Friday, 4 November 2011


Cultivating effective learning skills is of paramount importance if one must excel as a student, and by extension as a man. By man, I do not mean all male folks, but everybody. It is against this background that this treatise solely concerns itself with elucidating the skills in question. Skills such as:
Active listening.  
Studying (group study, questioning, researching, adequate rest et al.).
Teacher/student relationship.
Brain usage technique.

It is however
important to have a definition of the guiding term of this exercise, which is learning. Learning is the process of gaining knowledge or skills by studying.

Learning Skills:

(A) Active Listening-
Listening is the conscious effort to select the meaningful, important, and relevant sounds and messages from the numerous sounds and messages that our ears perceive or receive. You must recognize there is a big difference between listening and hearing. Constantly, we are obliged to hear all kinds of noises, that is, whether we intend this or not. Even though we have succeeded in differentiating between listening and hearing, it may yet surprise you that listening equally has types.

Components of listening: Listening types and processes.

*      Marginal Listening- This is partial listening. Here, you are aware of what is going on around you, but you are not fully cognizant of the message or import of it. An example is when you are waiting to catch up with something after a class, and you patiently wait your disturbing teacher to get out. If you will agree with me, as far as that particular teaching is concerned, you will gain nothing. If this is then the case, you can safely predict the outcome of your studentship. Marginal listening however has a good side to it; you can safely use it to fend off distraction in the process of learning.
*      Attentive Listening- Attentive listening implies absolute concentration on, or giving individual attention to what is been said. Unlike you will do under marginal listening, here, for you to be able to retain what is been taught, you must pay all attention. Your spirit, body, and soul must be in the class, and with the teacher; not on the break time gyration, or closing hour cruise with your friends. Not even the imagination of the pains involved in trekking back home should disturb you.
*      Appreciative Listening- With appreciative listening you build the images of what you are listening to in your mind. Here, the mental and imaginative processes are deeply involved. You do not just listen attentively and analytically; you must appreciate what you are taking in. under appreciative listening, you are having a personal involvement with the teaching.
*      Analytic Listening- This involves the process of evaluating what you are receiving. This type of listening is so important because it decides your acceptance or otherwise, of what you are been taught. A good listener does not just accept information for its face value; rather, he sorts. You should not mix it up here. Experience has shown over time that you may put up both appreciative and attentive listening, and you still would not understand what you are been taught. With analytic listening, you will be able to discover this, and ask appropriate questions, which is another learning skill, as we will see later.

Listening processes.
*      Receiving.
*      Focusing.
*      Deciphering.
*      Accepting.
*      Storing.
This is more or less a simplification of the listening types. The student may wonder, why he needs to listen so much, hard, and well in class. It is simple. We spend more time listening than reading and studying. If you do not possess the needed listening skills, you will miss much of the information that you do need. By extension, experience has even shown that we need mental images built during classroom session to have effective reading and studying.

Listening cues
Summing it all up, you must make effective use of listening cues. Listening cues makes sure we do not miss important actions in our classroom, which in most cases, usually go unnoticed.
(a) Verbal Cues- Teachers often draw the attention of listeners to important aspect of their teaching.
Example- our focus in this will be…”
                 “In summary, we need to…”
                 “Of particular importance in this regard is…”
These cues points at areas that require special listening attention. You must learn to recognize such moments and apply the required attention.

(b) Non-Verbal Cues- You must cultivate the habit of watching out for visual, non-verbal or extra-textual cues. Often, a teacher uses facial expression and gestures to complement teachings.

(c) Implicit Cues- This demand that you should interpret the message, not on the basis of the facts stated, but also on their implications, which are usually not stated.
Example- a: “someone is at the door…”
                 b: “I’m in the toilet…”
Notice that both A and B have made use of implicit cues. While A means, “someone is at the door, go and get the person.” B actually means, “I cannot get the person because I am in the toilet.
Lastly, you must listen on purpose. What are you listening for? Is it to fulfill all righteousness of coming to class, or to take note? On the other hand, is it to understand?             

