• Aishwarya Pothula

Learning New Concepts

Sometime during middle school, we were asked by our teachers to start reading the newspapers. I got home feeling excited about the new task on hand only to be dejected that I could not make sense of the news. After a couple of more attempts, I lost interest. It was then that my grandfather suggested that I keep reading the newspaper unmindful of how much I understood. Believe me, a week later I was in a much better place. I now knew the content organization the paper followed, the kind of events being reported, reporting style etc.

What I want to say is that our mind is amazing and if we keep at it, we can definitely learn new concepts. I believe that the majority of our learning happens subconsciously relating new stimuli to knowledge that we already possess and building on it. I believe that is why I incrementally got better at reading the newspaper. I decided to write this blog to make a more conscious attempt at learning by putting into words the processes that help me. A more conscious attempt, I found, helps me learn quicker. Hope it helps you too.

Give it Time

Respect your biological processes and give yourself time to learn anything new. As part of my PhD, there are many novel things that I have to learn and more often that not, there isn't enough time. A hack I use here is to take good breaks between reading. When I come back to reading after breaks, I seem to magically understand better.

Diversify and Repeat

When you are really having a hard time synthesizing a concept, read about related concepts or articles. You can often find the related topics by looking at the references or by diving into google searches. Search for the main topic and keep reading about anything that comes up on that search. After some time, come back to the main topic and you will find yourself more suited to understanding it.

Engage other mediums

Using just one medium, reading for example, might become tedious to the mind. Try watching a video about the topic, try discussing it with people or even try writing down what you already know. Learning through different mediums reduces mental exhaustion.

Happy Learning!

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