Effective Learning Techniques Revealed

Interested in learning effectively?

Thought so.

Then you’ll want to read this free-to-access paper — it is a must read for every teacher and anyone serious about learning:

J. Dunlosky, K. A. Rawson, E. J. Marsh, M. J. Nathan, D. T. Willingham. Improving Students’ Learning With Effective Learning Techniques: Promising Directions From Cognitive and Educational Psychology. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 2013; 14 (1): 4 DOI: 10.1177/1529100612453266 [Free Full Text]

Dunlosky and colleagues look at 10 commonly used revision techniques and assess the scientific evidence for their effectiveness. The key finding is that two techniques appear to be the most effective, namely “practice testing” and “distributed practice”. These techniques mean you have to actively test yourself (e.g. with flashcards) and revisit topics over time. Moderately useful techniques are ‘elaborative interrogation’ (explaining points or facts) and ‘self-explantion’ (showing how problems are solved) and ‘inter-leaved learning’ (switching between different types of learning). Other techniques — including summarization, highlighting and underlining, imagery while reading, keyword mnemonics, and rereading — are all low yield learning strategies.

Importantly, as Dunlosky says in ScienceDaily about the effective techniques, “these strategies are largely overlooked in the educational psychology textbooks that beginning teachers read, so they don’t get a good introduction to them or how to use them while teaching”. Mind you, if you’re an iTeachEM reader these findings will be of no great surprise to you — after all, you already know about the magic of spaced repetition and cognitive science and you’re already learning by spaced repetition.

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