School is back in session for kids, teens and college students. Or you might be an adult who decided to go back to school to learn a new field in order to have more options for a career. Whatever your path, you might wonder, what does it take to be a super student and get the grades needed in order to excel? In other words, how can I or my child be a super learner? Here are 7 characteristics of students who learn well:

  1. Leaners read. We live in a culture that celebrates 144 characters on Twitter or promotes headlines only. Yet the importance of reading for context cannot be over stated. Super students actually read text books and the learning material provided. They don’t cheat themselves with Cliff notes and shortcuts. When you look at several successful people, they read–everyday and quite a lot.
  2. Learning is a life long process versus studying for a test. When you think of learning as a life journey, it makes a big difference. The attitude is, “This is helping me in life,” versus, “This is what I need to do to pass the test.” Unfortunately, too many students were taught to the test (think SOLs) and do not appreciate learning as a process that continues after the test is done.
  3. Learners are curious people. The curious person wants to learn more and new things. They ask questions, think critically and dig deeper to understand complex things. Curiosity often ends in discovery. It also makes the brain more receptive to learning and makes learning more enjoyable.
  4. Learners have a growth vs. fixed mindset. I’ve written about the difference between a fixed and growth mindset before. Basically, it involves growing and learning, keeping an open-mind to improve your life. If you believe that the qualities that lead to success are fixed and a result of in-born abilities and talents, you have a fixed mindset. A person with a growth mindset believes in change, growth and resiliency. In-born abilities can be developed but they don’t determine success. Hard work pays off. Failure is a learning opportunity to show us what we need to do better. Anything, good or bad, can be used to teach. People with a growth mindset persevere with setbacks and don’t give up.
  5. Learners take breaks. During the learning process, the brain needs frequent breaks in order to store memory and consolidate. Thus, cramming for a test is not a good strategy. A better strategy to learn the material is to study, take a 10 minute break, get up move around and then go back to the material. The rule of thumb is about 50 minutes of study, then a 10 minute or more break. The brain needs time to process information, rest and recover.
  6. Learners can teach other people. One way to know if you really understand something is to try and teach it to other people. This requires your brain to retrieve information which helps the brain remember. And when you teach someone else, you quickly see what you don’t know and have to learn in order to better teach it. If you can transfer your knowledge to someone else, you have probably really learned it.
  7. Learners engage in brain health. Basic lifestyle routines of good sleep, healthy eating and exercise help the brain learn and retain information. One reason college students struggle with learning is they tend not to  engage in healthy lifestyles-staying up late, drinking, eating junk food, and cramming. To become a better learner, sleep is number one for retaining information and learning a new task. Sleep helps memory become stable and consolidates memory in the brain. Change your diet, get sleep and exercise and your learning will improve.
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