Learning means transforming the information that comes to us into a set of useful and exploitable knowledge in the long term, including in new situations. Many students have a poor conception of work, making revision sessions long and not effective enough. You’ve probably all wondered how to learn effectively. In order for students to develop better ways to learn, researchers have been interested in the concept of learning strategies. According to Weinstein and Mayer (1986) “the purpose of a learning strategy may be to influence the learner’s affective or motivational state or to use a means by which the learner selects, acquires, organizes, or integrates new knowledge.
Two types of learning are observable:
- Implicit learning where participants are not aware that they have learned anything.
- Explicit, intentional learning, where the learner seeks to acquire knowledge.
It requires the fine-tuning of different cognitive processes, such as memory and attention. Memory (ability to store and retrieve knowledge and information) is an essential component of learning.
Learning processes are identified in cognitive psychology in order to acquire knowledge. For each of them, appropriate strategies can be used. These strategies facilitate the assimilation of information by the individual, build links between new and old knowledge, or retrieve learned information from our long-term memory.
- Strive to repeat the same exercise
- Organize your sessions into a series of revisions to be repeated during other sessions
- Try to make links between your own knowledge and the course
- Find mental images that illustrate the information
- Explain the course to another person in their own words
- Focus on priority information
- Organize your ideas in the form of mind maps or bullet points
How to divide the revision sessions? In a single day, massed practice, or in several sessions spaced out in time, distributed practice?
Bahrick (1979), Bahrick and Hall (2005) experiment
In this experiment, all that was required was to learn Spanish words (associated with English words). There were 6 learning sessions (massed or spaced session, 1 day or 30 days interval). And at the end, a test is given after 30 days.
Learning is more difficult and requires more effort when the review sessions are spaced out.
But on the exam, individuals who practiced spaced sessions did better with 30-day intervals.
A synthesis of the literature was used to define the level of effectiveness of the most common revision practices among students.
- Rereading content or highlighting important passages has a low effectiveness in medium and long term memorization.
- Alternating content, elaborating on content, explaining content to each other has a moderate effectiveness.
- Testing oneself and spreading out the revisions over time (spreading them out more and more) has a high efficiency because this method requires an additional cognitive effort of recall.
In conclusion, learning strategies have been studied in order to facilitate students’ trying revision sessions. Each individual has his or her own way of learning but it is recommended to try certain strategies in order to test one’s brain and find the practice that suits one best. It is important to make the learning conditions sufficiently difficult, thus requiring active engagement and cognitive effort leading to better memory retention. Cognitive effort also consists of trying to remember something that you have memorized: hence the usefulness of testing yourself repeatedly.
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