The Learning Cycle

The Learning Cycle; Image Credit: Katie Kirkland, design strategist,

Make the most of the time you spend in and out of class by implementing the five steps of the Learning Cycle.  

PREVIEW (5-15 min)

Getting ready for class need not be an arduous, time-consuming process. You just want to give your brain the big picture of what class will cover that day, and you can achieve this 5-15 min with the following tasks:

  • Read textbook section headings, boldface / italicized terms
  • Form questions; take note of new concepts
  • Print class notes or slides


It is crucial to actively engage during your class session. In addition to supercharging your learning, it will make the time fly by!

  • Go to class and take notes, especially on “how” and “why” and relationships between ideas or concepts 
  • Ask questions! Participate in class discussion, or at least write your questions down to ask later in office hours or on the course discussion board 

REVIEW (10-15 min)

While the content is still fresh in your mind, take 10-15 min after class (or as soon as possible on the same day) to review your notes:

  • Fill in gaps in your notes (what did you miss during class?) 
  • Annotate your notes (what makes sense, what’s still fuzzy?) 
  • Elaborate on your notes (how do they align with what you know?) 
  • Rewrite notes as an outline, showing connections between concepts

STUDY (30-50 min)

Schedule at least one Focused Study Session for the concepts covered before your next class session. Possible study activities include:

  • Read actively
  • Rework class or book examples WITHOUT looking at solution (TO LEARN) 
  • Work new problems WITHOUT looking at your notes or solutions to similar problems (TO PRACTICE)
  • Review past homework and tests. What did you miss, and why?


An essential metacognitive strategy is reflecting on your progress through the course material and on the effectiveness of your approach to learning.

  • Test yourself: approach sample problems as if you were taking an exam (time limit, no hints, no help) and review what you missed each time
  • Reflect: Can you teach this material? Are your study methods effective? 

Information in the Catalyze Your Success program has been adapted from learning strategies presented by the Louisiana State University Center for Academic Success and the book "Teach Students How to Learn" by Saundra Yancy McGuire, Stylus Publishing (2021).