The Art of Learning Starts With Finding “Gaps” – Motherly Advice to My Teenager Daughter, and Myself

It’s now just 3 years before those dreaded HSC exams, and pressure is mounting all around, but especially from within.

This tip-list is not a cure for exam anxiety but hopefully it will give you ideas that make your test-taking journey far more enjoyable and rewarding.

First, let’s start with the heart, and reframe how we think and feel about tests…

> The biggest benefit of tests is that they teach us to learn; they don’t define our value!

> Tests show gaps in our understanding or recall that we need to shore up.

> Our knowledge gaps arn’t just about missing information and shallow belief. They often reflect our false assumptions and bias as well. They stand in the way of truth.

Once that’s sunk in, let’s reflect on some principles and practices…

> Identifying our knowledge gaps *early and often* will help ensure better test outcomes.

> A weekly “gap analysis” will relieve the pressure of having to learn new or unfamiliar material right before a test. This time is best spent practising what we do know instead.

> Habitually closing gaps not only builds our knowledge but teaches us “how to learn.”

> One learning method may not be enough. A deeply rooted “gap” may need multiple attempts at closure.

> We may need to seek help from a number of different people, repeatedly escalating our issues to better equipped experts, until our gaps are fully resolved.

> We’ll know we’ve effectively closed a knowledge gap once we're competent to teach the topic to others! This exercise in of itself is a powerful learning technique.

Now let’s consider issues that block our progress…

> We can expect myriad challenges and obstacles to learning. For you at school it’s noisy classrooms, busy teachers, confounding text books, hormones, sickness, social challenges, work commitments, fatigue, and yes, laziness.

> Learning to overcome these ‘normal’ obstacles to achieve our goal of closing knowledge gaps (early and often), builds character and resilience.

And some closing motherly advice…

> The art of learning will continuously reward you throughout your life, especially when it comes to facing complex and tedious adult tasks such as taxes, budgeting, super-investing, mortgage payment, small business management, will/estate planning…

> Cultivating healthy learning habits will also help you succeed at work, and in all your relationships.