An Efficient Learning Cycle: Steps 1-3, Defining Your Goal, Research, And Resources

To learn efficiently, you need a good starting point. These early stages of learning can really come to define the entire process, as they give you the motivation and skills necessary for success.

An Efficient Learning Cycle: Steps 1-3, Defining Your Goal, Research, And Resources

So, what are steps 1, 2, and 3 in the efficient learning cycle? Step 1 is defining goals, finding what you want to learn, and setting an outcome. Step 2 is research and learning to vet sources effectively. And step 3 is all about resources and organization.

Take a look at this guide to learn more about steps 1 to 3 of the efficient learning cycle, and give yourself a strong starting point for your education journey. 

An Efficient Learning Cycle: Step 1 – Define Goal

Be clear about why you are learning and what you want to learn. Setting a defined goal now will help to streamline the process and provide you with motivation.

What Should I Learn In My Free Time? 

The first step to learning is deciding exactly what it is you want to learn. If this is something you intend to do in your free time, look for subjects that interest and motivate you, so you’ll keep pushing through.

If it’s something you’re learning for professional growth, make sure the subject aligns with your career goals.

How do you identify your goals and objectives? You probably have some idea of what it is that you want to learn and what the end result should be. But think clearly at this early stage to define your goals.

Efficient learning is about clear structure. You can’t create that structure if you don’t have an endpoint to work towards.

If you’re not sure where to start, try using a goal-setting tool like the SMART method (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timely). This will help you set realistic expectations. 

Importance Of Learning Objectives

Learning objectives are vital if you want an efficient and effective learning cycle. Your learning objectives will guide you forwards, giving you a clear goal to work towards. When you’re struggling, turning to your learning objectives can put you back on track.

They’re also a way of tracking progress.

Why are learning goals important? Learning goals can help improve focus and motivation by providing you with something to work towards. A learning goal can also give you a way to speak about your learning and communicate with others.

Teachers will often set their students’ learning objectives, so they can communicate effectively about progress and success. If you’re learning by yourself, these objectives will work in the same manner. 

Why Should Learning Targets Be Clear?

Learning targets must be clear because they provide a defined endpoint to work towards. This can help with every step of the efficient learning process, from the research phase to your final results.

A clear learning target is also essential to reflect on progress. How far from your end goal are you? Are you pleased with how you’ve progressed? Does your target still feel realistic? What might you need to change to reach your target?

Clear learning targets can also improve motivation. With a defined goal, you’ll be able to see your achievements. This can give you something to celebrate, which can boost your confidence and motivation.

A learning target doesn’t have to be only the end result. Instead, set targets for the learning process so you always have something achievable to work towards. It’s easy to get lost in the details when learning, but having a clear goal helps you stay focused.

As well as having defined targets, you need to have a clear understanding of why you’re learning. This will not only help you set a goal that inspires you but will also motivate you when the learning process gets difficult. Spend some time on self-reflection to decide what goal is best for your personal growth.

Step 2 – Research

Step 2 - Research

Find out who you are going to learn from and what materials you’ll be using for learning. This research phase should provide you with a strong base to learn from and set you up to achieve your goals.

Learning How To Find, Evaluate, And Use Resources To Explore A Topic In Depth

To support your learning, you’ll need to research materials and information. These sources should be related to your subject, be easy to access, and assist you in reaching your goals.

Begin with planning. There’s a lot of information out there, and finding reliable sources isn’t always easy. As a first step, you need to know where to look. If you’re learning by yourself, look for trusted resources.

If you’re following a course, ask the teacher where they’d recommend looking.

Having done an open search, you need to begin narrowing it down. Sift through and remove the less relevant resources. You don’t want to waste too much time reading articles that aren’t useful. Adapt keyword searches depending on previous results.

Make use of the filters provided by search engines. Try different strategies if you’re struggling to find relevant results.

Once you’ve found a resource, it’s time to evaluate it. You may find that the source is useful, or it could be outdated, irrelevant, or even misleading. There are three key questions to ask: who, why, and when? 

