Learn to learn

We learn Mathematics, English, Science, History, Music….. etc.

“Hold on a minute.

Have we ever learnt how to learn?”


A few days ago, a student, Cindy*, who needed help on Physics met up with me for a one to one consultation session. She has failed Physics for most of Secondary 3 except for the first chapter – Units and Measurement.

We can all easily jump to conclusion that Cindy needs to practice more questions. Possibly but we have to find out why her hard work is not paying off.  Before the consultation, I suggested to Cindy to reflect on the topics/weakness she would like to work for the coming consultation.

And she texted me


Sounds like a common feedback from parents and teachers. What about the learner? She has no idea what is going wrong. Having zero idea is never a good idea. Imagine walking into a supermarket and have zero idea of what you need to buy and you will likely end up buying things you don’t need or nothing at all.

Taking ownership of her own learning is the first step. To reflect on her studying practices (daily, before assessment or after assessment) and have an idea if it works or not.

Some argues that students like Cindy (15 years old) may not have the maturity to do such a reflection. Not True! We learn since the day we are born. There is an intrinsic ability for us to know what works and what does not.

Michael Jordan says if you practice shooting 100 balls with bad technique, you get very good at shooting with bad technique.

Cindy has been spending tons of time writing notes. After digging deeper, I realised that “writing notes” meant copying whatever is the textbook into a nice notebook.

Writing notes is about organising and bringing forth the key concepts. So that when you flip through your notes, gives a quick review of the chapter.  Similar to a synopsis of a book.

Digging Deeper

Cindy does not practice questions or re-attempt the questions that was done in class. She writes and re-writes notes to remember the key facts. Top students do practice papers.  Exams cannot be the first time a learner is attempting the question independently. That is too scary!

This is well-researched and surveyed. (See TED Video below)


  1. Be brutally honest with yourself. (Take ownership of learning practice and know what works and what does not.)

  2. Notes is an organization/summary of key concept.

  3. Practice papers are the rehearsal before exams.

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