UIUC PSYC 238 - Dunlosky et al 2014 What_works,_What_doesn't (8 pages)

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Dunlosky et al 2014 What_works,_What_doesn't



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46 s c i e n t i f i c a m e r i c a n m i n d miq513Dunl3p indd 46 S e p te m b e r O c to b e r 201 3 7 1 13 6 04 PM HOW WE LEARN WHAT WORKS WHAT DOESN T A N D R E W L I L L E Y i S t o c k p h o t o b l o c k s Some study techniques accelerate learning whereas others are just a waste of time but which ones are which An unprecedented review maps out the best pathways to knowledge BY JOHN DUNLOSKY KATHERINE A RAWSON ELIZABETH J MARSH MITCHELL J NATHAN AND DANIEL T WILLINGHAM ILLUSTRATIONS BY CELIA JOHNSON M in d S c i e nti f i c A m e r i c an c o m miq513Dunl3p indd 47 SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN MIND 47 7 1 13 6 04 PM E ducation generally focuses on what you study such as algebra the elements of the periodic table or how to conjugate verbs But learning how to study can be just as important with lifelong benefits It can teach you to pick up knowledge faster and more efficiently and allow you to retain information for years rather than days Cognitive and educational psychologists have developed and evaluated numerous techniques ranging from rereading to summarizing to self testing for more than 100 years Some common strategies markedly improve student achievement whereas others are time consuming and ineffective Yet this information is not making its way into the classroom Teachers today are not being told which learning techniques are sup FAST FACTS Rating the Best Ways to Study 1 Some study methods work in many different situations and across topics boosting test performance and long term retention Learning how to learn can have lifelong benefits 2 Self testing and spreading out study sessions so called distributed practice are excellent ways to improve learning They are efficient easy to use and effective 3 4 Underlining and rereading two methods that many students use are ineffective and can be time consuming Other learning techniques need further testing and evaluation In the meantime students and teachers can put proved study methods to use in classrooms and at home 48 SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN MIND miq513Dunl3p indd 48 ported by experimental evidence and students are not being taught how to use the ones that work well In fact the two study aids that students rely on the most are not effective One of them may even undermine success One potential reason is that the huge amount of research is overwhelming making it difficult for educators and students to identify the most practical and advantageous ways to study To meet this challenge we reviewed more than 700 scientific articles on 10 commonly used learning techniques We focused on strategies that seem to be easy to use and broadly effective We also took a closer look at a couple of methods that are very popular with students To receive our recommendation a technique must be useful in a range of learning conditions such as whether a student works alone or in a group It must assist learners of various ages abilities and levels of prior knowledge and it must have been tested in a classroom or other real world situation Learners should be able to use the method to master a variety of subjects and their performance should benefit no matter what kind of test is used to measure it The best approaches also result in long lasting improvements in knowledge and comprehension Using these criteria we identified two clear winners They produced robust durable results and were relevant in many situations Three more are recommended with reservations and five including two popular learning aids are not advised either because they are useful only in limited circumstances or because not enough evidence supports a higher rating We encourage researchers to further explore some of the untested techniques but students and teachers should be cautious about relying on them S e p te m b e r O c to b e r 201 3 7 1 13 5 54 PM TH THEE GOLD GOLD STAR STAR WINNE WINNERS RS 1 SELF TESTING Quizzing Yourself Gets High Marks HOW IT WORKS Unlike a test that evalu I S T O C K P H O T O s t a r ates knowledge practice tests are done by students on their own outside of class Methods might include using flash cards physical or digital to test recall or answering the sample questions at the end of a textbook chapter Although most students prefer to take as few tests as possible hundreds of experiments show that self testing improves learning and retention In one study undergraduates were asked to memorize word pairs half of which were then included on a recall test One week later the students remembered 35 percent of the word pairs they had been tested on compared with only 4 percent of those they had not In another demonstration undergraduates were presented with Swahili English word pairs followed by either practice testing or review Recall for items they had been repeatedly tested on was 80 percent compared with only 36 percent for items they had restudied One theory is that practice testing triggers a mental search of long term memory that activates related information forming multiple memory pathways that make the information easier to access WHEN DOES IT WORK Anyone from pre schoolers to fourth year medical students to middle age adults can benefit from practice testing It can be used for all kinds of factual information including learning words in foreign languages making spelling lists and memorizing the parts of flowers It even improves re tention for people with Alzheimer s disease Short frequent exams are most effective especially when test takers receive feedback on the correct answers Practice testing works even when its format is different from that of the real test The beneficial effects may last for months to years great news given that durable learning is so important IS IT PRACTICAL Yes It requires modest amounts of time and little to no training HOW CAN I DO IT Students can self test with flash cards or by using the Cornell system during in class note taking make a column on one edge of the page where you enter key terms or questions You can test yourself later by covering the notes and answering the questions or explaining the keywords on the other side RATING High utility Practice testing works across an impressive range of formats content learner ages and retention intervals 2 DISTRIBUTED PRACTICE WE REVIEWED For Best Results Spread Your Study over Time MORE THAN 700 HOW IT WORKS Students often mass SCIENTIFIC ARTICLES their study in other words they cram ON 10 COMMON But distributing learning over time is much more effective In one classic


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