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Learning Style

  1. Nov 3, 2011 #1
    Just out of curiosity, I'm wondering if anybody else experiences this when taking University science and math courses:

    Unlike some of my peers, I usually gain nothing from lectures (there are exceptions with phenom professors). In order for me to retain information I need to make complete of everything and understand why it happens. If I can understand the logic behind what I'm doing I can then start to work out problems using relevant formulas. This would be ok, except since I can not usually see the logic behind the material immediately during the lecture I tend to get frustrated and completely zone out. This occurs when the lecture format is way too formal (abstract) or "dumbed" down (doing example problems using unexplained formulas).

    The consequence?
    a) I need to spend hours upon hours reading the textbook(s) until i have a firm understanding of the theory and then some time practicing handling problems.
    b) A thorough understanding of the content and high marks (provided I can devote the time)

    Does this happen to anyone else? Because most of my peers just get some understanding of the theory and spend the time solving problems and they seem to get by just fine. I feel like I'm at a disadvantage because of the hefty time i require.

    I don't know, perhaps I have an undiagnosed learning disability such as attention disorder deficit.

    I would really appreciate any thoughts or suggestions!
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 3, 2011 #2


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    You are just normal, according to your self-description. Do you study the textbook material BEFORE the lecture? This could be a good way to make the lectures be productive for you. You did not say how well you are doing in these classes. Maybe you are successful but just working very hard?
  4. Nov 3, 2011 #3
    you are not alone. I have papers filled and ready to go for an ADD exam. I just don't have the money for it right now so I've put it on hold. I share your EXACT concerns, and questions

    I have the same issue you do and prefer the same learning method as yours. I zone out during lectures and even when reading the text, from time to time, I will zone out.

    the only problem with you and I is, although our study method is very effective and allows you to learn the material well, the problem is this:

    lack of time . We don't have enough time to read the entire text, digest it, and keep up with the class. I had to learn this the hard way. Keep in mind, reading the book means you'll have to read extraneous material which your class wont cover at all. I'm behind in my class right now and the text is the only way to catch up.

    I'm in Bio, so most of my courses require a lot of memorization so it can seem like a waste of time to try and carve up a textbook rather than memorize the teachers power-point's
  5. Nov 3, 2011 #4
    You jump too quick on a scapegoat. And actually its Attention Deficit Disorder, of which a friend of mine had. Attention deficit disorder is actually one of the most controversial disorder diagnosed. I'd doubt you have it, only thing you have said was that you have trouble keeping up with problem solving if their isn't enough theory or if it is too abstract.

    This is perfectly normal, I sometimes spend MUCH more time in the subject because I try to understand it at a deep and non-superficial level. I'm fine with that because I know it will pay off in the future. Though I remember my first calculus and physics test, a couple of fellow students were much more concerned with memorizing problems and got a considerably higher grade than me. I was VERY frustrated because I know I might have spent 3 times as much time as them but got a lower grade. Fortunately, I adjusted my study techniques and I think I'll make the turnaround.

    Anyhow, I understand where your coming from. The reason you don't do good when everything is too dumbed down is because you obsess in how everything came from (like me). All is not in vain though, it will pay off in the long run. You don't try to memorize how to do a problem. Instead, you ask yourself "if I never seen this problem before, how would I reason in solving this problem? You likely have good intrapersonal skills, and maybe a thinker. But who knows I'm not a psychic but just speaking from personal experience; I too am like that.
  6. Nov 3, 2011 #5
    If zoning out is an indicator of ADD then I guess the population of the Earth should go to the ADD exam right now. It's perfectly normal, I do it too and so do countless others. It only means you aren't completely connected with the material at that specific moment in time.
  7. Nov 4, 2011 #6
    yeah you're right. I'm tearing up the papers as I type this. :smile:
  8. Nov 4, 2011 #7
    This might sound patronizing but maybe you can try harder to pay attention in class? I ask because I used to zone out too, then the material became too hard to learn by myself later, so recently I've been trying a lot harder to pay attention in class and it's been working great.
  9. Nov 4, 2011 #8
    Make sure your body and mind is prepared for a lecture. That means a few things:

