Learning and working style

How you learn best

Being aware of how you learn best and what motivates you is important, as it can help you study more effectively. According to the Open University, you can improve your learning by:

  • analysing how you do things
  • being willing to try new things
  • recognising what works best for you.

Active learning

Active learning puts you in charge of your learning, rather than your lecturer or tutor. This can make it more satisfying, relevant, meaningful and memorable. Some active learning strategies include:

  • preparing for lectures by doing any background reading
  • asking questions and being critical
  • reviewing what you've learnt and applying it to real life
  • explaining or teaching it to someone else
  • reflecting on feedback so you can improve
  • setting yourself goals and breaking these into sub-goals
  • planning your time and working in focused short bursts with breaks.

See Being an active learner for a summary and Studying 101: Study Smarter Not Harder for tips on more effective studying. Or watch this YouTube video on the Top 6 Science-Based Study Skills.


Putting information into your own words, or another format such as a diagram or mental image can help you memorise it. Alternatively, discussing it with a study partner might suit you better. Whatever you do, reviewing information and increasing the time between each review (spaced retrieval) will help you store it in your long-term memory. See this article on The Science of Memory: Top 10 Proven Techniques to Remember More and Learn Faster for more.


Successful learners usually have high levels of intrinsic motivation. This TED talk on 'The puzzle of motivation' explains why rewards alone are not enough. According to 'How to be Motivated: 4 New Insights From Research', what really motivates us is having:

  • autonomy - being in charge of what we do
  • mastery - seeing ourselves get better at something
  • purpose - feeling that what we do has value.

So, if you can take charge of your learning, see yourself making progress and feel that what you are studying is worthwhile, you are more likely to stick at it.