The holy grail of almost any learning is meaningful learning. If we simplify a bit, we can say that any learning attempt can have two outcomes: rote learning or meaningful learning. By rote learning I mean memorizing some facts or steps without understanding. You can repeat the facts or perform the steps, but you don’t know what they mean – you are not able to apply the facts together with some new information in a different context. Meaningful learning means that you actually understand the new concepts, new facts. You understand how they are related to the concepts you already know. Therefore, you can combine the new knowledge with everything else you know and apply it in new situations. Moreover, interlinked facts and concepts stays in your memory longer. Linking new to known concepts leads to meaningful learning So whenever you are learning, you should aim for meaningful learning. But how? One great tool that can help you is concept mapping . Similarly to mind mapping, you draw facts, terms or concepts as bubbles and links between them. The crucial thing is that you name the links between the concepts, explaining their meaning. Linking the concepts, especially the unknown new concepts to those you already know, is the key to meaningful learning. And concept maps help you explicitly show these links. But you still have to find the links between the new and the known on your own. You still have to rely on classic study methods, munching through tons of information and hoping that you stumble upon the right links somewhere in the process. That either the teacher will be so great that she will present to you the right information that relates to what you know, or that you find the right study material that will include such information. But you won’t know what you are looking for until you find it.
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