Everything you thought you knew about learning is wrong

In a recent article on Wired, Robert Bjork, the director of the UCLA Learning and Forgetting Lab, outlined some important points about learning and how our best perceived ways of learning is flawed.

Should you focus one skill at a time ?

People tend to try to learn in blocks, Bjork said. Mastering one thing before moving on to the next.

Bjork recommends “interleaving”. Instead of spending full hour working on single task, such as a tennis serve, you mix in a range of skills like backhands, volleys, overhead smashes, and footwork.

This creates a sense of difficulty, Bjork said. And people tend not to notice the immediate effects of learning.

Bjork believes that although you may not make appreciable leap in one skill immediately, but over time, the sum of these small steps is much greater than the sum of the leaps you would have taken if you’d spent the same amount of time mastering each skill in its turn.

Bjork explains that successful interleaving allows you to “seat” each skill among the others. “If information is studied so that it can be interpreted in relation to other things in memory, learning is much more powerful,” he said. There’s one caveat: Make sure the mini skills you interleave are related in some higher-order way. If you’re trying to learn tennis, you’d want to interleave serves, backhands, volleys, smashes, and footwork — not serves, synchronized swimming, European capitals, and programming in Java.


Do you study in the same place everyday?

Your study location matters. Prof. Bjork believes that studying in one place is great as long as you are required to recall your memory in the same place. Instead, studying in multiple places like the dorm, a different room at home, library etc. will condition your brain to recall information just about anywhere.


Do you revise too quickly?

Bjork says that if you study, wait and then study again, the longer the wait, the more you’ll have learned after this second study session.

When we access things from our memory, we do more than reveal it’s there. It’s not like a playback. What we retrieve becomes more retrievable in the future. Provided the retrieval succeeds, the more difficult and involved the retrieval, the more beneficial it is.

What is important here is the concept of “spacing”. Students benefit from starting early such that there is more time to learn, revise and practice complicated lessons and also space them for enhanced learning.


Do you spend time taking notes while you should be listening?

Many students take notes during classroom sessions while the teacher explains a theory or a concept.

Along these lines, Bjork also recommends taking notes just after class, rather than during — forcing yourself to recall a lecture’s information is more effective than simply copying it from a blackboard. You have to work for it. The more you work, the more you learn, and the more you learn, the more awesome you can become.

Finally, Bjork says

Forget about forgetting, People tend to think that learning is building up something in your memory and that forgetting is losing the things you built. But in some respects the opposite is true. See, once you learn something, you never actually forget it.

Please share your thoughts on the topic and what in your opinion works best.

For Laptitude,

Tanveer Farouqui

(Researcher- Education, Social Entrepreneurship and Technology)

Categorised as: Uncategorized

One Comment

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