By Laura Allan
Something Old for Something New
After my last few failures at retaining what I was reading, I thought it was time to try something different. Attempting to make everything apply to me hadn't worked, and neither had relying on the videos. Those were getting pretty scarce now anyway. Just reading through wasn't cutting it either. I needed a new technique to make the concepts stick. Or just maybe I needed something old instead.
I checked my desk, and sure enough, I still had some blank file cards from my time in high school. Way back when I was trying to remember algebraic equations, I'd used flash cards as a means of memorizing things that had been hard to grasp. I passed my algebra class, and it was the hardest class I'd ever faced. If flash cards had worked then, they'd probably work now with something I could at least wrap my head around.
Rather than looking through the last few full lessons about stages of middle adulthood, I decided to stick with their power points. They already had information bulleted, highlighted and simplified, so it made it easier to pick and choose what I was going to write down on the cards. It also let me go step by step so my head didn't start to hurt from looking at all that small text at once. I could go back a page if I didn't understand the concepts, and could add additional notes on developments and physical issues in middle adulthood as they came up. I'd tried the power points before, but this was really the perfect use for them. When I was done, I had a tangible set of note cards that I could use to quiz myself before the actual test. All the while I reminded myself not to apply concepts to me, especially since many of the stages involved losing physical abilities and emotional stability.
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Nearing the End
As I moved through the lessons, I noticed how close to the end of the course I was getting. I had one more test, a final and a review section. Then that was it, done. I couldn't help thinking that my grades weren't exactly an improvement from how I'd done in my college psychology class. Sure, this one was more specific and more interesting than the last one, but I didn't see much change in myself. I had learned that just because a class was online didn't make it easy, and that I couldn't get lazy just because I'd taken a similar class before. This was serious business and I was taking it seriously, but the grades were almost the same. I wondered if I could manage to make this last test better, if I could push myself just a little more and redeem my shoddy attempt at psychology from before. This had started as me wanting to talk to my husband about his work, but now it was a little more than that. I wanted to prove to myself that I could do this.
Appropriately enough, as I neared the end of the lessons the lifespan wound down as well. I got to the parts about old age and dying. I'd worked in a nursing home briefly, so I couldn't help but recognize a lot of the information from things I'd experienced myself. It let me get a more tangible view of concepts I was already familiar with. I hadn't known they had names, of course, but I recognized the stages and symptoms.
You Just Have to Take Advantage of It
With the final test coming up, I finished the lessons and began my review. I combined my flash cards with going back and reading sections that I had trouble on when I quizzed myself. I learned terms like 'plasticity of intelligence' and 'the five stages of loss' well enough to recite the definitions by heart. All the information was right there in front of me, I just had to figure out how to use it best to my advantage. And then, right when I was starting to feel ready, I put down my notes and closed the lesson. If I remembered anything from my old psychology class it was that repeating tasks over a few days actually makes them more concrete. I was gunning for an A on this next test, so after a good night's sleep I'd begin studying again tomorrow. I wanted that A, and I was going to get it.