Taking control of your learning
Taking control of your learning environment and directing and regulating your own actions towards your learning goals will make you an effective and successful ākonga.
Self-regulated learners are successful because they control their learning environment. They exert this control by directing and regulating their own actions toward their learning goals.
How do I take control?
You can be a successful student by taking responsibility for your own success.
How can I do this?
By managing and regulating your own learning.
Managing your learning means?
Thinking critically: thinking about your own thinking
Asking yourself questions in your learning process
Working hard to stay focused and motivated
Taking responsibility for solving your own problems
Finding space and time to study
I am not afraid of storms for I am learning how to sail my ship.
Louisa May Alcott
What is thinking critically?
Critical thinking is the process of examining, analysing and questioning situations, issues, and information of all kinds.
The aim is to form and maintain an objective position. You evaluate all sides of an argument or issue, and make decisions about its reliability and soundness.
Preparing yourself for learning often begins with some self reflection. We suggest kicking this off with a few questions to understand what your goals are for learning.
Sometimes people make the choice to attend tertiary study because:
It seems like the right thing to do
- Everyone else is doing it
Your parents or friends have provided "encouragement"
You are studying to attain a career goal.
Ask yourself the question 'why am I choosing to study?' and keep asking 'why?' until you come up with your own reasons for pursuing higher education.
Why ask this question?
You are more likely to put in the required effort to attain your goal if it is important to you, so by understanding your reasons for studying you can focus on what you want the most. Tertiary study can be fun and rewarding, but academic success does require effort.
Help, I'm stuck!
To help you think through your reasons for studying, here are some suggested resources:
Just like identifying your reasons for studying, asking yourself questions during the learning process will help you gain an understanding of your own ability to complete tasks and assignments effectively. It will also help you in setting goals that will help you day to day.
Questions to ask before
This is questioning what you need to do before you actually do it, thinking ahead.
What questions do I ask?
> What are the requirements of the assignment?
> What is my aim? (grade, skill attainment)
> Do I think I can do it?
> What aspect of this assignment has engaged my curiosity/interest?
> What steps do I need to take to complete this task successfully?
Questions to ask during
This is questioning what takes place during the activity.
What questions do I ask?
> Am I actively engaged in the instruction the teacher is giving me?
> What do I need support with?
> What am I teaching myself?
> What do I need right now to be successful?
Questions to ask after
This questioning what occurs after the fact; this allows you to consider what you can do to prepare for next time.
What questions do I ask?
> Did I achieve my aim for this assignment?
> Why did I (not) achieve my aim?
> What did I do to affect (for better or worse) my performance of this assignment?
> What can I do on the next assignment to improve?
Setting SMART goals
Once you have an understanding of what you would like to focus on, you can make some SMART goals. The SMART goal framework is a tool to use to focus your aims. It helps with making goals achievable and is often used in reflections.
Find more information about goals on the Time Management page.
One minute you are enthusiastically starting a class project, and then a friend drops by. Suddenly, all you want to do is close the books and relax a while, hang out with friends. Sound familiar?
We are all driven by external or internal forces by some degree. Internal forces – your feelings of self-motivation to succeed – are by far the more important, because they do not depend on anyone or anything else and they tend to persist when external forces have faded or disappeared.
So how do you measure your level of self-motivation? Here is a quick quiz to help you. If you think your level is too low, check the explanation that follows for suggestions on how you can pump it up.
Score how well each of the following six statements describe you.Take the quiz
Planning ahead to get ahead
One of the characteristics of successful people is accepting that life is full of interruptions and change—and planning for it. Staying focused does not mean you become a boring person who does nothing but go to class and study all the time. You just need to make a plan.
Planning ahead is the single best way to stay focused and motivated to reach your goals.
Tips for staying focused and motivated
Not just the goals themselves. If just thinking about finishing your course does not sound all that exciting, then think instead about the great, high-paying career that may come afterward and the things you can do with that income.
Even your small successes. As you begin a project or approach studying for a test, think about your past success on a different project or test.
Remember how good it feels to succeed. Know you can do it again.
It is a lot easier to stay focused in smaller time frames, so break the work up into smaller tasks.
Don't start out thinking, “I need to study the next four hours,” but think, “I’ll spend the next 30 minutes going through my class notes from the last three weeks and figure out what topics I need to spend more time on.”
Never, ever multitask while studying!
You may think that you can monitor email and send messages while studying, but in reality, these other activities lower the quality of your studying.
For some people, looking ahead to goals, or to anything else, may lead to daydreaming that keeps them from focusing on what they need to do right now. If your mind keeps drifting off you may need to reward or even trick yourself to focus on the here and now.