(B) Reading- This is the conscious activity of trying to get out the information/meaning of a given text in order to be able to appreciate the total import of the text. It involves decoding (understanding) what is encoded (written) by an encoder (writer). The key word here is comprehension. As simple a task as this appears however, students often encounter difficulties and frustration with reading exercise. Some factors responsible for this are:
  1. Unfamiliar lexical items or vocabulary.
  2. Inability to recognize and reconcile multiplicity of meaning.
  3. Unfamiliar metaphors and idioms.
For want of space and time, I will deal with the first and second point here.

Unfamiliar lexical items or vocabulary- Lexical items are words or expressions that occur in a given text. Students often encounter difficulty when particular lexical items are unfamiliar or used in an unfamiliar manner. In such cases, it is important that the reader should be able to use the lexical items that are familiar in the text to work out the meaning of those that are unfamiliar. For instance, “she always wears high-heeled shoes because of her dwarfish stature.” Note that the word “dwarfish” here may sound unfamiliar, or used in an unfamiliar manner; but when you consider the expression “high-heeled shoes”, that gives you a clue that the person in question is short in stature. Our teachers will say that is why you have the dictionary, and that is okay by me. However, this technique bails you out where you cannot possibly lay your hands on a dictionary.

Inability to recognize and reconcile multiplicity of meaning- Words often have multiple meanings, and sometimes, when such words are used in a passage, their meaning may appear unfamiliar because of the context in which they have appeared. This often frustrates students out of reading.
Example- (a) i. “There is a good play showing at the theater tonight.”
                       ii. “We do not want this place to be turned into a war theater.”
                 (b) i. “I go to school everyday.”
                       ii. “I do not belong to that school of thought.”
The important thing here is for the learners to be aware of the distinction between words in isolation and words in usage.

(C) Studying- Quite often, students ask”what is the difference between studying and reading?” In an attempt to clear this confusion, I decided I would not load your head with information quite complex to sort out. We have defined reading earlier on, so I will try to simplify studying for you. Studying is the activity of learning or gaining knowledge, either from books or by examining things around us. It involves careful and detailed examination, or observation. Now I expected you to have spotted that studying itself is learning. What guarantees result here is whether you have good study skills or not. There are many of them, but I have helped shortlist the most needed of them all, and we shall look at them right away.
*      Group Study- This is something you must take seriously. There is a saying that “no man is an island of knowledge.” You must associate yourself with the right people, doing study together during which get more knowledge. This leads us to the issue of questioning.
*      Questioning- I earlier on made a point under analytic listening where I said questioning is one good study skill you must possess. In the course of listening to teachings in the class and reading personally, you will come across things, which defeats your understanding. That is where your teachers and colleagues (group study) comes in. do not hesitate, or feel shy to ask questions, even if they may call it a stupid questions. There is a saying that “questions carry 75% of knowledge.” This leads us to researching in the library.
*      Researching in the library- Another way of questioning is to go to the library to read more (research). Students are quick in saying we do not have a library in our school, but I say you have a library on your phone! Many students spend hours on the internet doing irrelevant things, when they can go to,, or even Google to ask their academic questions.
*      Reading when the brain will assimilate best- Another studying skill is reading when you know your brain will assimilate best. You do not need to read when you know you already have a divided attention, or you are tired. This leads us to adequate rest.
*      Adequate rest- Another effective studying skill is having adequate rest. Your brain, mind, and body are at a productive state when you give it enough rest. Always try to stay refreshed.
In addition, you must cultivate the habit of consulting your notes after every school day, do a personal revision and attend to past exam questions.

(D) Good teacher/student relationship- Experience has shown that students tend to perform better when they love, or like their teacher(s). Giving credence this is the principle of selective retention in the theories and models of communication. Moreover, this goes to the teachers; 21st century comes with its challenges, one of which is that “education no longer requires teaching-teachers, but leading-teachers.” Present yourself lovable, likable, and approachable to the students.

(E) Brain usage technique- It is a fallacy to believe that some are more wired for success than the others are. Every human being has the same number of hours at his or her disposal – 24 hours a day. Every human being has the same brain capacity – 1000cc (cranium capacity). Whatever you commit your brain to do mostly is what your brain get used to. So, to become a brilliant student, commit your brain to addictive studying.

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