Strategies to Make Learning Stick
By Esther Blair
Studying seems like a pretty straightforward process, common sense even. But look back at what you learned and try to remember it. Strategies such as highlighting, rereading, cramming, and repeating key skills turn out to be ineffective ways to learn and retain information, according to research.
Psychologists have come up with several proven strategies to help teach students to learn and retain information more effectively.
Dual Coding: Combine words and visuals
Linking visual elements such as a chart, graph or image with the information being presented can help reinforce learning.
“And when we say visuals,” Megan Smith, Cognitive Scientist and co-founder of The Learning Scientists explains, “we don’t necessarily mean anything specific, so it depends on the types of materials. You could have an infographic, a cartoon strip, a diagram, a graphic organizer, timeline, anything that makes sense to you so long as you’re depicting the information both in a way with words and a way with pictures.”
Make a point of connecting visuals to learning material and allow students to create their own images and charts from the content to reinforce the information even further.
Retrieval Practice: Practice bringing information to mind without the help of materials
A lot of students think of studying as simply re-reading notes, PowerPoints, textbooks, or other materials. But having the information right in front of us doesn’t force us to retrieve it from memory.
Decades of research have shown that making yourself recall information helps strengthen your long-term learning, says Henry Roediger, Ph.D., a psychologist at Washington University in St. Louis.
Teach students how to put this into practice- have them put away their devices, notes and books, and have them write out or discuss in groups everything they know or remember about a topic. When they are done, have them check their material for accuracy and discuss any questions or misconceptions in class.
Interleaving: Switch between ideas while you study
While practicing new skills is important to learning, research says we will actually learn a skill more effectively if we mix our practice of one skill with other skills.
In one study published in Psychological Science in 2008, psychologist Robert Bjork, Ph.D. notes that “interleaving forces students to notice and process the similarities and differences among the things they’re trying to learn, giving them a better, deeper understanding of the material.”
This strategy may be difficult for teachers to implement during lectures or lessons, but students can certainly make use of it during their own study time.
Spaced Practice: Space out your studying over time
Cramming is not a great study strategy, as many of us know well. Spacing out information over time makes for greater retention of material.
Teachers can help students apply this strategy by assisting them in putting together a studying calendar to plan out how and when they will review chunks of content, and by designated time in class each day for review.
Want to learn more? Visit http://www.learningscientists.org/ to access free resources such as podcasts and printables to learn more about effective study strategies. New content is added continuously!
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