weekly blog--one for the ages
A few weeks ago I ditched my real estate agent license to become the higher-level real estate broker. To do so, I had to take a 40 hour class spread across four days over a two week period, and then pass the national and state exams where the failure rate was upwards of 30 percent.
At age 65 the task seemed daunting, but to my surprise, I managed to endure. It also provided insight into how my learning style had changed since I took the agent exam about eight years ago. No longer could I memorize long vocabulary lists or math equations, or use a highlighter to mark and remember key concepts. I had to absorb information by thinking and doing--mostly by taking lots and lots of practice tests. Then again, maybe that’s the way I should have been learning all along.
Surprisingly, research on elderly learning styles is just beginning to emerge. One study found that older adults did best using one of four styles: Accommodator, Assimilator, Diverger, and Converger.
Accordingly, the 55 to 65 age group preferred the Accommodator learning style (learning by feeling and doing), the 66 to 74 age group preferred the Diverger style (learning by feeling and watching), and the 75+ group preferred the Assimilator style (learning by thinking and watching). Among all the survey participants, fewer preferred the Converger style, which involves thinking and doing while learning. I think that’s the equivalent of patting your head, rubbing your tummy, running in place and humming a Beatles tune at the same time.
The study’s conclusion: not all older learners are active, hands-on learners as adult education literature suggests, but rather with age there is a tendency to become more reflective and observational in the learning environment.
A recent blog in Harvard Medical School’s Health e-letter offered four effective learning strategies to use regardless of age based on recent research findings.
Quiz yourself frequently on the material you read. Make flashcards of important topics. Generate questions and answers from the material and regularly quiz yourself. Keep retrieving knowledge from your memory. It will prevent forgetting and allow you to identify areas you do not know to focus future study.
Space out your studying and quizzes. Spread out when you quiz yourself by hours, days, weeks, and months. As you gain mastery over the material, keep spacing the quizzes further apart.
Quiz yourself on different topics in each study session. For example, if you are studying for a biology test, don’t just study the chapters in order. Mix in questions from different chapters as you study. Interleaving, or alternating topics, will improve your ability to remember and apply information in the future.
Ask yourself questions while you are reading. Why is this happening? Why does this make sense? Or why does this not make sense? Asking “why” will help you process the information you are reading and apply it in future situations.