The Seven Laws of Learning
Now that we’re preparing for success on our certification exam, let’s take a look at the Seven Laws of Learning. These laws will be your guide as you study for your certification exam.
- Law #1: If you think you can’t learn, you’re right
- Law #2: If you don’t want to learn, you won’t
- Law #3: You can’t learn what you don’t understand
- Law #4: Understanding begins with the basics
- Law #5: Learning is easiest in small pieces
- Law #6: Properly-spaced repetition is required
- Law #7: Memory management closes the loop
Let’s take a look at these laws individually.
Number 1: If you think you can’t learn, you’re right
Before you begin studying, you have to change your way of thinking from a negative to a positive pattern (see my previous post on Preparing to Pass). Negative thinking will only interfere with your ability to focus and remember the material that you’re studying.
Put another way, a negative input will always equal a negative output. Conversely, a positive input will produce a positive output. You are capable of learning; you’ve learned to walk, talk, read, write (and English is not an easy language to learn!), and you’ve probably learned to drive a car. Stop making excuses and decide right now that you can and will learn.
Number 2: If you don’t want to learn, you won’t
This is closely tied to Law Number 1, because it involves changing your thinking. Decide that you want to learn. This, in turn, will increase your ability to learn, and your ability to understand.
You always have energy to do the things you want to do, whether that’s fishing, golf, playing with your kids or going out to dinner. Even if you’re tired from a long week of work, if someone suggests your favorite activity you will get a sudden burst of energy and you’ll take off. Deciding that you want to learn is no different. For 45 days prior to your exam, decide that you want to learn; making learning a priority will give you the energy to do it, and you’ll enjoy it even more.
Number 3: You can’t learn what you don’t understand
It’s easy to forget facts if you don’t understand the concepts behind them. Instead of merely focusing on memorizing facts and formulas, focus on understanding the concepts and the laws that govern how they operate. Understanding will lead to memorization and a greater ability to solve problems.
A quick note on memorization: memorizing a few highly-testable concepts and some key math formulas will save you a lot of time and trouble while taking your exam. The more you’re able to remember during your exam, the less stress you’ll have and you won’t feel as crunched for time. Memorizing is important, but understanding is more important.
Number 4: Understanding begins with the basics
You can’t run until you can walk, and you can’t walk until you’ve crawled. Learning and studying must begin with the basics. Picture knowledge as little pieces of information, like building blocks, and stack the pieces on top of each other.
It’s like building a house; first you build the foundation, and then you start building up. The firmer your foundation, the stronger your structure will be.
Number 5: Learning is easiest in small pieces
Just like eating the proverbial elephant, learning new information is best done in small bites. Finish one concept (bite) before moving on to another. Don’t try to rush through it, or you’ll choke yourself and most of your effort will be wasted.
Flashcards are an excellent way to focus on bite-sized pieces of knowledge so that your mind can “digest” the information.
Number 6: Properly-spaced repetition is required
You need to periodically review information that you’ve studied to make sure you still remember it. Then sleep on it. American Water College encourages our students to study a little each day, and then get a good night of sleep; this gives your mind the opportunity to mull over (or “chew on”) the material you’re studying.
The longer the time interval between study sessions, the better. Study a little bit today, then a little bit tomorrow, then take a couple of days before you study again. The longer the time interval is, the deeper you’re putting that information into your long term memory. Make sure that you begin studying well before your exam to ensure that you have enough time to properly space your learning activities.
Number 7: Memory management closes the loop
It has been well said, “Use it, or lose it!” Look for opportunities to use your new knowledge at work or as you go about your day. Suppose you just learned to calculate the volume of a basin or clarifier; look around while you’re driving for similarly-shaped containers to remind yourself of the formula to calculate its volume. There are countless ways to apply what you learn to your everyday life.
Next we’ll take a look at Developing a Winning Game Plan to prepare for your exam. For American Water College, I’m Joe Kerschner.