This has been observed that some students seem to be devoting less time towards their studies whereas others work very hard and spend a lot of time on their studies but still do better in their tests/ examination. Why is it so? There may be many reasons for this and one of them is the way one tries to learn. The learning is helped by the memory of an individual. Somebody has rightly mentioned that memory is the mother of wisdom. Memory can be of two types, short term memory and long term memory. Now an individual has to understand that what is required for short term duration and what is required for term duration called as enduring learning. Now the question is, does learning mean repetitive practice or does it mean some reinforcement? Does learning have the power to transform us? What kind of learning style should be adopted to make it powerful and long lasting? To find answers to these questions is not easy however also not impossible. Our generation has moved from Industrial Age to the Age of Knowledge through Information Age. Hence, the ability to obtain, assimilate and apply will also become a SKILL in the years to come. The age old theory of repeated practice does not exist anymore.
Rather, the intelligentsia will have to leave it at a point of time as a myth. Mind mapping and re-reading will make you less competent giving it an illusion of competence.
The athlete, for example memories a huge number of random words/numbers in a short amount of time and to add to their capacities; they can even regurgitate the memorized words in reversed order. But, one will have to remember the concept of spaced repetition (Practice); which certainly means the same exercise, if has to be consolidated in memory, should be repeated in INTERVALS! Continuous repetition or repetition in smaller gaps will not yield promising results however; the spatial memory will work efficiently with an intuitive and instantaneous indicator. The quick repetition may make one feel to have learnt very well but that is short term learning and tested at some later stage may not be remembered by the individuals. A research was conducted on bean balls which I write for my readers as basket ball. Two groups of players were asked to score the basket from a fixed distance of 10 feet and they practiced for two three days. The other group was also asked to score the basket but from two different distances of 8 feet and 10 feet for the same duration. During the practice the researcher felt that the ones throwing from the fixed distance were doing better than the other group. The two groups were tested after about two weeks but the both groups were asked to score from the 10 feet distance. Many people will expect the first group to have performed better than the second one but the result was opposite. The group which has practiced from a distance could adjust better than the one which threw the ball from the same distance.
In the book, Make It Stick written by Brown, Henry and Mark, the authors explain the idea of ‘embrace difficulties’, describing difficult learning as desirable due to the idea that the brain encodes & consolidates learning when learning is ‘effortful’, in case of Mia, who learns a safe and secure parachute landing. The book also outlines the fact of making the learning ‘Stick’ by adopting active learning methods of retrieval, elaboration, reflection and generative learning.
When we talk of feedback which is a very important tool in the process of learning then we must look at the spacing of the assessment and the feedback. While in a learning spree, feedback is pivotal, nevertheless, timing has to be appropriate. If an immediate feedback is given, it does not produce a learning which is long lasting as the reflection by the individual is missed. On the contrary, if the feedback is also spaced rationally, there can be some amount of learning taking place. If a child has been asked to solve a mathematics problem and the teacher gives the feedback immediately, in that the child will not get an opportunity to think self and will follow the advice of the teacher. For the time being he might have understood it but in long run he may not be able to recall and use this learning when required. Now most of the books have practice exercises at the end of the chapter. Most of the problems of the similar type are put together. The students are able to repeat the knowledge and solve them at one go before going to another set of problems. At that time the child might have felt as having mastered the problems but when the examination for the entire syllabus is conducted such children face problems. This is the reason some students who do well in Monday test are not able to that well in the term examinations. So the lesson drawn is that practice and feedback are important but they should be spaced. There are though many internal and external factors affecting an individual’s learning, like lack of confidence, support, resources etc; but these barriers have to be bridged through the rightful learning practices. From being the driver of your own car to being the pilot of an aircraft – the engine, instruments, illusions etc are all yours. Hence, the safety!
Memory is a reconstruction from ‘chunks’ to ‘blocks’ to ‘larger components’ and by focusing on retrieval, it can produce exceptionally good results. Even by ‘Generative Learning’, wherein, students are given a problem to solve before being taught the concept thereby, making the learning stronger as more time and energy goes into solving it.
Thus highlighting and rereading are a ‘passe’ or in other words ‘easier’ is not better but as learning is a never ending process, the knowledge gurus’ are always of the opinion to foster conceptual learning that solidifies and consolidates. Another concept dealt by the authors in this book is that easier is not better. Anything which is learnt without much of efforts may not stay with the individual for long so always try to find solution self before asking for the same from the experts and teachers. This little difficulty will make learning enjoyable (once that happens) and will be useful when required in unknown situations. When a child learns to ride a bicycle he/she struggles balancing the same. He/she falls and rises and in the process learns self how to balance the cycle and how to ride it. If he/she would have been provided help by mother/father at every fall or rise then the child would have definitely taken longer to learn and also would not have been very confident. The same applies in academic learning situation also. So we as teachers must evolve methods which enhance the memory of the children which can be recalled by them when required.
I need your feedback and input to make my learning more effective and another article will appear in this blog on this topic some time later.