How do we get the material stored in our brains back out? We have a great storage capacity as humans. However, we often struggle to get the material stored back out. We call this our ability to recall, which improves with practice. Even faster with the correct practice. (Special offer at the end)
As we learn, we gradually build the ability to recall the information we have learned. What we want to be able to do is develop that recall, so it is a faster and more accurate process. To do this, we use spaced repetition.
With spaced repetition, we are deliberately recalling something we have learned, allowing time for it to no longer be in our short-term or working memory and then repeating the process.
The simplified process is:-
For most, this is not an intuitive way to practice as we like to repeat until correct.
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More on learning next week
How do we get material into our brains better? It is one of the many questions that anyone studying asks frequently. The answer is relatively simple and involves varying the information to ensure it goes into our long-term storage.
As a teacher, it is one of my roles to be able to develop these techniques with my students, and I am always on the lookout for more information. Recently I took a training programme run by Gregg Goodhart at Musical U, who managed to simplify a lot of the information and supplied the phrase “Contextual Interference.”
To get a piece that we are studying into our brains, there is not much value in repeating it in the same way. We must vary that information within its context, and the differences are then stored along with the original to enhance memory.
We want to break down what we are studying into small practical sections and apply the following sort of ideas to vary the piece:-
I have heard the comment back, “But I have to keep repeating it to get it into my brain”, when teaching these methods.
I use the reply, “If you kept repeating 12 x 56 and getting the correct answer, would you get any better?” no, but you might get a sore hand writing it out…
However, if you did 10 x 56, 2 x 56, 5 x 12, 6 x 12, and 56 x 12, you would be able to do the sum more instinctively AND apply that knowledge elsewhere.
More about Recall next week.
Learning is a skill that comes naturally to everyone. However, it doesn’t always go well when we decide to learn deliberately. As a teacher/ tutor/ mentor we must know and understand the material we are presenting and how this information can be stored and recalled most quickly and reliably.
To do this, we need to understand how the learning process works. This is a simplified version in straightforward language and ideas. A multitude of material is available that explains these processes in detail, which can be accessed to get a more detailed description. The actual process involved is far more complex than this.
We have our storage which can be split into three parts: –
Learning is the process of getting what we want into our long-term memory and bringing that information back out so we can use it.
To do those, we need to develop and refine two processes to reduce our time spent learning, not necessarily our effort.
To encode better, we need to vary the correct information, so we store it in as many ways as possible.
To Recall better, we need to practice forgetting and remembering to improve the skill of recalling information later and not just during that one learning session. We also need to apply recall in different situations to develop the flexibility of information and how to use it well.
More on encoding next week