#7 Taking Time to Learn

Students learn better when they take the time to learn and use that time well.

Deep learning (long term mastery of a subject) vs. shallow learning (remembering something long enough to pass an exam) takes both time and effective study skills.[1]

Inaccurate assumptions about learning

  1. Inaccurate assumption #1: Learning is fast[2]
    • Students typically underestimate the time required for deep learning
    • Students often rely on one reading of a text to grasp the material
    • This leads students to develop unrealistic timelines for studying or completing assignments so they run out of time to truly master material
  2. Inaccurate assumption #2: Massed practice is the most effective way to learn a new idea or skill[3]
    • Massed practice is the single-minded practice of one skill
    • Our experience learning through massed practice causes us to assume it is the best and easiest way to learn
    • Research indicates that massed practice leads to only “momentary strength” but does not support the development of “underlying habit strength”[4]
      • Cramming is compared to binge and purge eating. You may stuff all of the information in, but it will not stay there for long.
    • Practice that is interleaved, spaced, and varied is significantly more effective than massed practiced
      • Students show retention, mastery, and increased ability to discriminate information
        • Spaced practice- Allow time between practice sessions to forget the material requiring retrieval of the material. Depending on the content the space can be five minutes, a day, or even weeks.
        • Interleaved practice- Instead of focusing on just one skill or concept, practice a number of skills or concepts in a study session. Switch focus before you finish practicing or mastering one skill.
        • Varied practice- Do not just practice the skill in one situation, but try a variety of situations to develop discrimination skills.
      • Teachers and students often resort to massed practice over spaced, interleaved, and varied practice
        • Massed practices seems faster and more efficient
          • Spaced, interleaved, and varied practice may take longer but will deeper learning
        • Retrieving and memorizing information when spaced, interleaved, and varied can be difficult and discouraging[5]
          • Students may not see immediate results or may feel like they have to re-learn the material
          • The long term learning gains are worth the initial discomfort
  3. Inaccurate assumption #3: Creativity thrives under pressure[6]
    • Research indicates the people perceive themselves as more creative under pressure but pressure typically inhibits creativity
      • Pressure can support creativity in specific conditions that allow for hyper focus and limited or no distraction
    • Psychologist believe creativity comes from the formation of associations in the mind which requires time
      • Time is necessary to explore concepts and ideas
      • More time is required to make new or unique associations
      • Simply taking time to think about the big picture of a task can support higher levels of creativity

Tools to help students use their time well

  • Use spacing and interleaving in the classroom[1]
    • When introducing a new concept, bring up concepts focused on earlier in the quarter so students are required to retrieve that information
    • Instead of blocking content, vary the content
      • Example- Give students practice problems ordered randomly, so instead of all addition, all subtraction, and all multiplication, intersperse the three
    • Give cumulative exams and tests
    • Put together timelines to help students develop realistic expectations for the time necessary for learning[2]
    • Provide goal directed practice so students know why they are practicing[3]
    • Provide ongoing feedback so students can assess whether or not they are practicing the right material in the appropriate way[4]

[1] Shana K. Carpenter. Spacing and interleaving of Study and Practice.

[2] Stephen L. Chew. Helping Students to Get the Most out of Studying.

[3] Susan A. Ambrose, Michael W. Bridges, Michele DiPietro, Marcha C. Lovett, and Marie K. Norman, How Learning Works: 7 Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2010). 91-120.

[4] Ibid. 91-120.

 

[1] Ken Bain. What the Best College Teachers Do. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Pres, 2004 ) 27.

[2]Stephen L. Chew. Helping Students to Get the Most out of Studying. In V. A. Benassi, C. E. Overson, C. M. Hakala (Eds.), In Applying Science of Learning in Education: Infusing Psychological Science into the Curriculum. (American Psychological Association, 2014) 215-224.

[3] Peter C. Brown, Henry L. Roediger III, and Mark A. McDaniel, Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning (Massachusetts: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Pres, 2014).

[4] Ibid. 63

[5] Shana K. Carpenter. Spacing and interleaving of Study and Practice. In V. A. Benassi, C. E. Overson, C. M. Hakala (Eds.), In Applying Science of Learning in Education: Infusing Psychological Science into the Curriculum. (American Psychological Association, 2014) 215-224.

[6] Teresa M. Amabile, Constance N. Hadley, & Steven J. Kramer. Creativity Under the GunHarvard Business Review (2002). 52-61.

[7] Shana K. Carpenter. Spacing and interleaving of Study and Practice.

[8] Stephen L. Chew. Helping Students to Get the Most out of Studying.

[9] Susan A. Ambrose, Michael W. Bridges, Michele DiPietro, Marcha C. Lovett, and Marie K. Norman, How Learning Works: 7 Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2010). 91-120.

[10] Ibid. 91-120.