Making Connections to improve understanding

Many struggling students do not have an arsenal of learning strategies and fail to make inter-disciplinary (between different fields of study) and intra-disciplinary (between ideas or categories within one field of study) connections.  Making connections between topics and ideas improves understanding, retention, and probably increases level of interest.  Creative study techniques and assignments that encourage you to make connections and generate new ideas will benefit you in A&P class, as a student in general, and in life.

Assume that your input and thoughts are valuable because they are.  Everyone has a unique perspective on life; makes unique connections and learns in a unique fashion.  If you don’t think there is much value in your thoughts, are you likely to explore them?  If this is true of you, cut yourself some slack and treat yourself the way you’d treat your best friend – give yourself a chance.  Don’t worry about what the rest of the class, or even your best friend thinks – allow yourself to think and explore your own wild and wonderful thoughts.  In the process you’ll find class more interesting, remember things better and I bet your grades will improve as well.

Successful students make connections when they are listening, watching or reading.  They allow themselves to be reminded of other things within the field and from other fields.  They explore those reminders / connections by thinking about them, asking questions about them and using them to help them remember things.

Start organizing information and thinking about how pieces of information are connected.  Don’t just memorize which muscle moves which bone but think about how that muscle makes the bone move, what it means to you personally that you can move that muscle, whether the name of the muscle reminds you of anything, or if you think you could exercise that muscle, or maybe if you can name the muscle right next to it, or above or below.

Outline of studying skills and learning techniques

Okay, you know I love outlines.  Outlines help you organize information, see what information is related and how it’s related.  Here’s an outline I made about things good students do.   Some of them are technical things you can mimic.  Some require a little confidence, a little faith that what you have to say, and what you think, is valuable.   And again, some people organize information naturally, just like some people are natural athletes.  You may not be a natural, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t learn how to do it.  You can become a better student.

What do good students do?

Good students:

I) Organize information

A) Relate terms and facts within a hierarchy

B) Relate terms and facts to other terms and facts

C) Can group and relate terms and facts:

1) By similarities

2) By differences

3) By function

4) Within a field of study (intra-connections)

5) Between fields of study (inter-connections)

II) Question what they hear, see, read

A) Ask internal questions as they read, see, hear

B) Ask questions during class – either aloud or by writing ideas down

C) Ask questions while reading

1) Encounter a forgotten fact while reading and look it up

2) Realize they don’t understand what they are reading and back up

3) Give themselves time to think about connections inspired by the reading

III)  Show interest in a topic

A)   Increase interest in a topic

1) By asking questions while material is presented (either in their head or out loud)

2) Pretending to be interested until they are

B)   Force interest in a topic by looking for something in the material that they relate to

IV)  Allow time for studying – as looking things up and making new connections takes time

V)  Are willing to take risks

A)  By asking questions in class

B)  By allowing themselves to make odd or extraordinary connections

C)  By assuming that their input and thoughts are valuable