Ask who is the author? Why was it written? And when was it published?

How Do You Find Learning Resources?

An important tool for efficient learning is having the right sources. Otherwise, you waste time learning the wrong thing and then having to research the right thing. It’s important to learn how to find reliable resources.

If you can, consult someone in the subject area. They’ll be more familiar with the topic than you are and will be able to point you in the direction of good resources. Ask someone you admire and respect, and you’ll have a wealth of trusted resources. 

If you can’t talk to anyone, try searching online. Look for subject databases related to your area of study. Learn to use keywords to find relevant information, refine your searches, and find related topics.

Another fantastic place to look is the library. Speak to your librarian about finding resources, and ask to use their search tools. Libraries often have good collections and offer excellent services.

If your library doesn’t have the information you need, they might be able to put you in contact with others who can help.

You might also consider joining a community of learners. Online forums and discussion boards are great places to get advice and share ideas. (And find some informational resources you would never have considered.)

One of the most important factors at this point is learning how to research. Spend some time getting to know filters and keyword searches and assessing sources using who, why, and when.

It’s unlikely you’ll find all the information you need in this initial search – you don’t know what areas you might need to research further. But by learning to assess your sources, you’ll find it much easier to complete future research.

Step 3 – Resources

Collect and organize.

Step three is about gathering resources and organizing them, allowing you to move forward with your learning. When you have your resources organized, you can really begin to get stuck into your learning.

How Do You Organize Your Resources?

Having collected your resources, you need to organize your information. There are many ways to do this. It’s essential to choose a system that works for you and for the information you’re presenting.

Doing this organization now, and getting your resources in order, will save you time in the future.

Methods of organization will work effectively depending on your learning style and the topic and type of information involved.

At this point, you may feel intimidated by the amount of information in front of you. Hopefully, you will have collected enough research and resources to learn. Think carefully about the organization, so you can make your learning efficient.

The Only Five Ways To Organize Information

The Only Five Ways To Organize Information

What are the five ways that information can be organized?

LATCH: Location, Alphabet, Time, Category, and Hierarchy.

Sounds confusing? It’s actually quite simple once you break it down.

Location

Organizing by location uses a visual guide to lay your information out. Maps and diagrams are popular examples of this technique. Organizing by location is fantastic for visual learners, who might struggle with lists.

Using location can help you visualize information when you need to bring it to mind.

Alphabet

Use the alphabet for the organization when you already have a good grasp of the information and key terms. When information is organized by alphabet, it’s easy to search the list for terms you know to find the information you might have forgotten.

If you’re organizing information for yourself, alphabetical is a good choice. If you’re presenting information for others, alphabetical might not be ideal.

Time

A chronological map is a distinct pattern that can present information over a timeline. This can be used to show historical data but also to organize a process. For example, you might use a flow chart to show how something is made.

Organizing by time can give a unique meaning to a set of data. Think carefully before using chronological organization, and consider what it means to your data.

Category

Categories are the broadest and most adaptable styles of organization. You can use categories for almost all information, and by changing categories, you can give a new spin to an old set of information.

For example, you could categorize foods by color, nutritional data, size, origin – anything you could think of.

Hierarchy

Hierarchies can show how information is linked together. A chart of hierarchy should be easy to read and laid out in a manner that clearly depicts how one set of data leads to another. One example of a hierarchy is a family tree.

Think of how this presentation might add meaning and definition to your data.

These five methods should help you to organize all your resources so that you can learn efficiently. Consider them carefully to find the right method for you. And pay attention to the LATCH method! You might find it helpful on the next few steps to efficient learning. 

Final Thoughts

These three early stages are so important to your efficient learning. Setting a defined goal, completing research, and organizing resources will provide you with a stable footing for moving forward.

A clear and defined goal can help you find motivation and set a time frame. Learning to research will provide you with the information you require to learn effectively. And organizing your resources can streamline the learning process.

Together, you’ll find these three phases can provide you with motivation along your path to knowledge.

With goals set, research completed, and resources organized, you’re ready to move on to the next three stages!

Sally-May Schinkel