For example, if you cannot stop thinking about the snack you are going to have when you finish studying in a couple of hours, change the plan. Tell yourself you will take a break in twenty minutes if you really need it—but only if you really work well first.
Does a friend always seem better able to stick with studying or work until they get it done? What are they doing that you are not? We all learn from observing others, and we can speed up that process by deliberately using the same strategies we see working with others.
When you complete a task, but only when you are done. Some people seem able to stay focused better when there is a reward waiting.
Concentrate on the things that matter most first. Do not try to fool yourself into feeling you are accomplishing something by doing something else rather than studying. Stay focused!
“I’m going to study now for another hour before I take a break—and I’m getting an A on that quiz tomorrow!”
It's amazing how saying something aloud puts commitment in it and affirms that it can be true.
A lot of different kinds of setbacks may happen while you are studying.
A financial crisis
A global pandemic
An illness or injury
A crisis involving family members or loved ones
Stress related to frequently feeling you do not have enough time
Stress related to relationship problems
Some things happen that we cannot prevent—such as illness or losing a job but many other kinds of problems can be prevented or made less likely to occur:
You can take steps to stay as healthy as possible
You can take control of your finances and avoid some common financial problems among students
You can learn time management techniques to ensure you use your time effectively for studying.
Not all problems can be avoided. Illness or a financial problem can significantly set one back—especially when you are on a tight schedule and budget. Other problems, such as a social or relationship issue or an academic problem in a certain class, may be more complex and not easily prevented. What then?
Seek support from the Student Success team, they are here to support you on your learning journey.
Organising your own space is a simple but effective way to increase your levels of productivity.
Space is important for many reasons—some obvious, some less so. People’s moods, attitudes, and levels of work productivity change in different spaces.
Here are a few of the ways space matters:
Everyone needs his or her own space. This may seem simple, but everyone needs some physical area, regardless of size, that is really his or her own—even if it is only a small part of a shared space. Within your own space, you generally feel more secure and in control.
Physical space reinforces habits. Find a place that is only for study. For example, using your bed for studying, a place you fall asleep, makes it not a good place to try to stay awake and alert for studying.
Different places create different moods. Everyone needs to discover what space works best for them, and then let that space reinforce good study habits. A space bright and full of energy, with people passing through, may put you in a good mood, but it may actually make it more difficult to concentrate on your studying. Yet the opposite—a totally quiet place, without colour and sound can be just as unproductive if it makes you associate studying with something unpleasant.
Within your own space, you generally feel more secure and in control.
Techniques for organising your space
The goal is to find, or create, the best place for studying, and then to use it regularly so that studying there becomes a good habit. To avoid distractions, begin by thinking about your needs, preferences, and past problems with places for studying.
> Where do you usually study?
> What distractions are most likely to occur there?
> What are the best things about that place for studying?
Make sure it is not a place already associated with other activities (eating, watching television, sleeping, etc.).
Over time, the more often you study in this space, the stronger its association with studying will be, so that eventually you will be completely focused as soon as you reach that place and begin.
If your home or flat has distractions, then it is probably better to look for another place, such as a study lounge or an area in the library.
> An open desk or table surface usually works best for writing with a comfy but upright chair.
> You need good light for reading, to avoid tiring from eyestrain.
> If you use a laptop you will need a power outlet so that you do not have to stop when your battery runs out.
Experiment to find the setting that works best for you—and remember that the more often you use this same space, the more comfortable and effective your studying will become.
> Some people may need total silence with absolutely no visual distractions.
> Other people may be unable to concentrate for long without looking up from reading and having a mini break.
> Some people may find it easier to stay motivated when surrounded by other students also studying.
Ākonga living at home often need the support of family members to maintain an effective study space. The kitchen table is probably not best if others are passing by!
> Be creative, if necessary, and set up a small table in a quiet corner of your bedroom or elsewhere to avoid interruptions.
> Put a “do not disturb” sign on your door.
You want to prevent sudden impulses to tidy up your study space (when you should be studying).
> Put your phone on silent, or try a focus app
> Turn your notifications off on your computer and close all unnecessary programs or browser windows.
Everyone needs to take a break occasionally when studying.
Think about the space you are in and how to use it when you need a break.
> At home, stop and do a few exercises to get your blood flowing.
> In the library, take a walk up a couple of flights of stairs and around the aisles.
Have a plan ready in case someone interrupts and asks you to join them in some fun activity. Know when you plan to finish your studying, so that you can make a plan for later and have something to look forward to.
Organizing your space. Success in college by University of Minnesota. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 license.
Setting and reaching goals by University of Minnesota. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 license.