Bored in class? Stop texting & hack your learning style to get ahead

Kaplan Logo

So you’re an English major who signed up for “Geology 101: The History of Rocks” to fulfill a requirement you wouldn’t wish on anyone. Or maybe you’re a Geology major forced to take “English 110: Shakespeare’s Sonnets in the Modern World.” Let’s face it: not every course you’re taking this semester may seem like a winner.

You’re not alone. A recent study from the University of Central Lancashire reports that almost 60% of students find at least half their lectures boring, with 75% resorting to daydreaming, 66% to doodling, and 45% to texting to pass the time.

So who’s to blame? Sometimes the material bores us, and sometimes our professors are as uninteresting as an over-filtered Kardashian selfie, but sometimes we’re just not paying attention. Placing blame is pretty subjective, but the data about how we learn and retain information is not. Learning science shows that obtuse subjects, poor teachers, and even your own boredom don’t have to be roadblocks to your learning experience.

Dr. Bror Saxberg, Chief Learning Officer at Kaplan, is an expert in learning science, a field that applies scientific principles to the design and improvement of instructional methods to promote better learning outcomes. If you’re finding some of your courses to be a slog this semester, Bror has some tips to help you take responsibility for your own learning and get the most out of your classes.

• If you aren’t interested in the subject, try connecting it to what you are interested in. This will improve both retention and understanding. For example, Dr. Saxberg once wrote an English paper that used statistics to analyze themes in Romeo and Juliet. Try talking to your professors about how you can use your talents to explore the subject in a new way — they might just be impressed with your initiative! After all, passivity is the enemy of learning.

• In class, take detailed notes by hand, not by computer. The goal is to force yourself to summarize on the fly, not get the words verbatim. You might find the subject more interesting than you initially thought — and you’ll be amazed how bits and pieces will keep coming to mind afterwards. (To quote Shakespeare: “But soft! what light through yonder window breaks?”)

• Get the most out of reading assignments by voluntarily summarizing them with the book closed. While this isn’t easy, it really works to embed what you know — and reveal what’s important you might have missed.

• Space out your assignments rather than hustle to get them all done at the end of the semester. Students who do their work in spaced-out chunks as they approach the finish line are more likely to actually understand and retain information, so plan ahead! Best of all, you’ll be much less stressed when Spring Fling hits at the same time your friends’ essays are all due.

At the end of the day, we all have requirements and even electives that might not prove to be as interesting as we thought. But that doesn’t mean we can’t make the most of our classroom and study time.

Using just a few proven learning science techniques, a forgettable class for everyone else can become a great — maybe even transformative — class for you.