Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Repetition: A key to learning

I just came across this way to explain why repetition is such an important part of learning. Let me know if this is helpful.

I was the kid at school that always knew the answer to the teachers question. That's not me bragging it's when I first learned the value of repetition. I'd learnt this from my parents I think, I''m not totally sure. Anyway the kids would often come to me for help. I found out over time that these kids were just as bright as me but when it came to learning new things they didn't seem to have very effective methods.

The main thing I noticed is that they didn't practise what they learnt very much. Bascially when the teacher asked a question I naturally tried to find the answer. It often took me a while but I got better at it through practise. Pretty quickly my brain just seemed to be ace at finding the answer. I even got to the point where my brain just gave me the answers without me asking for them. I learned to trust the answers unequivocally. This has been so useful in all my exams because I've learnt that the first answer my brain throws up is generally the right one. I don't know how it does it in truth but I know I can trust it. The only times it's wrong is when a) I haven't learnt the answer before or b) I didn't learn it properly in the first place and my brain is confused.

Anyway all I see is that my brain learnt early on that it needs to find answers to things quickly and it figured out how to brilliant at it.

how does this insight help me teach others. Well because it's just about training and the responses it brings. My brain got good at finding answers because I kept trying to find answers to quqestions where other people only bothered when they were asked. Therefore I had about 20 times the amount of practice than they had and so my brain was about 20 times better at than then.

You see it's nothing to do with genes it's just having good tutors and a willingness to do what's required.

Any way I said I had a way to explain this. Yes, if the previous explanation doesn't float your boat then try this.

We all have a set of things we do each day. I'm a software developer, others are secretaries etc. We all have things we have to remember each day. things that are filed away some where. Maybe in your email, maybe in a desk or maybe it's just where the food is in the fridge that you are craving right now. Either way we just know where it is.

Why because we use it every day. In the same way we create FAQ lists. It's the most commonly asked for things we focus on.

What about those things we rarely need. Those are the things we hope we have a record of and have to search to find it. Well, what do you generally find first? the thing you use every day or that which you rarely use?

I hope I answered the things you use every day otherwise you may have bigger issues than can be discussed here :-).

Why do we find this stuff faster? kind of obvious really because we do it every day and because it's obviously important to us for that reason.

What does this example show?
Well I feel the brain works like this. When you do something regularly your brain makes sure it has strong links to whatever it needs to complete that task. Whether it's memory cells, muscle cells or whatever. The stronger the link the easier the brain can find it (I think it has some internal ways of prioritising things like this but that'll be figured out in time).

so if you're trying to learn something you need to tell your brain it's important. You also need to make sure it really knows how to do it.

For these two reasons aswell as many others. if you want to remember or learn anything make sure you repeat it enough and in a way that your brain will prioritise it.
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