“Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.” -Pelé
March 27, 2017
Ulrich Boser of the Center for American Progress has recently published a book called Learning Better. In it, he challenges many of the myths of how people learn by giving people the following quiz. See how you do!
1. True or false: When it comes to learning, metacognition (i.e., thinking about thinking) can be just as important as intelligence.
2. What is the best way to learn from some text?
a. Read and reread the text
b. Explain the key ideas of the test to yourself while reading
c. Underline key concepts
d. Use a highlighter.
3. You have a test coming up. What’s the best way to review the material?
a. Circle key points in the readings
b. Read your notes over and over
c. Take a practice quiz based on the material
4. True or false: Learning should be spaced out over time.
5. True or false: Right-brained people learn differently from left-brained people.
6. Which should you not connect your learning to?
a. Your learning style
b. Your interests
c. Your previous knowledge.
How did you do?
Number 1 is true. Intelligence is over-rated. How we think about intelligence is actually more important than our IQ score. You can learn almost anything if you are interested enough to care and put in effort. Intelligence is malleable. It’s very rarely about how smart you are, but how smart you want to make yourself.
Number 2 is b, and 3 is c. Yes, rereading and close reading do help, but summarizing what you need to memorize is always the best way improve retention. It relates to the strategy of quizzing yourself. Most of the time, our memory problems have more to do with retrieval than retention. Think about how once your remember a piece of something, it all comes back to you. With trillions of neural connections, our minds are less like empty closets and more like overly crowded closets where we can’t find anything. The more you quiz yourself and summarize data, the more likely you will remember where in the mind you put the information.
Number 4 is true. Cramming for a test the night before is much less efficient than studying just a little bit every day. Quizzing yourself on your notes and homework for five nights for 10 minutes a night will help more than studying for an hour the night before the exam. Of course, doing both will be even better.
Number 5 is false, and Number 6 is A. There has been a lot of hype about learning styles and right-brain and left brain learning. There is some truth to differences in both categories, but no research has found that we should change how we learn based on these differences. What is most important is that we are interested in the topic and connect it to what we already know.
If you did not do well, don’t be upset, the great majority of Boser’s subjects got most of the questions wrong too. The sad part, though, is that 75% of them said they know how to study well. Many people think being smart is what is important and that they are studying when they simply read over their notes. Being academically successful is possible for everyone who cares and tries.
This week’s Shaka entry is from a freshman student who has maintained a 90’s average while making the adjustment to High School expectations and freedoms. Hope you find it enlightening!
You remember what it was like when you were in the fourth grade and the teacher had this whole lesson on…
“AIM: What type of learners are we?”
I always thought I had to physically see you do whatever it is you’re trying to teach me, and sometimes it can be difficult…being a visual learner and all.
Like in dance, if I’m not working off a mirror image of the others then I just want to give up; I feel lost and want to sit out for the rest of the hour.
But then I found I still remember things I hear from a teacher, or see in a video, or read in my packet.
I still get stressed about quizzes and tests, even though I usually do pretty well.
Trust me, I always would try and study, but what is studying?
Like, WHAT IS STUDYING IN GENERAL?!?! What does that word even mean?
If I learn something and I don’t get it I will go to tutoring to try to figure it out. But if I don’t know what my questions are—what I don’t understand—before going there, it feels like wasted time.
So is that studying?
Or am I studying when I am able to breeze through my homework, and answer all the questions, even if I don’t feel like I get it?
But wait, now there’s teachers’ favorite line, “Make flashcards! Review your notes!”
Is that studying? I don’t get that. It feels like a waste of paper. Nobody looks at flashcards after making them, and I never feel like they really make me learn things I don’t remember easily anyway.
So is that studying?
Really, what is studying? Even the experts’ ideas of what makes effective learning and studying changes constantly. Our best hope is to try to keep up, and learn from ourselves what works best for ourselves.
Listen to your mind,