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Effective Learning Strategies

Article by: Shivangi Banerjee | Edited by: Tista Banerjee | Illustrations by: Nivedita Tripathi


"We learn

10% of what we read,

20% of what we hear,

30% of what we see,

50% of both we hear and see,

70% of what we discussed,

80% of what we personally discuss and

95% of what we teach to someone else." - William Glasser


Learning concerns every other person on Earth, a power that we all humans acquire as soon as we are born. It is often defined as

'A comparatively lasting change in behavior that is the result of previous experience.'

It is natural and continuous which is an ongoing process throughout life either for good or for worse and even both.


Without learning that a boiling hot pot when touched without mittens, is most certainly going to burn one, makes survival almost impossible. That learning alone is not sufficient. There needs to be a method of storing that information with oneself for the future encounters of the same kind. This is possible by the cognitive function of memory. Both learning and memory are cognitive functions and hence rely upon and exist in the brain.

Learning is not always a permanent change but the learned information and skills can be lost if there was no cognitive process of memory.


In learning this new knowledge is represented in the form of new brain connections. Memory involves a reactivation of a specific group of neurons created at the time of learning new things or experience. More a neural pathway is activated, the stronger the synaptic connections are. Here, the importance of retrieval comes to play in being one of the effective strategies to learning.


For example, what a little child learns for the first time to be a house, or a drawing of a house, contrary to it, an adult man would know a lot more; recall related experiences or knowledge having many mental images, a result of reactivation of neural pathways essential for retrieval.


Enhancing Memory problems Strategies:


The memory demands for school-age children are much greater than they are for adults. School children are constantly bombarded with new knowledge in multiple areas in which they may or may not have any interest. They were forced to learn and memorize the subject on a weekly basis. This to boost up their memories the following strategies have been proved to be useful:


1. Using Concrete Examples - Understanding of abstract concepts develop relatively late in the formal operational stage of Piaget's theory of cognitive development. Since it emerges a lot later in one's life it is a more complex cognitive function. Using concrete examples while studying abstract concepts, like understanding them with real life examples enhances the remembering capacity for that information. Example, when a child comes across the concept of cruelty, he/she can be explained the concept by telling them when one is hitting an animal with pebbles for no reason is cruelty.


2. Dual coding technique - While learning any new information, when coded in more than one way is more likely to be easily retrieved since for both way of coding the same or close parallel neural pathways are getting stimulated at the time of encoding. Thus, when presentations are given alongside a lecture, the information becomes strongly encoded as visuals are combined with words.


3. Elaboration - At the time of learning, if the information is elaborated, in the sense that, questioning oneself why, asking and explaining things makes the memory representation of the information connect with many other facts, existing knowledge. When information, say a salmon that falls under the mental representation of fish, is easier to remember when added information about it like salmon is pink, edible and that swims upstream to lay eggs.

4. Retrieval Practice – As elaborated earlier too, learning is one step to holding the information, but practicing retrieval makes a repeated stimulation of neural network in the brain for that particular information. When a memory is retrieved it becomes more accessible in the future, which is a kind of deep learning necessary to solve new problems. Preparing for examinations by taking practice tests is a classic example of retrieval practice.

5. Spaced Practice – This strategy involves spreading the learning of new information over a span of time, rather than learning it all at once. Students often tend to study right before the examinations, but if they are made to understand the effectiveness of spacing their learning process over a span of a number of weeks, dedicating a specified span of time every day memory for the learned material becomes smooth.

6. Interleaving – When learning new information can be of varied in the kind of problems or content within one single span of learning then the change of mental set allows the easy grasping of the information, avoids boredom and saturation that might lead to cognitive fatigue. In a single study period if students incorporate alternate subjects rather than focusing on one subject at a time, learning for that information is more effective.


In conclusion:


Out of all these strategies Retrieval practice is one that goes with all the other strategies and can be used in an integrate fashion. Spacing is a strategy that cannot stand alone by itself since it is only a temporal representation of spacing the information. Interleaving also can be used for variations in the content to avoid exhaustion but does not work well alone. When combining the use of concrete examples to elaborate the content is used with retrieval practice, multiple contexts and representation of information are encouraged that are effective in successful retrieval of it from the memory. All the strategies except for spacing can be used in isolation but are the most effective when combined together.

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