the first thing you forget.” While other students were pouring over their notes on their way in to the exam, I was off having a cigarette.


Any time you employ an action during the learning process, it has a more profound effect on your memory processes. Writing out things to remember is an ‘action’, as are ‘associations’. Connecting an image, or a name, to a thing to remember works on memory recall better than just seeing it.

Like States

Human memory systems are connected to emotional ‘arousal’ level and feelings. Have you noticed that we tend to remember sad things better when we are sad at the time of recall? Research has found that people have trouble remembering a thing when they are in a different state than the one they were in when they learned. So, ideally, if you are stoned when you studied for the exam, it would be beneficial for you to be stoned for the exam.

Obviously, there is a lot more to each of these concepts. There is considerable research in this area and new things are being determined. From grade school I remember the things they taught us about studying, such as sitting up straight, having a good light source, and as little interruption as possible. I remember the teachers having us stand up, bounce around, and shake our arms and hands, during a quick break from testing in grade school. These stay with us. But, these habits, or techniques, put together by one of my professors, have stayed with me through the years. Incidentally, I did exceptionally well following her tips. I made the Dean’s List and graduated with honors!

Su Hall is a native Floridian who has loved design her whole life. After obtaining Photoshop CS3, her artistic ideas went into digital design and scrapbooking. She is ‘retired’ and spends much of her time creating, blogging about it, and learning all things design.


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