Stetson University

How to Improve Learning Skills

The following tips can help you improve your learning skills:

Build Reading Comprehension

  • Knowing the context of your reading will build comprehension.
    • Appreciate that you will generally read material to build understanding of legal rule structures or legal concepts. Make such understanding the target of your reading.
    • Gather context from the casebook table of contents, the course syllabus, notes that precede cases you will read and notes that follow the cases you will read.
    • Know what you should gain from your reading; if you are reading cases, consider what purpose the cases should serve before you start reading them. If you are reading excerpts from law review articles or other sources, prior to reading them, anticipate how the sources will add to your understanding of legal rule structures or legal concepts.
  • Actively engage in your reading.
    • If you highlight, paraphrase in the margin what you have highlighted.
    • Analogize the text to other materials you have read.
    • Pose questions of the text; seek answers from the text.
    • Make predictions about the text; validate those predictions as you read.
    • As you read connect the text with your purpose for reading the text.
    • Evaluate the author's conclusion in light of your knowledge and experience.
    • Anticipate questions your professor may ask about the material.
  • Use a case briefing strategy to capture, summarize, and retell the essence of the text.
  • Attempt to reduce any case you have read to a holding statement of the case that captures the rule and dispositive facts that are relevant to your purpose for reading the case.
  • If you read a line of cases on a single topic, after you have reduced each case to a holding statement, compare and contrast the case holdings; if possible synthesize the cases; look for what they cumulatively state about the legal topic you have studied.

Build Working Memory

  • Once you have outlined a legal topic or rule structure and tested your knowledge with practice problems, commit the topic to memory.
  • Use chunking or grouping, mnemonics, and rehearsal to assist in your memorization of the material.
  • Studies show that as you broaden the capacity of your working/short term memory, you also deepen your ability to solve problems. Actively memorize information needed for class.
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