study skills - making connectionsStudy skills are sometimes universal rather than dependent on learning style. Take the case of making connections when you study. It doesn't matter if you are a visual, linguistic, or logical learner, we all make connections. For some, making connections comes naturally. For others, well we need to learn this valuable skill. 
Much like the gears in the image on the left, making connections may be thought of the gears that make the clock hands turn. One depends on the other for success while remaining part of the whole.

Study Skills: What Does Research Tell Us?

The vast majority of experts in the field of study skills tell us that the difference between slow and quick learners is dramatic. Slow learners tend to memorize details, a slow task. Quick learners, on the other hand, make connections within and outside of the material studied.
What exactly does it mean when I say making connections. I think the best way to do this is to tell you a story from experience. I was a freshman in college taking a course in Political Science. The course title was "Introduction to Political Philosophy." The text for the class was a compilation of political theory from Plato to Karl Marx. While interesting, I didn't quite get why we studied all these dead European philosophers. Then, one day I read the chapter on John Locke, an excerpt from his treatise on government. It sounded exactly like the US Declaration of Independence. One small change in Locke's version. He wrote "Life, Liberty, and Property." Jefferson changed "Property" to the "Pursuit of Happiness" which meant the same thing. BOOM, it was the first time I made a connection pointing the text to something already known.

Study Skills: Connections Between Ideas

We call making connections between similar (or even different) ideas expressed, contextual learning. It is a process that asks each student to customize their own approach to learning. One great thing about this is that it ties ideas together. You can see exactly how like thinkers express similar ideas. You can also make critical thinkers more meaningful when you connect to their critique.
When you make connections, it seems that material just falls into place. It is almost like magic. As you make connections you see more clearly how everything appears to fall into place. Rather than getting a partial picture of what is being said, you are able to see a finished picture.

Study Skills: Always Open for Revision

When studying and making connections your understanding of a particular subject is open for revision. It is much like having those moments when you want to yell A-ha! Armed with a set of connections, as you study further, make more connections, you will revise your understanding further.

Some Final Words

For some, making connections is a natural way of thinking. For others, it is a study skill that one must learn. Either way, however, the result is the same. A deeper understanding of the subject matter studied. With a deeper understanding, one develops a sense of the subject, thinks more deeply and critically, and has greater success in school.

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