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How to study for max absorption and retention

How to Study Effectively

Effective studying requires more than just memorizing facts and figures – it requires purposeful study. Essence of knowledge transfer is in its complete comprehension and the ability of the student to internalize and apply the concepts. Later practice would take the student to the level of master where he would be able to teach others. 

Read also : How to be successful in life – 3 ingredients and 2 qualities

This process is much more than merely knowing the facts and figures – what a lot of people call Purposeful Study. Purposeful study requires learners to develop and use a variety of strategies to ensure they are fully engaging with the material they are learning.

Best ways to study effectively – Three Methods 

In this blog post, I will try and outline the different methods to study for maximum absorption and retention, such as Bloom’s Taxonomy, Swadhyaya Method, and Synoptical Reading. I have tried all of them at some point or the other in my life and found them really useful to not just study and apply unknown concepts myself, but also developed effective training programs for the teams I have handled.

I. Bloom’s Taxonomy 

A. What is Bloom’s Taxonomy 

Bloom’s Taxonomy is a system of classifying learning objectives based on six levels of cognitive thinking. It is an invaluable tool for planning lessons, assessments, and other learning activities. 

The six levels are: knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. Each level is progressively more difficult and requires a higher level of cognitive thinking. 

B. Stages of Bloom’s Taxonomy 

1. Knowledge: The first level in Bloom’s Taxonomy is knowledge. This level involves memorizing facts and figures. Any education starts with knowing about the subject matter, without which one cannot start the learning.

The right form of reading involves reading from multiple perspectives that exposes the reader to the complete view about the subject matter – this is also called Synoptic Reading explained further as a separate method. 

2. Comprehension: The next level is comprehension, which is understanding the material. This involves making connections between concepts and interpreting the material. Comprehension involves understanding a subject to at least such depth that the reader is able to make his/her own reasoned opinions about it. 

3. Application: The third level is application, which is applying the material. This involves taking well thought actions with the knowledge gained to achieve a practical objective. 

4. Analysis: The fourth level is analysis, which is breaking down the material into smaller parts to understand it better. Analysis refers to understanding the relations between different parts of the data obtained. This may lead to proposals of new theories and concepts. For example, analysis of a particular set of human population data may reveal demographic and economic information about that group of population. 

5. Synthesis: The fifth level is synthesis, which is combining different concepts and creating new ideas. Going through all the above levels, the student know is able to make new concepts in various permutations and combinations of different parts of knowledge that he obtained.

This may lead to new ideas being created – a particular new application of a drug, or a device into a different field.

Synthesis through knowledge is a very interesting subject. The same knowledge may lead to different students proposing different applications. This is based on their life experience that varies for each person. This concept is also called ‘absorptive capacity’ in Entrepreneurship.

6. Evaluation: The sixth level is evaluation, which is making judgments based on the material. Once the student is able to achieve mastery over a subject, he /she is now able to pass on reasoned judgements on the theories in the field. This is one step towards becoming a master or a guide. 

As per Bloom’s Taxonomy, this is the complete knowledge cycle that a student goes through. This can be applied to any field from designing a school classroom syllabus, to corporate training and programs. 

II. Swadhyaya Method – the Yogic Way

Swadhyaya  literlally means self-study ( स्व -> Self , अध्याय -> Study ) in Sansrit / Hindi. This technique also forms one of the 5 Yamas or Self-observances  mentioned in the Ashtanga-Yoga or the Eightfold path of Yoga philosophy. 

A. What is the “Swadhyaya” or self-study Method 

The Swadhyaya Method involves reading a passage multiple times and making notes after each read. This method encourages learners to make connections between the material and other concepts, as well as to use higher-order thinking skills to gain a deeper understanding of the material. 

B. Steps of Swadhyaya Method 

The steps of the Swadhyaya Method are as follows: 

1. Read the passage once. 

2. Make notes while reading, such as key terms, connections between concepts, and questions. 

3. Read the passage again and answer the questions. 

4. Make connections between the material and other concepts. 

5. Read the passage a third time and make more notes. 

This process of reading, contemplating, and comprehending is repeated till the student archives comprehension of the subject. 

This concept is taken even to deeper levels in the Yogic methods of Meditation wherein one is required to meditate on a statement, or a feeling for a long time. This feeling becomes the meditator’s single point focus – his goal in life. This is to be practiced till the meditator becomes one with the mantra or concept. At this point in time, he is revealed truths contained in that feeling and he is able to achieve mastery over the concept. 

This is a detailed topic in itself – so let’s keep that for some other blog. 

The third and the last technique we will cover is called synoptic reading. 

III. Synoptical Reading 

A. What is Synoptical Reading 

Synoptical reading is a process of reading multiple sources and making connections between them. This method encourages learners to make connections between different sources of information and to analyze them from different perspectives. 

This is a powerful technique to understand the whole truth in its totality.

Let’s see it with an example. Suppose you are looking at an object from the front, you are able to see a 2-dimensional shape of it in one plane. You do not know yet how it looks from the sides or from the top. However, when you look at the object from all the sides, you are now able to make better sense of its depth, height, length, and the complete shape. When you go within the object and look inside, it will provide even a different perspective. A third perspective will emerge when you stand within the object and look outside. 

Gaining these perspectives about any physical matter or concept also forms the foundation of mediation as explained in the brief above. 

Synoptical study simply means understanding a concept from all directions.For example, if you are reading political news, read the viewpoints of both the leftist and rightist leaders. Now check the data around that news and form your own unbiased viewpoint. Merge these three viewpoints, and you will be closer to truth than you would be with any one viewpoint. 

B. Steps of Synoptical Reading 

The steps of synoptical reading are as follows: 

1. Identify the sources of information.

This is a pre-research activity, where you gather the books, research papers, news items around the topic. 

2. Read each source and outline the main ideas.

Now you skim each source to get the main ideas. Only read deeply the stuff that particularly interests you. It is okay to make a sense of structure of information at this point. 

3. Compare and contrast the sources.

Now start evaluating the differences and similarities in the information to get a list of all the perspectives available. 

4. Analyze the material from different perspectives. 

Now, make a list of each perspective. Add your own perspectives if you see any particular direction missing. At this stage you will be able to see the missing viewpoint through your own reasoning ability. Get information about the missing perspective before you move further. Now analyze these perspectives to make a full view of the concept.

5. Draw conclusions based on the material. 

You will now be able to draw reasonably strong conclusions based on your study. Write these conclusions and check again to see if it meets the test of common sense. 

Now you are ready to present this matter to the world confidently. 

Alright, so we have now looked at three approaches to studying and mastering concepts. Well, go ahead and try one of them , or all of them to evaluate the differences between the three of them. 

Let me know in the comments which one works best for you. 

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