    1) Make sure you're well rested and properly fed. Too many students take this for granted. Breakfast is important for morning classes.
    2) At least do an overview of what the lecture is about before hand. Even 5-10 minutes going over the relevent formula, diagrams and concepts is huge. From this review you'll be generating questions which hopefully your professor will answer with their lecture - you're already one step ahead then.
    3) Actively listen. Don't just 'be there' (I think this is what ya'll are saying with zoning out). That means actually interpreting what the professor says, and rewriting notes as appropriate (or following along on a preprinted ppt - personally, I find preprinted ppts to be amazing because it allows for active listening more than just being a tube between the professor and your notes).
    4) If you have questions - write them down and get them addressed after class, during class, during recitation, or during office hours (as appropriate). I can't stress this enough! Don't let a concept stay half-realized: the worst response I've gotten from an instructor was "well, we're going to explain that part in a few days... so leave it at that". At best they review it a different way and you get it.

    Finally, and something else to think about: are you a morning or afternoon learner? I find that I am totally worthless after about 1pm (I looked through my transcripts over the years and compared their time slot to my grades - it was uncanny). I try to schedule all of my classes for the morning, and if I have an evening exam - I MUST be studying that morning to be primed well enough for the evening test. Sometimes I do have to grunt through an afternoon class - but mornings are where my learning definately happens. Your mileage may vary, and not too much you can do about it now - but something to consider for the future. From what it sounds like - you may have a morning class, not be totally attentive, and are able to learn in the afternoon or evening fine.
  10. Nov 4, 2011 #9
    OP, your peers are likely memorizing things rather than understanding it. They are only fooling themselves. But in the long run you will come out more mathematically inclined and with a deeper set of knowledge. What you need to do though is to adapt your studying strategy to meet both the needs of having a non-superficial set of knowledge along with satisfying your standard of a good grade.

    Or if your like me you try your best to daydream in class while professor explains X easy & watered down concept.
  11. Nov 4, 2011 #10
    Unfortunately the system is designed in their favor. but you are right. In the long run, OP's method is more effect.

    If he could go at a fast pace using his method then there wouldn't be a problem. But with science textbooks, you might have to re-read it a couple of times to really get the break down.
  12. Nov 4, 2011 #11
    And you're a not doctor either, so why are you giving advice on ADD? Only a doctor can tell if bingo92 has ADD or not, you are not the one to make that diagnosis.
  13. Nov 4, 2011 #12
    That's the way I did things, too, in my undergrad.

    I don't know what the right coping mechanism is for dealing with a system that doesn't accommodate your style of learning. It's better not to sell out and take short cuts in your understanding. Understanding is better than grades.

    It's definitely possible to try to understand everything and only then tackle the problems, just to solidify your understanding and see how to carry things out in practice.

    However, there can be times when it helps to work on problems before you completely understand. It gets you more involved. Of course, you can be involved when you are reading, but maybe it's better to pay more attention to your own perceptions than those of a textbook author. A pitfall here is that I like to do problems through understanding, rather than just crank through them mindlessly, and if you haven't thought about things enough, there's a danger of that happening. Also, you are somewhat at the mercy of the problems as far as whether they are good problems that will really get you thinking about things and turning the concepts over in your mind. It's probably a really good idea to make up some of your own problems (I know I should, but often, I'm too lazy).

    In graduate school, you start to appreciate how huge a body of knowledge there is in your field. You might not have time to understand everything thoroughly. That was kind of a shocker for me. I don't like using ideas that I don't fully understand. But, you do have the option to sometimes take things on faith to save some time and effort. Unfortunately, this option has greater advantages than it should have intrinsically, for the simple reason that the material that you have to learn is often presented in a way that makes understanding it many times more difficult than it ought to be. It's like driving a car. You don't need to know how it works. Of course, maybe you are much more interested in designing your own cars, so it's much more relevant to take them apart and see how they work. Nothing wrong with that, but just keep in mind that you always have the option of just driving if you need to.

    But, maybe you shouldn't worry too much about that at this point. Different people have different styles and one is not always better than the other, so it's good to follow your preferences (just keep an open mind about other ways of doing things). It's not good if everyone thinks the same way.
  14. Nov 4, 2011 #13
    I'm not giving a diagnosis. The OP said that he is falling behind because he is focusing a lot on the theory and trying to understand where things came from. I don't see any symptoms from ADD else than lacking time and the appropriate study method. He simply mentioned ADD as a scapegoat for falling behind, nothing to diagnose here.
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