It’s safe to say that we’ve all heard that summarising study material is a necessary part of studying, right? But how many of us were ever taught how to do it? Or even understand what the word ‘summarising’ actually means. What we also don’t realize is that summarising doesn’t always come naturally and most times a focused effort is needed to get comfortable and ‘fluent’ in summarising. It is a skill that needs to be actively learnt and practised. Sadly not many students understand this or even attempt to do it. More importantly though, summarising needs to be chosen and accepted by the student themselves. It has to have their ‘buy-in’, otherwise, it’s just another method that gets thrown at them in the hope that they ‘perform’ better.
But before we get caught up in the how-to summarise, let’s delve into why summarising is such a big deal.
When we learn, the brain craves the need for structure, fluidity, organization, flow. None of us enjoy chaos, even though to some of us it might be the norm. The brain seeks structure. An easy route to get from A to B. Think about it this way, with new information given daily, it’s like dumping a box of Lego on a table. It represents blocks and not much else. Reading instructions and putting the blocks together will make something of that mess. It’s the same thing with summarising. Summarising is putting the blocks of information together to build a bigger, complete picture.
With summarising, you have to actively process information, not passively absorb it. I think ‘passive absorption’ is the technique that a vast majority of students rely on especially in subjects they simply don’t enjoy. But by becoming actively involved in processing information, the student is creating ownership of that info. Taking possession. Making it their own. And bringing it to their own understanding. When the brain is given the opportunity to create that flow, fluidity, control, there’s less chaos. When they understand and can see the blocks fitting together, studying becomes a little easier. And even the less enjoyable subjects (because we all have them) become a little more enjoyable.
Summarising helps students to process what was learnt, organize it in a way that the brain understands and gain further understanding of what was taught. It also provides an opportunity to find the info or concepts that they don’t understand. And then to seek more information and understanding so that each block of information can fit properly into the overall subject. This can be done through research or even discussing it with the teacher or lecturer.
When is the best time to summarise? Definitely on the day that the material was taught! Why? Because the information is still fresh, and it hasn’t yet been archived along with all the other information accumulated over the last decade or so. Trying to summarise info that’s been mixed in with old info is like trying to fill a room full of random pages. First, you need to sort the papers, choosing what’s important and what’s not, then categorize the papers, oldest to newest, by topic etc., and then finally you can store all the sorted info in the right files. Would it not just be better to file as you go along? Yup, it’s the same thing with summarising. Sort and file information on the day it was learnt. Far more efficient indeed!
The other benefit of summarizing on the day that the material was learnt is that we are auditory beings as well. Learning in class or the lecture hall is not only through reading, but through what the teacher or lecturer said, as well as what discussions ensued. That information or knowledge-share is not necessarily found in textbooks or notes. The benefit of doing summarising after class is that the auditory information is still there and the recall is so much easier. As you can probably tell, I’m really passionate about summarising and its benefits. Did I use it at school the way I’m speaking about it now? Sadly not. Do I wish that I did? You betcha! I would have caught my lack of understanding of science before the night of the exams. I would have found the missing blocks in my maths syllabus before I almost failed prelims. I would have achieved more in my schooling career than I actually did. So why am I so convinced that summarising with MASN works? Because of the results I’ve seen in the lives of those that use the system. Better understanding of subject material, resulting in better marks. Students that are more confident and less stressed. Parents that don’t have to helicopter the study process. And students that take responsibility for their own learning. Sound too good to be true? Trust me, it’s not. It’s very achievable. For more information, click on this link.