Highlights from an academic presentation on HOW STUDENTS LEARN by Daniel Willingham, University of Virginia:
What does NOT promote learning:
- Mere intention to remember things (or wanting to learn) doesn’t mean that you are going to remember. (e.g. Keys on table, remembering people’s names.)
- Repetition alone. (e.g. identify the U.S. penny’s design amongst 30 options.)
What does encourage people to remember?
- When the learner focuses on meaning rather than superficial attributes.
- “Memory is the residue of thought.” (e.g. Pianos are heavy vs. Pianos make music.)
- Repetition of deep meaning. (e.g. Sharing one’s personal value system on a regular basis.)
- Testing yourself is good. (Retrieval practice.)
Why don’t students study enough?
- Students generally stop studying when they feel like “they get it.”
- Students think familiarity and partial access is sufficient, when in reality, students need to recall it (Recollection).
- Familiarity comes from re-reading, knowing key terms.
- Unless you study beyond the point at which you know the information, you’ll forget by the time you take the test. (Overlearning).
Strategies to getting stuff into memory:
- Assignments that unavoidably make students think of meaning.
- repetition should be spaced; bigger impact, less boring.
- Repetition might be folded into more advanced skills.
- Tell students about the testing effect and even consider a demo because they probably won’t believe it.
- Have students explain to each other in class.
- Begin class with a written self-test.
- Tell students to self-test at home (e.g. as difficult as selling “eat fiber.”)
- Explain the value of over-learning to students.
Things I will do differently:
- Sit in the front where I will more likely be engaged.
- Take notes on what you’re thinking, not just what the professor is saying. (Not just transcribing. “What do things mean to me?”)
- When it comes time to study, think of how the professor has organized the course and try to reconstruct it. Then match that against your notes and see where the course structure and your notes don’t match up.
- Study with partners and come up with questions together.
- Just like running through the finish line after a sprint, push yourself to spend the extra time and energy to “overlearn.”
- When studying, find opportunities to demonstrate learning. Share knowledge. Write it down again. (Don’t just re-read notes.)
How I should have been taking notes:
- Commit to sharing three meaningful things I learned with someone else today. And again in two days.
- twitter: DTWillingham