Forget what you know about good study habits
A New York Times article explains that there are tried and true ways to help children learn. The problem is, they’re counter-intuitive and go against what we’ve always been taught. Here are some highlights:
Instead of sticking to one study location, alternating the room where a person studies improves retention. One study found that college students who studied a list of 40 vocabulary words in two different rooms — one windowless and cluttered, the other modern, with a view on a courtyard — did far better on a test than students who studied the words twice, in the same room. Later studies have confirmed the finding, for a variety of topics.
The same holds true for studying distinct but related skills or concepts in one sitting, rather than focusing intensely on a single thing. “Varying the type of material studied in a single sitting — alternating, for example, among vocabulary, reading and speaking in a new language — seems to leave a deeper impression on the brain than does concentrating on just one skill at a time. Musicians have known this for years, and their practice sessions often include a mix of scales, musical pieces and rhythmic work. Many athletes, too, routinely mix their workouts with strength, speed and skill drills.”
An hour of study tonight, an hour on the weekend, another session a week from now: such so-called spacing improves later recall, without requiring students to put in more overall study effort or pay more attention, dozens of studies have found.
Some long-held beliefs are actually false, according to the article. For example, “the notion that children have specific learning styles, that some are ‘visual learners’ and others are auditory; some are ‘left-brain’ students, others ‘right-brain,’ ” has absolutely no scientific basis. “The contrast between the enormous popularity of the learning-styles approach within education and the lack of credible evidence for its utility is, in our opinion, striking and disturbing,” researchers concluded.