What can educators do
Students learn how to learn by hearing what other people do and by trial and error. There is a huge body of knowledge about how people learn and if we spend just a small amount of time teaching students about these learning principles they will learn faster and more effectively.
We can teach students to recognise the importance of sleep. Everyone knows how they feel after a bad night of sleep or even after an all nighter studying. What students often miss is recognising they have control over their sleep, exercise, nutrition, and hydration. As an activity, simply asking students to jot down in the morning how much sleep they got the night before and then how they felt all day is enough to point out the relationship and to change their sleep patterns.
We can teach students about chunking and how patterns impact our learning. These are principles that have been known in psychology for over 50 years and are very consistent across people. Teaching students these principles is very easy and has immediate impact. We can show examples of the principles in everyday life and point out how they are perceived in the same way by nearly everyone.
We can teach students about retrieval practice. In short, the research tells us that the more students practice retrieving information from their memory, the easier it becomes to retrieve it in the future. This frees up more working memory to do something with the information retrieved, such as spotting connections between concepts or other higher order thinking tasks.
These are essentially the principles educators need to apply, but we would like them to be practically focused as much as possible, i.e., they need to be principles that an educator can act on.