Even the most dedicated study plan can be undone by a failure to understand how human memory works. Only when you’re aware of the trap set for us by overconfidence, can you most effectively deploy the study skills you already know about.
I'm becoming increasingly convinced that "chunking" is the mother of all learning--or at least the fairy godmother. Chunking is what happens when you know something so well--like a song, or a scientific formula, or a verb conjugation, or a dance routine--that it is basically a snap to call it to mind and do it or use it. Creating neural patterns--"neural chunks"--underpins the development of all expertise. We can use metaphors (another powerful learning technique!) to help us understand these ideas.
If you need help jogging your memory, you might try your hand at drawing. A recent study found that we remember items better when we draw them rather than write them down.
In a study published in The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, researchers conducted a series of experiments asking subjects to draw or write down different items. Overall, the study found that subjects were better able to recall the items when they drew them.
Many young people want to succeed but often have very limited learning and study skills. Frequently, study technique is described as a concoction of reading and highlighting notes, with perhaps some essay planning thrown in for good measure.
Yet if these haven’t worked in the past, they won’t work now.
When it comes to kids, growth mindset is a hot topic in education. Studies indicate that children who view intelligence as pliable and responsive to effort show greater persistence when encountering new or difficult tasks. In contrast, children who view intelligence as static or “fixed” have a harder time rebounding from academic setbacks or are reluctant to take on new challenges that might be difficult.
During the past 20 years, college and university faculty have begun to utilize several areas of the learning sciences (including cognitive psychology) to inform pedagogy. Much of this work has happened in ways that have helped our profession more effectively teach and our students to more effectively learn. However, we still have much work to do if we are to claim that we have a well-developed set of tools that can be applied across disciplines.
In his book Fluent Forever, opera singer Gabriel Wyner suggests that one of the best ways to learn a new language is to practice remembering it. In other words, instead of reading and re-reading a list of vocabulary words, you should read it once and then test yourself repeatedly.
It’s not just that people fear change, though they undoubtedly do. It’s also that they genuinely believe (often on an unconscious level) that when you’ve been doing something a particular way for some time, it must be a good way to do things. And the longer you’ve been doing it that way, the better it is.
So change isn’t simply about embracing something unknown — it’s about giving up something old (and therefore good) for something new (and therefore not good).
Critical thinking is an essential skill in our age of constant information (and misinformation), but our own subconscious biases don’t help matters much when it comes to sorting out truth from viral nonsense. This graphic outlines some of those biases, complete with examples so you understand how pervasive they can really be.
Students often tend to study subjects they’re comfortable with, rather than facing a challenge. Salman Khan, founder of the Khan Academy, understands this fear, and has some advice to lift you out of your comfort zone.
Learning agility is the capacity for rapid, continuous learning from experience. Agile learners are good at making connections across experiences, and they’re able to let go of perspectives or approaches that are no longer useful — in other words, they can unlearn things when novel solutions are required. People with this mindset tend to be oriented toward learning goals and open to new experiences. They experiment, seek feedback, and reflect systematically.
Students’ performance during instruction is commonly viewed as a measure of learning and a basis for evaluating and selecting instructional practices. Laboratory findings question that view: Conditions of practice that appear optimal during instruction can fail to support long-term retention and transfer of knowledge and, remarkably, conditions that introduce difficulties for the learner — and appear to slow the rate of the learning — can enhance long-term retention and transfer. Such “desirable difficulties” (Bjork, 1994) include: spacing rather than massing study sessions; interleaving rather than blocking practice on separate topics; varying how to-be-learned material is presented; reducing feedback; and using tests as learning events.
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