Study Tips

Excerpt from DelanceyPlace.com — New York Times article

Researchers have identified better ways for students to study, yet they often contradict received wisdom and have been ignored by the education system:

” ‘We have known these principles [for improved study] for some time, and it’s intriguing that schools don’t pick them up, or that people don’t learn them by trial and error,’ said Robert A. Bjork, a psychologist at the University of California, Los Angeles. ‘Instead, we walk around with all sorts of unexamined beliefs about what works that are mistaken.’

“Take the notion that children have specific learning styles, that some are ‘visual learners’ and others are auditory; some are “left-brain” students, others “right-brain.” In a recent review of the relevant research, published in the journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest, a team of psychologists found almost zero support for such ideas. …

“Psychologists have discovered that some of the most hallowed advice on study habits is flat wrong. For instance, many study skills courses insist that students find a specific place, a study room or a quiet corner of the library, to take their work. The research finds just the opposite. In one classic 1978 experiment, psychologists found that college students who studied a list of 40 vocabulary words in two different rooms – one windowless and cluttered, the other modern, with a view on a courtyard – did far better on a test than students who studied the words twice, in the same room. Later studies have confirmed the finding, for a variety of topics. …

“Varying the type of material studied in a single sitting – alternating, for example, among vocabulary, reading and speaking in a new language – seems to leave a deeper impression on the brain than does concentrating on just one skill at a time. Musicians have known this for years, and their practice sessions often include a mix of scales, musical pieces and rhythmic work. Many athletes, too, routinely mix their workouts with strength, speed and skill drills. …

“In a study recently posted online by the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology, Doug Rohrer and Kelli Taylor of the University of South Florida taught a group of fourth graders four equations, each to calculate a different dimension of a prism. Half of the children learned by studying repeated examples of one equation, say, calculating the number of prism faces when given the number of sides at the base, then moving on to the next type of calculation, studying repeated examples of that. The other half studied mixed problem sets, which included examples of all four types of calculations grouped together. Both groups solved sample problems along the way, as they studied. A day later, the researchers gave all of the students a test on the material, presenting new problems of the same type. The children who had studied mixed sets did twice as well as the others, outscoring them 77 percent to 38 percent. The researchers have found the same in experiments involving adults and younger children.

“This finding undermines the common assumption that intensive immersion is the best way to really master a particular genre, or type of creative work, said Nate Kornell, a psychologist at Williams College and the lead author of the study. ‘What seems to be happening in this case is that the brain is picking up deeper patterns when seeing assortments of paintings; it’s picking up what’s similar and what’s different about them,’ often subconsciously.

“Cognitive scientists do not deny that honest-to-goodness cramming can lead to a better grade on a given exam. But hurriedly jam-packing a brain is akin to speed-packing a cheap suitcase, as most students quickly learn – it holds its new load for a while, then most everything falls out. … [In contrast] an hour of study tonight, an hour on the weekend, another session a week from now – so-called spacing – improves later recall without requiring students to put in more overall study effort or pay more attention, dozens of studies have found.”

Author: Benedict Carey
Title: “Forget What You Know About Good Study Habits”
Publisher: The New York Times
Date: September 6, 2010
About Us

Delanceyplace is a brief daily email with an excerpt or quote we view as interesting or noteworthy, offered with commentary to provide context. There is no theme, except that most excerpts will come from a non-fiction work, mainly works of history, and we hope will have a more universal relevance than simply the subject of the book from which they came.

Leave a Reply

Spam Protection by WP-SpamFree