Why you should teach your students about spaced practiceSummer is here: the sun is shining, the seashore and evening cocktails call us to enjoy a well-deserved rest, but our journey about the psychology of learning continues! If you missed an episode, don’t worry. Here is what we’ve learned so far: First, we grounded our research into a practical setting. Remember: good classroom practices stem from cognitive psychology rather than fundamental neurosciences. Then, we encouraged teachers to experiment in their classroom with a technique called retrieval practice.
How can teachers use the Test effect to promote long-term learning?In last month’s article we tried to differentiate between seedlings and weeds of the so-called “Neuromania” world. Now that we have clarified the terms of the debate, the following articles will discuss some of psychology’s findings which can be translated into good teaching practices. In this piece, we will discover that: Quizzes are not only used to measure students’ knowledge: they also help to strengthen it. Students should be encouraged to undergo this exercise, which is different from a traditional “read-underline” revision.
“Neuromania” in the classroomThis article discusses: « neuromyths » as a result of the superficial interpretation of neuroscientific discoveries; how these « neuromyths » can adversely affect the politics of education why neuroscience is not the discipline best qualified to prescribe the most effective teaching methods and why the scientific literature from hybrid disciplines such as cognitive psychology and pedagogical field studies show that tools like Wooclap are of vital importance to education.
Non-cognitive factors and their impact on student performancehttps://www.gse.harvard.edu/news/uk/15/01/best-means-measure Because most schools and institutions of higher education rely on grades and results to measure their students’ success, their teaching methods tend to focus on the traditional academic skills required to perform well within those measures. Thus, some important factors — mostly non-cognitive factors —are ignored, while their influence on student performance has already been found to be significant. Members of the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research have created a model depicting the undeniable link between these non-cognitive factors — students’ behaviours, beliefs, mindsets, and social-emotional skills — and academic performance.
Student mindset: fixed vs growthA student’s mindset tells you how they deal with failure and success in a learning environment, and reflects the image they have of their own learning potential. It describes their understanding of what it means to learn, and is therefore a great influence on their motivation and the habits they will develop for further learning. Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck discerns two main types of student mindset: growth and fixed.
When is multitasking beneficial?According to most cognitive scientists, performing even two relatively complex mental tasks at once is practically impossible for the average person, unless one of them has been completely automatised through practice. What people usually do when they think they are multitasking is actually task switching, or alternating between tasks over short periods of time, which causes a loss in efficiency. Different tasks have different objectives and rules to attain them, which means that every time we move from one task to another, different objectives and rules must be taken into consideration.
Change things up with InterleavingInterleaving is a highly effective learning and teaching strategy, which means it can be applied by both students at home and teachers in class. It involves distributing practice of a topic over time, as well as mixing up the order of materials studied across different topics. For example, three hours of learning three separate topics one after the other are transformed into six 30-minute sessions, alternating the different subjects. The benefits of this method stem from two other learning strategies, the first of which is spaced practice, otherwise known as the opposite of cramming, which essentially means studying more often, but for shorter intervals.
Why cramming does not work in the long-term, and a better learning technique to replace it withWhen studying for a test, most students use a method called massed practice, or as it is commonly known, cramming. The issue teachers find with learners studying intensively days or hours before the test, is that they often achieve their goal, namely successfully passing the assessment, but they couldn’t recall the information weeks, or even days later. The real problem is that, in today’s education, grades are more highly valued than developing a deep and durable understanding of the course material.
Retrieval Practice: A simple strategy to improve learning inside and outside the classroomRetrieval practice is a well-known learning strategy which involves calling information to mind that has been previously stored in long-term memory. It is a straightforward and easily implemented tactic with an undeniable impact on learning, and relies on three arguments. First, trying to recall a memory can modify, reorganise, and consolidate it better in our long-term memory. Second, that action often creates additional retrieval pathways to that memory, making it easier to retrieve later on.
Asking questions: How to ensure long-lasting memoriesWhen a teacher asks a student a question in class, they are providing that student with a retrieval cue, which refers to any information from their surrounding environment that triggers the process of memory retrieval. Let’s have a look at two important types of recall that can be used for learning, namely cued recall and free recall. Cued recall refers to “_any specific visual or verbal cue provided to students with the intention of eliciting a specific memory_”.
Two ways for teachers to improve how much their students rememberThere are two important ways in which teachers can improve how much students will remember of what they have been taught in class. The first is to link new information to students’ prior knowledge (known as active learning), and the second is to limit how much information students process at any one time (to avoid cognitive overloading). Link new information to prior knowledge To learn something, which means to make durable memories, we need to link the new information we are being taught to what already exists in our memories.
Why teachers need to understand how memory worksNo matter how engaging a teacher, if they are not able to make the information they teach enter the long-term memories of their students, those students will end up having learnt very little. Using the memory model above, we can see that depending on how the information is processed by students in their short-term memory, it may or may not be moved into long-term memory for storage and later use. How is the selection made for which information is processed?
Memory is a muscle that anyone can train!The following content was retrieved from the exceptional TED video featuring Joshua Foer. Certain people can quickly memorise lists of thousands of numbers, the order of all the cards in a deck, and much more. During a TED talk, science writer Joshua Foer described a technique called the “memory palace”, and revealed that anyone in the world can learn how to use it. Memory is a muscle, meaning it requires exercise and training, and in the great tradition of human competitiveness, that also means it can be made into a sport.