Parlor Spider...Step In, Little Fly

Insightful thoughts and/or rants from atop the soapbox from one who wishes to share the "right" opinion with everyone.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

How to Learn Effectively

Every now and then, it's nice to have beliefs justified, corroborated. Of course, there's always the possibility that such corroboration merely means one person agrees with me, but still...
I have the duty to guide college students in the direction of learning...students who may not be the most motivated at the outset. Regularly, I hear them tell me that they highlight, reread chapters and rewrite their notes in an attempt to infuse the information into somewhat-long term memory. I try to convince them there are better ways...based on research that I have done (reading other researchers' work, that is). And John Dunlosty, a professor at Kent State University, has reaffirmed what I have generally said about studying to learn: there are better ways, and there are worse ways.
His study, reported in the journal for the Association of Psychological Science, reviewed ten methods commonly used by students in an attempt to learn material. We are all familiar with most of them, but here are the highlights and lowlights:

NOT EFFECTIVE: Common study tips like reading/rereading a chapter, summarizing the information, and highlighting sections have all proven to be only marginally effective. Highlighting, in particular, comes in for criticism because it focuses only on main facts and not on making connections and drawing inferences. Cramming for a test, of course, was the least effective study method.

HIGHLY EFFECTIVE: Distributed practice in which a student focuses on shorter, more numerous study sessions instead of trying to do the marathon study thing (no surprise there) was deemed one of the best methods. Equally effective at achieving results was the practice of testing one's self on the material. While there are various methods for this, we are all familiar with the use of flash cards...deemed effective. One can use sites like Quizlet, Study Blue and Flash Card Machine to help formulate such test possibilities. In addition, I have students make up multiple choice questions for each other since the tests are mostly made up of such a question type.
So, it's nice to see my methods once again found effective.
Now, if I could get professors to make up tests that don't require short term memory retention!


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