New ways to make learning easy


Research on better studying and retention factors defies some prevalent myths. Experts believe that the thirst for learning should come from within.

Advice comes cheap, from parents to relatives to turn their students into bookworms. And most of it is too familiar: Clear a quiet work space. Stick to a home work schedule. Set goals. Set boundaries. Such theories have crept in our system because of sketchy education research that doesn’t offer clear guidance. However, in recent years, cognitive scientists have shown that a few simple techniques can reliably improve what matters most: how many students learns from studying.

Education is one of the most important drivers of India’s social and economic development. And this sector appears to be ready for big action. Analysts believe that based on the current and future manpower requirements for various sectors there is a huge demand supply gap in the education space. However, looking at the current economic scenario, the world over, a question that arises here is, how is the education sector faring in the country? This sector is actually looking at the slowdown as an opportunity. With more and more people looking at pursuing higher education and diversifying their skill sets, institutions have a greater talent pool to choose from to admit in their courses.

Findings contradict

These findings directly contradict much of the common wisdom about good study habits, and they have not caught on. For instance, of sticking to one study location, simply alternating the room where a person studies improves retention. So does studying distinct but related skills or concepts in one sitting, rather than focusing intensely on a single thing. Psychologists have discovered that some of the most hallowed advice on study habits in flat wrong.

For instance many study skills courses insist that students find a specific place, a study room or a quiet corner of the library, to take their work. The research finds just the opposite.

Misleading notions:

Take 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. In a recent review of the relevant research published in the journal Psychological Science in the public Interest, a team of psychologists found almost zero support for such ideas. 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 the researchers concluded.

Variety fosters retention:

Varying the type of material studied in a single sitting – alternating for example among vocabulary reading and speaking new language seems to leave a deeper impression on the brain than does concentrating on just on 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. The advantages of this approach to studying can be striking in some topic area, believe the researchers. They say The mind if exposed to a variety of study subjects at a single sting can enhance the scope of retention by as much as 50 percent. The researchers have found the same in experiments involving adults and younger children.

Deep interest not the key:

These findings extend to aesthetic and intuitive learning. In an experiment published in the journal Psychology and Aging researchers found that college students and adults of retirement age were better able to distinguish the painting styles of 12 unfamiliar artists after viewing mixed collections. The finding undermines the common assumption that intensive immersion is the best way to really master a particular genre or type of creative work. The brain is picking up deeper patterns when it seems assortments of paintings: it’s picking up what’s similar and what’s different about them.


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