Learning is a lifelong process that takes place in many different areas, either consciously or unconsciously. Learning is not just an increase in knowledge and skills, but a constant change and development of thinking.

Different learning theories and perspectives look at learning from slightly different perspectives.

The behaviourist learning approach that was still prevalent in the 1980s viewed learning primarily as an external transfer of knowledge from teacher to learner. Today, learning is considered to be constructivist in nature (construct build, assemble, form, create), in which case the learner him/herself actively “constructs” his/her own knowledge, using new knowledge and previously acquired knowledge and experiences as building blocks.

Learning is understanding and application, and therefore not only the correct knowledge of a subject is enough, but it also requires the processing of knowledge and experiences, i.e. active effort and giving time to learning.

Learning requires study skills

Learning can be enhanced by developing your learning skills and study strategies.

Factors that make learning difficult, barriers to learning, can be due not only to learning difficulties or lack of physical ability, but also to many other factors, such as lack of motivation.

How to learn to learn?

Learning is not a self-evident skill, but can be learned and practiced consciously. Learning to learn refers to the student's ability to think and monitor, or reflect on, his/her learning. A skilled learner is aware of his/her own learning and the factors that influence it, and is able to direct his/her learning in a certain direction.

In order to promote learning to learn, you can e.g. think about
- why you are studying a particular subject or topic (motivation),
- through what methods you best learn or understand a new subject, and
- how you study (learning strategy).

After a course or module, you should also evaluate what you have learned during your studies. Structuring and perceiving your learning also helps to monitor the progress of your studies.

University studies require the student to be active and self-directed in his/her studies. The self-directed student acts on his/her own initiative and effectively, takes responsibility for his/her studies, sets goals, chooses and plans. The student monitors the development of his/her thinking and know-how and seeks new ways to enhance his/her learning.

Learning strategies

Different learning techniques, i.e. learning strategies, are used to acquire and process information, as well as to memorise and recall it.

The strategy used has a decisive impact on what and how you learn. Strategies are situation- and task-specific, so a skilled learner can vary their use if he/she identifies his/her own strategies.

Finding the right learning strategy for yourself and the task or situation improves performance, saves time, reduces the number of failures, increases motivation and raises self-esteem. You must be able to consider at what level a particular subject should be learned (surface level, general level or deep level).

The best-known strategies for learning are surface processing of information and strategies based on in-depth processing of information.

Surface-level learning strategies

A learner using surface-level strategies typically memorises facts and information, pays attention to detail, strives to replicate information, and has a low level of observation and planning of his/her own actions. The knowledge learned through surface-level strategies is easily forgotten because learning results in fragmented and overly detailed information structures. Time must be allowed for learning and the development of understanding. Hurrying often leads to superficial learning that is short-term and easily forgotten.

Learning the next new subject becomes easier and faster when you take the time to understand subjects more deeply instead of superficially remembering them. Strategies based on passive information recognition do not support understanding learning and knowledge construction in the long term. Especially in university studies, studying is cumulative, i.e. new knowledge is built on top of what has been learned before.

Deep-level learning strategies

The goal of the learner using deep-level strategies is to deepen and refine knowledge. The student strives for this by outlining the subject to be studied as an entity, evaluating the basics of the content to be studied and analysing the connections between the various aspects of the subject to be studied.

Learners using in-depth strategies based on knowledge modification are characterised by analysing and evaluating what they have learned, structuring knowledge, striving for understanding and goal-oriented learning, developing subjects further, and planning their activities. Information learned as a result of active processing is better remembered.

Deep-level strategies based on active knowledge construction promote understanding learning and knowledge recall, as learned knowledge includes diverse connections to prior knowledge as well as broader entities rather than details. Deep-level learning strategies are often related to situations where the learner has an intrinsic motivation to learn.