89ºF

Learning: Make It Stick!

You are never too old to learn something new, you've no doubt heard that before, but there is science behind that saying. Cognitive psychologists at Washington University in St. Louis are studying the best ways to learn better and remember longer, and have compiled a list of sure-fire techniques for success.

Gloria Seper's math class soaks it all in. There's a test coming up and they want to ace it.

Elementary school student, Nina Edwards told Ivanhoe, "I usually study three nights ahead like our teacher told us to."

Three nights of study or more may sound like overkill, but science says it's exactly what the brain needs.

Psychology professors, Henry Roediger and Mark McDaniel are leading experts on human learning and memory.

Henry Roedinger, PhD, Professor of Psychology at Washington University in St. Louis, told Ivanhoe, "People underestimate how many times they need to practice something before they really know it."

Think you'd be fine running through information once or twice? Wrong! The experts say students need to review five to seven times.

That's why they say it's best to break up study, a little bit every day and different topics every few days.

Elementary school student told Ivanhoe, "You don't want to cram it all in one day because then like you have to process so much."

Also, mix up your learning, variety helps.

"If you're a college student and you're taking five subjects well, try to study a little bit on each one every day," Roedinger told Ivanhoe.

For students of all ages,  when it comes time to remembering  or retrieving information,  play detective and ask yourself questions, like "what if," "how" and "why."

Mark McDaniel, PhD, Professor of Psychology at Washington University in St. Louis told Ivanhoe, "Once you explain why, that understanding leads to perfect memory."

Quizzing students helps keep information at the top of their minds, and the tips of their tongues.

Roediger says many students will want to re-read the textbook as they are studying.  Roediger cautions students not to do that. He says re-reading gives the brain false cues that the student knows the information better than he really does. He and Mark McDaniel and Peter Brown have more tips in their book, "Make It Stick: the Science of Successful Learning."

BACKGROUND: Learning is the act of acquiring new, or modifying and reinforcing, existing knowledge, behaviors, skills, values, or preferences. It may involve synthesizing different types of information. The ability to learn is possessed by humans, animals and some machines. Progress over time tends to follow learning curves. Learning is not compulsory; it is contextual. It does not happen all at once, but builds upon and is shaped by previous knowledge. Human learning may occur as part of education, personal development, schooling, or training. It may be goal-oriented and may be aided by motivation. The study of how learning occurs is part of educational psychology, neuropsychology, learning theory, and pedagogy.
(Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Learning)

LEARNING AND MEMORY: Learning styles encompass a series of theories suggesting systematic differences in individuals' natural or habitual pattern of acquiring and processing information in learning situations. A core concept is that individuals differ in how they learn. Proponents of the use of learning styles in education recommend that teachers assess the learning styles of their students and adapt their classroom methods to best fit each student's learning style. Although there is ample evidence that individuals express preferences for how they prefer to receive information, few studies have found any validity in using learning styles in education.
(Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Learning_styles)   

LOOKING AHEAD: Psychology professors Henry Roediger and Mark McDaniel, from Washington University, are leading experts on human learning and memory. Their book, Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning offers students, educators, and life-long learners suggestions to improve learning and retention. It explains why some common study practices are alluring, but ineffective. Students should seek learning opportunities with "desirable difficulty" because when learning is challenging, it is more likely to lead to retention. A few take away tips are for students to review information five to seven times and also to mix up your learning. Don't study something for hours. Study a variety for a little bit each day.
(Source: http://www.learningandthebrain.com/blog/make-it-stick-the-science-of-successful-learning-by-peter-c-brown-henry-l-roediger-iii-and-mark-a-mcdaniel/)     

* For More Information, Contact:

Henry "Roddy" Roediger, PhD
Washington University
roediger@wustl.edu

Free weekly e-mail on Medical Breakthroughs from Ivanhoe. To sign up: http://www.ivanhoe.com/ftk