Monday, 20 September 2010

Good study habits. What are they?

I just got pointed to an article urging me to 'forget what you know about good study habits' and, you know, I was so pleased to read it.

Each principle it outlines is something I used while studying my A levels and I found it worked wonderfully. I cam across the ideas through experience but also because I was studying psychology and physical education (PE).

In psychology we looked at learning and memory. The research we were exposed to changed my view of the way my mind works very profoundly but also made it very clear just how simple high quality learning can be. It's because your brain likes to be well organised and context is a tag or label on which it happilly organises information.

For example we learnt how crucial context is in learning. If you learn something in a loud noisy environment, you'll find it easier to remember in a similar environment. How you feel at the time you're learning matters too. You'll notice this when you're in a really good or really bad mood. The most common things you can remember in those situations are either really good things that happen to you or really bad. This generally enhances whichever mood you're in.

So to use this in an exam situation you can then start thinking of the context that's relevant to what you're trying to remember, to help your mind associate with the desired memory.

PE was equally useful. That's where I learnt about the concept of blocked or distributed practice. In blocked practice you practice the same skill in a specific way for a given amount of time. Typically students get much better at that specific skill.

In distributed practice you vary the ways in which the skill is practiced, Whilst the students won't compare as well in the test given to those using blocked practice in real situtations where the skill is used in varied situations distributed practice prepares students better.

The point is that it's better to learn how any bit of info or any skill can be used in various situations. It aids retention and gets you experienced in real life situations as opposed to simplified learning situations.

So I really like the article 'forget what you know about good study habits' because it re affirms everything I learnt years ago that has stood me in good stead since.
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