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The C.R.E.A.M strategy for learning.

Updated on May 25, 2016

The C.R.E.A.M strategy for learning

The Study Skills Handbook - Palgrave Higher Education


C.R.E.A.M stands for:

- Creative: to have the confidence to apply imagination to your learning and problem solving.

- Reflective: to be able to sit with your experience, analyze and evaluate your own performance and draw lessons from it. Try to make use of the feedback you got from tutors.

- Effective: to organize your time, space, priorities, state of mind, resources, and use of technology to maximum benefits. Also, relate your study to real life and make connections between what you study with the different subjects.

- Active: Be personally engaged physically and mentally, in making sense of what you learn, ’deeper understanding’.

- Motivated: be clear about outcomes you want to achieve, the steps you need to take to achieve these, and what you will do to build and maintain your engagement and enthusiasm.

Developing each of those aspects strengthens all the others. For example, being motivated involves reflection about what you really want. Active learning and creativity require motivation and help you to stay motivated. Effective organizational strategies benefit from imagination and reflection – and so on.

Creativity is especially important for generating ideas in the early stages of new assignments. You can use more logical approaches later, to evaluate which creative ideas to use. There are issues that prevent creativity such as ‘it’s a waste of time’, ‘It’s childish’, ‘I can’t’, ‘I’m not creative’, ‘It’s not logical’, ‘There’s a right way of doing this’ and ‘There’s a time for work and a time for play’. On the other hand, there are some approaches that foster creativity, such as: ‘Play and later thinking’; select any two random subjects, such as a cup and plant. Find as many connections between them as you can (e.g. by size, color, owner, the way they break, how they spin, when they were bought). How could you apply this type of ‘play’ to your work? You can find what you are looking for. First, find ten round things in the room; second, find ten things that ‘open’. Once you start to look, you may find your attention drawn to many such items, if you look for new strategies or answers, it is more likely that you will find them too. Of course there is more than one answer. Once you have come up with an answer, look for more. These may be better – or give you a way of fine-tuning the first idea. Give yourself a new sub-personality! In our minds, we carry various sub-personalities, such as: an internal critic who tells us off, a playful child who sees the funny side of things, a hero who wades in to save the situation, and many others. Other thing you should do is to keep an ideas notebook. Value each passing idea, as writers and artists do. Jot ideas down at once in a notebook or on sticky labels and keep paper and pen by your bed. –Actually, I do this point all the time; it’s such a helpful one to make it as a habit -.

Your performance as a student is likely to improve if you develop the habit of putting time aside to reflect on how you learn. You will find that you study more effectively if you consider, for example: *Changes in your motivation levels. Or, *Changes in your attitudes and ideas. Or, *the appropriateness of your current study strategies to the tasks you are undertaking. Or, *which skills you need for different kinds of assignments. Or, *what is blocking your learning? Or at the end, *consider the gaps in your knowledge or your skills. However, it is so important to be fair to yourself. When you decide that you are ‘good’ or ‘bad’ at something, consider your reasons for thinking that. What criteria are you using to assess yourself? Work out what is involved in the task, breaking in into smaller tasks or sub-skills. People may easily underestimate themselves when:

  1. They have been out of formal education for a few years.
  2. They learn more about a subject (The more we know, the more we are aware of what we don’t know, and that can be unsettling).

Each year of full-time study is referred to as a ‘level’. At each level, there isn’t simply a change in the material covered; there is also an increase in difficulty and complexity. Consequently, your study skills, strategies and coping mechanism need to improve year on year. To some extent, this happens naturally, but you can benefit from putting time aside each year to reflect on what is needed. Also, you can create a separate space for study where you can leave things and come back to them. Of you don’t have access to a desk or table, use a shelf or cupboard to keep all your study things together. And it’s good to work near a window so that you have adequate light. Sitting with the window behind or to one side will cut down on distractions. A reading lamp and natural day light bulbs are a good investment if you study in the evening.

- What effects motivation?

Motivation can be affected by all kind of things. From changing your mind about the career you want and the qualifications you need, through to your friends leaving the course. Most students experience periods of lower motivation at time, though they usually work through these. There are some keys that influences on motivation, such as: clarity of purpose, being on the right course, managing the ‘boring bits’, using time well and to be confidence of the outcome. There are, as well, reasons that weak motivation as: loss of direction, boredom and resulting from poor study strategies, too much or too little challenge and crises of confidence.

Also, goals are most motivating when stated in the present:

- I am able to achieve 2.1!

It is also best to state them as positive objectives:

- I am able to gain a good job!

Negatively worded goals, such as ‘A degree will help me to escape from my current employment’, are less effective in providing motivation.

Do you find these strategies helpful?

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