Learning, thinking and doing
Learning, thinking and doing

This free course is available to start right now. Review the full course description and key learning outcomes and create an account and enrol if you want a free statement of participation.

Free course

Learning, thinking and doing

2.3 The learner's repertoire

Much of the learning required in this course is a mix of understanding and skill development. Very little rote memorisation is involved. In learning generally, the different kinds of activity required for memorising, understanding or doing, are more likely to be required in different combinations than singly, in isolation. In addition, activities can be useful for more than one kind of learning so it is important to see MUD as a working tool for developing practice, rather than as a rigid system that you must stick to.

In Box 6 'Learning activities' there is a summary list of activities organised according to the headings of memorising, understanding and doing. The lists are not a comprehensive record of everything that could possibly promote memorising, understanding or doing, but they are a starting point. Check down each of the lists in turn and note down your response to the questions below:

  • Which (if any) of these activities do I use much more often than others?

  • Are there activities listed which I should try to use more often?

  • Do I try out different activities if I find myself getting stuck or bogged down in some parts of the course?

Select one of the activities listed and try to use it more often during the next week or two of study. Return to the list every few weeks and check down the activities for those that you could use to good effect more often than you tend to do.

Box 6 Learning activities


  • Using mnemonics.

  • Using cues involving visual and auditory memory – e.g. using written notes or a tape recording to help remember something in a lecture, using colour codes for notes, hearing yourself or someone else read something aloud.

  • Repetition of lists or other information in the same order – silently or aloud.

  • Self-testing at regular intervals.

  • Getting someone else to test you.

  • Setting things down in a succinct way that you can visualise, e.g. tables, drawings, mind maps such as spray diagrams, tree or root structures, etc.

  • Associating new information with something you already know well.

  • Chanting using a rhythm or rhyming pattern.


  • Knowing why you want to learn something.

  • Setting yourself questions before, during and after study, for example.

What if …? questions

  • Checking questions, for which you should be able to find the answers in the text.

  • Comparison questions: Why is this topic important? How does it relate to other parts of the topic I am studying? What is it similar to, what is it different from?

  • Causation questions: What can go wrong? What causes what? What prevents or what leads to particular effects? And so on.

  • Imagination questions: How might it be different from a different perspective?

  • What might be the reactions of someone with views different from your own?

Review questions: What have I learned? What do I need to learn next?

  • Brainstorming, i.e. generating ideas (alone or with others) without criticising or rejecting items first. The checking and criticising of ideas happens after the stage of generating ideas.

  • Asking questions which check out what you know and what you don't know, and which don't just request information.

  • Putting the expert's explanation into your own words before you ask a question.

  • Talking about what something means with other people; bouncing ideas off other people.

  • Visualising something in the form of a diagram.

  • Teachback – trying to explain to someone else what you have just learned.

  • Listening to other opinions or explanations; repeating the other person's explanation/opinion before giving your own.

  • Distinguishing between general principles and specific examples, and reflecting on how an example illustrates a principle.

  • Learning from mistakes.

  • Setting aside time for reflection on experience and progress.

  • Being prepared to tolerate partial understanding or ambiguities/uncertainties for a while.

  • Working on a problem with a group rather than on your own.

  • Recording reactions and progress.


  • Asking an expert to demonstrate a skill or part of a skill and to answer your questions about it.

  • Trying out the skill or performance before getting instruction.

  • Trying out procedures in a 'dry run' where mistakes don't matter.

  • Getting feedback from an expert before 'bad habits' set in.

  • Getting regular feedback on performance so you can review progress.


Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to university level study, find out more about the types of qualifications we offer, including our entry level Access courses and Certificates.

Not ready for University study then browse over 900 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus