What are Meta Learning Skills?
Learning doesn’t stop when you leave the classroom. Whether you’re trying to level up in your career or expand your abilities within a hobby, developing a strong knack for retaining and applying new knowledge can take you far in life.
By understanding the inner workings of your brain and developing what’s called meta learning skills, you can learn how to learn. Even if you were a poor test-taker or never excelled in school, you can equip yourself with the tools necessary for success in any situation.
What Is Meta Learning?
Meta learning refers to the processes and skills that we use to learn. While it’s mostly used when discussing how to optimize and improve artificial intelligence (AI) systems, the term can also be applied to humans. Simply put: they’re the techniques we use to learn more efficiently and effectively.
The concept goes way back to 1979 when a man named Donald B. Maudsley theorized that meta learning was “the process by which learners become aware of and increasingly in control of habits of perception, inquiry, learning, and growth that they have internalized.” Today, the concept has evolved to describe leveraging previously known data to efficiently learn and execute new tasks.
Think of it this way—athletes who master a particular sport will be more likely to learn a new sport faster than someone who plays no sports at all. They already have the basic motor and coordination skills required, so they can focus on developing the new skills required for the new sport.
The same goes for learning a new language. Science shows that people who are bilingual find it easier to learn a third language. Meta learning skills allow you to capitalize on what you already know to quickly learn and apply new information. It’s essential for anyone who wants to stay ahead of the curve, whether you’re a student, a professional, or just a lifelong learner.
Meta Learning Skills: How to Learn More Efficiently
Honing your learning skills—like anything—takes time and patience. There are hundreds of thousands of ways to learn more efficiently, and the best way to find what works for you is to experiment.
That being said, there are several science-backed techniques you can leverage to be a total learning machine.
Play With Memory Techniques
One of the simplest yet most effective ways to improve your learning skills is by incorporating memory techniques into your studies. When you can remember more of what you’re learning, you can obviously learn better and faster.
There are countless memory tricks out there, but some of the most popular and well-known ones include:
- Active Recall: Test yourself on what you’ve learned by retrieving the information from your memory, as opposed to re-reading it or looking at notes. This has been shown to enhance recollection and understanding of the material.
- Spaced Repetition: This technique spaces out your studying over time (rather than cramming it all into one session), which has been proven to increase retention rates. Several tools can help with this, like Anki and SuperMemo.
- Chunking: Breaking down information into manageable chunks makes it easier to remember and recall later on. This is especially useful for remembering long strings of numbers or complex concepts.
- Mnemonic Devices: These memory aids can take many different forms, including acronyms, abbreviations, and rhymes. They work by helping you associate the information with something more concrete and easily remembered.
Utilize Prime Study Times
It’s not just about how you study, but when you study. Research has found that studying before you go to sleep helps you retain information. You can also take naps in between learning sessions to help your brain consolidate information.
Digital note taking is great for storing information, but when it comes to learning, nothing beats a pen and a piece of paper. Studies have found that writing down information by hand forces you to process it in a different way than if you were to type it out and, as a result, helps you learn and remember better.
Also called the protégé effect, teaching someone else increases your metacognitive processing. Science shows that when you have to explain a concept to someone else, you solidify—and deepen—your own understanding of it.
Take A Nap
That’s right—napping doesn’t just help you feel rested and refreshed, it can also help you learn. Studies have found that taking a nap after learning something new can help improve memory recall later on.
Improve Your Sleep Hygiene
Getting consistently good quality sleep does wonders for your brain in terms of learning and memory. Often referred to as sleep learning, there is evidence to suggest that your nightly snooze impacts how well you learn and remember new information more than you think:
- It encourages memory consolidation: Sleep (especially slow-wave sleep) is essential for memory consolidation, which is the process of transferring newly learned information from your short-term memory to your long-term memory.
- It helps you form new associations: One study found that people who slept while listening to sets of fake words and pretend meanings could recall the “correct” meaning once they woke up.
- It improves focus and cognitive performance: Studies show that sleep deprivation negatively impacts your attention span, working memory, and ability to think abstractly—all skills that are essential for learning.
So there you have it—six science-backed ways to improve your learning skills and meta learning abilities. Just remember that the best way to find what works for you is to experiment until you find a learning strategy that helps you learn more effectively and efficiently.
Meta learning skills are all about understanding how you learn best and using that information to your advantage. By utilizing these techniques, you can learn more effectively, retain information better, and boost your overall performance.
Meta learning skills are critical for students, professionals, and anyone who wants to improve their memory and cognitive abilities. If you want to learn more effectively and efficiently, start by implementing some of the techniques discussed above.
Your brain will thank you.
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