Scientists who study how people learn categorize learning styles into two main categories: passive learning and active learning.
Passive learning techniques are what many students are most familiar with and tend to use the most. In passive learning, students are expected to absorb information without proactively engaging in any activity. Examples of passive learning techniques include taking notes at live lectures, watching videos of lectures, viewing a PowerPoint, reading textbooks, reading outlines and watching demonstrations. Passive learning techniques are generally done alone, even if others happen to be physically present. An example of this would be taking notes on a lecture that a number of students attend.
In contrast, active learning techniques require a student to proactively engage in an activity rather than just sitting back and absorbing information. Examples of active learning include engaging in back and forth discussions, problem-solving, writing, creating videos, creating websites, practicing doing an activity, explaining something to someone else, performing a task, and evaluating the results of one’s efforts. Active learning techniques can be done alone or in collaboration with others. An example of this would be having two or more students create a website: one student can focus on creating the text, while the other creates graphics that illustrate the ideas in the text.
The Best Learning Style For The Bar Exam
Which learning style will give you the best chance of passing a bar exam? No one uses exclusively one style, but the most recent conclusion from scientists who study learning is that people learn best when they use active learning. Therefore, when you are studying for the bar you should spend more of your time on active learning techniques and less of your time on passive learning techniques. Unfortunately, most bar candidates use the exact opposite strategy: they spend the majority of their time on passive activities, like reading outlines and listening to lectures, and a minority of their time on active learning activities, like creating their own outlines of the law and taking practice exams.
How To Switch From Passive Learning to Active Learning
Take a look at how you spend your time each day. How much time do you spend reading outlines and listening to lectures? These are all passive learning activities, and are not the most effective learning techniques. How much time do you spend creating your own mini-outlines, taking practice exams, or re-writing practice exams to fix the mistakes pointed out by your exam grader? These are all active learning activities and are much more effective learning techniques. In my experience, the bar candidates who are most successful spend about 25% of their time reading outlines and listening to lectures and 75% of their time creating their own outlines and doing practice exams.
If you are nowhere near this ideal ratio, the best thing to do is to convert some of your passive learning activities into active learning activities. For example, if you are trying to learn the black letter law by watching a video lecture, when the lecturer states a black letter law rule, stop the video and create a flash card. Put the name of the rule on one side and the rule divided into elements on the other side. Every 20 minutes stop the video and go through the flash cards you have already made. Put the ones you correctly stated the rule for in one pile and the ones where you misstated or could not state the rule in another pile. Keep going through the rules in the misstated pile until you can state those rules correctly.
Once you have completed the lecture and have mastered the rules, shuffle your flash cards like a deck of cards. You can then use the shuffled flash cards to create an outline of the subject area. Lay the cards out on the table in the order you will consider the rules in an exam question. For some subjects, like torts, the order of the rules will not matter so much. You can outline strict liability or negligence first, but it is imperative that you understand which black letter law rules belong in which category. For other courses, like contracts, the order that you put the rules in matters a great deal.
Another way to convert passive learning to active learning is to take a practice exam in a particular subject area BEFORE you study the black letter law in that area. For an essay exam, once you have completed the practice exam, look at the sample answer and identify which issues you missed, which rules you misstated, and which relevant facts you failed to use. Then rewrite the practice exam to correct these errors. For MBE questions, once you have answered the question, take a look at the explanation for each of the answer choices. If you answered the question incorrectly because you did not know the black letter law involved, make a flash card for that rule and make sure you learn that rule. Take a break, and then go back and read that MBE question, state the black letter law involved, and explain why each possible answer choice is right or wrong.
Active learning techniques generate better results than passive learning techniques, but active learning techniques also require more energy and effort on your part. Make sure you take breaks throughout your study day to rest both your body and your mind.