3 Simple Ways to Accelerate Your Child’s Learning Speed
Learning is a process that takes time – but sometimes, that’s a luxury our children don’t have. When you’re desperate, here are some tips on learning as fast as possible:
An Important Caveat: Mastery Versus Proficiency
These methods will help students to develop proficiency in a subject, but not mastery.
Most people can attain proficiency quite quickly, given the correct learning methods (detailed here, and also in Kaufman’s classic guide: The First 20 Hours). Mastery however, takes many years to attain – consider that almost anyone can play a few songs on the piano within three months, but few virtuosos are younger than 50.
By using the methods described below, you can help your child to attain basic proficiency in most subjects. This may be sufficient to bring a C grade to a B, which might make all the difference.
For more ambitious aims (e.g. going for A’s and distinctions), you will need a dedicated methodology and the right tutor. Message us on Facebook for more details on that.
1. Immediate Feedback is the Fastest Way to Learn
The speed of our learning process is based on the feedback loop. In a simplified sense, this means that the faster you can see the results of your efforts, the faster you adapt and learn. For example:
Say you are learning to ride a bicycle, and also learning to write a novel. Which of the two would you probably learn faster?
If you’re like most people, you’ll say bike riding comes faster. The reason is due to the fast feedback loop: when you do something wrong on a bicycle, like lean too much or pedal too slowly, you topple over almost immediately. Every time you fall off, you learn something new and make corrections. Pretty soon, you’ll be riding the bicycle the right way.
But consider novel writing: it could take you months or years to finish the novel. The feedback, when it eventually arrives, is often mixed (some people like it, some people hate it). Because the feedback is distorted and takes a long time to come back, it can take months or years to learn to make corrections.
When you understand the feedback loop, you can apply it your child’s study sessions. What it comes down to us:
- Test constantly, and provide feedback as soon as possible. Try to spend more time doing test papers than just talking about a subject.
- Use multiple short tests, rather than a single long one. You may think a long, 90 minute test paper better “simulates” the exam, but in reality you are lengthening the feedback loop.
- Try to get compositions and essays graded on the spot, and start on the next one right away.
In brief: the faster your child gets clear feedback, the faster your child will learn.
Note that this is difficult to do in a mass classroom setting, such as in a tuition centre (one tutor cannot provide fast feedback to 30 or 40 students at once). For this reason, we suggest you consider doing this by yourself, or using one-to-one home tuition as an alternative.
2. Study in Short Bursts, not in Marathon Sessions
The peak attention span of a lower Primary student is about 15 -20 minutes. Older students, all the way up to adults, tend to peak at 45 minutes (human beings are quite bad at paying attention)
This means the first 15 to 45 minutes of a lesson (depending on age) are the most vital to your child. The most critical information should be compressed into this period, and any extraneous information can come after.
More importantly, limited attention spans mean it’s better to study in short bursts. Four separate study sessions of 30 minutes is better than a single four hour study session. Think of it as being similar to physical exercise: it’s more productive work out for an hour a day than to work out for three hours on a single Saturday.
3. One Thing at a Time
If your child is weak in three different subjects, it might be tempting to drill your child in all three at once. This is the fault of the current school system – there’s just no time to address weaknesses systematically. However, refrain from panicked mass cramming.
Pick one particular area to focus on (say Maths, English, Chinese, etc.) and focus the bulk of study sessions on that one subject. Once basic proficiency is achieved, move on to the next subject.
This is not to say you have to stop tuition for all other subjects, but remember that all times there must be one point of emphasis – one subject that gets more study sessions than all the others.
The more topics you try to mass-cram your child with, the greater the odds of failure in each one. Remember that you can be patient while still acting fast.
Of course, you also need to make sure you prioritize the subjects correctly. We can put you in touch with a qualified tutor, who can spot the right weak points to address.
What are your favourite study tactics? Comment and let us know!