Thursday, October 18, 2018


Necessary Skills for Understanding Complex Subjects.

October 6, 2018 by  
Filed under Education, Opinion, Weekly Columns

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(ThyBlackMan.comWe live in a paradoxical society that makes it challenging to advance, not because of one’s level of intelligence, but because of a lack of skills within our education systems that teach one how to apply that intelligence in an effective manner.

In many cases, learning to study and comprehend complex subject matter isn’t taught in schools. When it is, it’s a brief point within a larger curriculum or a specialized class that you have to sign up for, rather than being ingrained into everyday learning opportunities. Thus, we get intelligent, driven individuals dropping out of college because they aren’t prepared for the pressure. So how does one learn to understand and retain complex subjects?

The Profound Effects of the Accidental Genius

What’s perhaps most frustrating for those of us who are studying subject matter related to our preferred career path, is the resonating impacts of the accidental geniuses throughout time who have created this difficult subject matter for us. Take, for example, the invention or discovery of Penicillin. Alexander Fleming left his lab for vacation and discovered that this mold had formed on his Petri dishes, killing the bacteria held within. The man saved millions of lives by not cleaning up after himself.

Another example is the father of organic chemistry, Friedrich Wöhler, accidentally made synthetic urea while trying to make ammonium cyanate, thus earning his prestigious title. Now, understanding concepts surrounding Chirality, Conjugated Systems, and Aromaticity is the downfall of many would-be doctors and scientists.

Comprehension and Retention

The implications of understanding complex subjects come in two forms: comprehension and retention. First, we must be able to make connections regarding what’s being said beyond memorizing the words written on a page or spoken in a lecture. Second, we must be able to remember those words for later use, both in testing and in one’s career.

Methods to Improve Comprehension

Comprehension is about making connections and seeing how something relates to something else. In subjects that have their own language, such as the scientific terms used in chemistry or the legal jargon used when studying law, one of the best ways to build your comprehension is to find the information worded in plain language. Now, no one is saying that you should rush off to Wikipedia to earn your law degree, but being able to read a simplified version of things will build your base comprehension to understand the verbiage.

As you read, write down words that stand out as requiring more understanding. Take a moment to look up those terms and write a simple definition in your notes. Revisit the sentence and read once more with context behind the confusing words. You may choose to expand on your notes through brainstorming, connecting terms to other terms to create a visual representation of the subject matter.

Methods to Improve Retention

Now that you’ve figured out a way to comprehend the complex subject that you’re studying, how are you going to remember everything that you’ve learned? There are a couple methods you can use to improve your retention:

  • Pause and make connections – in addition to making visual connections, take a moment to pause and explain to yourself how the thing you’re trying to remember connects to something else. This reflection will help you retain the information by giving it additional context in your mind.
  • Analogies and comparisons – using acrostics and acronyms to recall specific terms or creating songs and wordplay may seem like a childish approach to improving retention. That’s just one of the reasons it should be taught as a study method in early education. Creating these enacts the creative side of the brain as well as the logical aspect, improving your retention overall.

Repetition Makes Perfect

In addition to learning the skills required for understanding complex subjects at an early age, you can improve your comprehension and retention through repetition. These skills can be taught in a scaled-down approach to children learning to read in elementary school. The reasoning? We can’t all be accidental geniuses; hard work based on strong skills are what it takes to succeed.

Staff Writer; LeBron Parker


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