Our main focus is on creating successful learners. This requires effective learning skills and effective self-management and time management skills. Therefore, we teach all of these.
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Learning and studying techniques
The course is based on fundamental cognitive processes that your brain uses to learn information. Therefore the course is optimal for any subject where you need to learn, retain and apply knowledge.
It is most effective for subjects that are heavy, conceptual or detailed. It is least effective for very procedural or skill-based domains such as music performance, dance and (partially) languages.
Our techniques are not only based on up-to-date research but, unlike the majority of techniques out there, they are extensively "field-tested" by thousands of students in real-world pressures.
Why research evidence alone is not enough.
As any good scientist knows, the research is limited by what has been studied and sometimes what is not known is greater than what is known. This is, unfortunately, the case for almost all studying techniques. The research on effective learning is frankly very sparse and full of gaps, making it impossible to say what the "best" approach is.
In fact, studies on the real-world effectiveness of studying techniques for students (as opposed to studies aimed at helping teachers or institutions) has only really started around the early 2000s.
Surprisingly, the overwhelming majority of study techniques that are commonly taught are not tested for realistic learning environments.
For example, spaced repetition is one of, if not the single most widely recommended study technique for students. But did you know that 90% of the research done on spaced repetition are in lab environments? They don’t look at what happens if you have multiple subjects; frequent assessments; high workload; homework... Very few studies even think about the "time taken" as a factor. Even worse, most studies don’t test recall after 1 or 2 days, and the ones that do are almost exclusively for language learning only.
Therefore, significant experience is needed to bridge some of the gaps in the research in a way that makes theoretical sense, while being practically effective.
Dr Justin's areas of active research interest include filling these research gaps and looking at studying processes that genuinely work for students in realistic learning environments.
What creates efficient learning?
Note: This section has been simplified for a non-technical audience. If you are an educator and would like to have a technical discussion around the educational theory, scientific basis and experiential insights for our course, please click the button below.
Modern research on memory and learning tells us that encoding and retrieval are two sides of the same coin. Without adequate retrieval, we risk long-term memory decay through a cognitive phenomenon called "retrieval failure". However, without proper encoding, we do not properly store information in our long-term memory, to begin with!
Most studying systems focus on creating retrieval opportunities, but lots of retrieval without proper encoding is like filling a leaky bucket faster!
This results in lots of wasted time on relearning. Furthermore, the cognitive load involved in proper encoding also improve mastery of learning, helping you to apply your knowledge, solve problems, and relate ideas together in expert ways.
A studying system without proper cognitive load optimisation or encoding results in a repetitive, tedious, time-consuming, highly forgetful, and rote-memorisation-heavy learning experience that produces more superficial depths of understanding and application. Many students call this the studying "grind".
In our experience, these methods of studying only create success for learners who have a naturally high level of encoding, in the first place.
But even for learners who are naturally gifted, knowing how it works gives them more control over the process, helping them to build entire systems around what works, and remove the aspects that don't work.
It's like having a fast car. Learning about the engine lets you tune it even further!
How our high-efficiency studying system works
The process for higher efficiency encoding we teach is a novel method of using inquiry-based learning with very strict parameters, to increase intrinsic load, specifically to facilitate chunking and schema formation, which bypasses working memory capacity limitations and activates higher-order learning.
The way we teach inquiry-based learning is also very specific, overcoming essentially all of the problems with it that the literature often finds. We supplement this process with a naturally recursive and tangential method of syntopical reading and notetaking, which helps make your notes align with your cognitive schema more closely, while also being less time-consuming. We finally augment this with interleaving, proper spacing and active retrieval practice.
Dr Justin is working towards extensive empirical validation of this system with his PhD and related publications, with assistance from Monash University.
Time management, procrastination, focus and mindset techniques
Because the research around behaviour is much more consistent, our approach to time management, procrastination, focus and mindset development is more straightforward. If you’ve struggled with these things for years, it’s normal to just think that’s "the way you are". But the reality is that these are also skills.
Managing stress is a skill. Time management is a skill. And all of the research on cognitive retraining, habit formation, skill acquisition and neuroplasticity suggests that it can be trained.
In our own experience, if you follow the right steps, it can be "fixed". It isn’t easy, but it’s definitely very doable, and definitely very worth it.
We teach a wide range of techniques and strategies, many with specific adaptations. The adaptations are derived from either our years of experience and close observation, up-to-date research, or both.
Importantly, we teach the nuance to time management and stress management techniques. We look at the common reasons why they don’t always work.
A great example is time-blocking or Pomodoro. Anyone who’s used these extensively knows that they can be effective, however, there are some limitations to their effectiveness and transferability. We've found that many people stop using these strategies after a while because of their inconsistency.
We teach you why and how they work so that you can consistently get the most out of the techniques. You'll find that our approaches to habit formation, behaviour change and motivation are very unique (and highly evidence-based).
Habit formation and behaviour change
To be brief, our approach to behaviour change is based on the ABC framework of behaviour.
We have a very strong emphasis on strategies to change antecedents and "setting up events" or vulnerability factors. We then combine this with differential reinforcement strategies. This is aligned with the currently accepted guidelines for Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA) therapy.
In our experience, it is very effective at changing behaviour, creating automatic reinforcement and preventing ego depletion/willpower exhaustion.