Active learning

Active learning is when you do things to reinforce what you’re reading, writing and learning.  This page includes some active learning techniques, and tips for improving your memory and concentration and reviewing your work.  

Techniques for active learning

To become an active learner, here’s some techniques that you could try:

  • write down what you already know
  • ask questions as you read
  • make notes of the main points in your own words
  • summarise what you read
  • explain what you have learned to someone else
  • complete all your course activities, not just the reading
  • take part in course discussions by sharing your ideas and asking questions.

For more ideas on making notes, check out:


Improve your memory

We can use a range of things to help improve our memory, such as pictures, colour, language, organisation and repetition.

The Preparing for exams page has a few great ideas, such as:

  • summarising
  • reduce and re-create
  • recite aloud
  • using post-its or flashcards.

Mind mapping is another excellent technique. If you’ve never used mind mapped before, check the Mind mapping page to learn how it might help.


Improve your concentration

Many learners say they find it hard to concentrate on their studies. Here’s some things you could try to help improve your concentration.

Get started

  • Choose a study space that is comfortable with no distractions.
  • Leave your phone somewhere else or turn it off.
  • If you like music that’s okay, but make sure it’s not distracting.
  • Get more ideas to help you get started with your studies

Make a plan

  • Create a study timetable and stick to it.
  • Divide your work into chunks that have a beginning and an end.
  • Focus on a whole section or topic each time.

Set study goals

  • Before you begin each study session, decide what you intend to achieve.
  • Write down your goals: ‘Summarise pages 40-65’, ‘Complete the outline for Assessment 1’.
  • Set yourself a time limit, for example: 'I’ll summarise Chapter 2 in 40 minutes'.

Take breaks

  • You’ll remember best if you study for shorter periods then recap and consolidate what you’ve learned.
  • You’ll learn better at the beginning and end of each study period.

Tip  –  Plan to study for about 30-45 minutes, review what you’ve learned, then take a five-to-10-minute break.


Reviewing your work

Once you have learned something, you need to be able to recall it when you need it, such as for an exam. Most people tend to forget a lot of what they've learned. Reviewing your work regularly can help prevent this.

Once you have finished a study session:

  • after about an hour, try to remember all you can about what you've studied
  • revise any material you've forgotten
  • review the material again the next day
  • review it again after a week, then a month, and again just before the exams.

This is the 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 method: 1 hour after learning it, 1 day later, 1 week later, 1 month later.


Change it up

  • Change your study technique every few hours. For example, if you’ve been making notes, try making some flashcards of the key points.
  • Change the subject you’re studying from time to time.
  • Use your study break to exercise or do some housework.
  • Use active learning strategies.


Get help

If you are still struggling to concentrate after trying some of these strategies, contact the Library and Learning Centre | Te Whare Pukapuka Wāhanga Whakapakari Ako. They may be able to help.