My daily readings 09/27/2011

  • tags: Learning

    • Trying to remember what you’ve just studied, then writing it down, may be a surprisingly good way to learn.


      In a study published January 21 in Science, researchers asked 200 college students to spend five minutes reading a short passage about a scientific subject. Afterwards, they were either told to re-read it several times, as if cramming for a test; make “concept maps” of the material; or spend 10 minutes writing a free-form essay about the passage.


      One week later, the students were given short-answer tests on what they remembered, and asked to draw logical conclusions from those facts. Students who originally wrote essays performed best. Next came the crammers, then the concept mappers.

  • tags: Learning Study

    • Here’s one example of this kind of phenomenon. If you really want to understand a question, write a paper about it. It’s easy enough to read five or ten research papers in an area, and if you do that thoroughly, and write extensive notes as you do so, you’ll start to feel that you understand the area and the issues involved.

      However, if the way you learn is much like mine, when you try to start writing you will realise that you haven’t grasped it with anything like the fullness that you had thought. Start writing anyway: you have a bibliography, and hopefully you have a rough idea of the thesis you want to defend. Write the literature review sections. Sketch outlines of arguments, and then try to take them apart. Find counterexamples. If your position has any merit, you will eventually figure out some convincing arguments. Flesh them out: write a first draft, as rough as you like. Improve it by smoothing out poor phrasing and removing extravagant, unsupported claims (it may only be obvious once you’ve written them that this is what they are).

      After some time you will have a reasonably presentable paper. More than that, though, you will actually understand the issues: how the various ideas in the field fit together, why you really disagree with some of the papers you’ve read, and perhaps even what your own take on it is. It’s hard work! But writing is what makes the difference. If you just read a lot you can come away with the misapprehension that you understand the field, when in reality you just know a lot about what people have written.

    • Another way – if you really want to understand something, teach it. The preparation required to not embarrass yourself in front of students is huge.


    • I never put two and two together, but I have long been amazed at how well I understand how the EU is put together, its history, etc, all just from having to write a 20 page paper on the topic once. This is true of other topics as well. More than once I’ve gone into it and came out the other side with the opposite opinion I started with.

      But despite the clear efficacy of this method, it never occurred to me to do it on my own, just to learn something. It’s a lot of work and somewhat painful, but I suppose a more complete mastery always is.

    • And my experience is: I do not really understand it unless I can program it.

      To sum up this subthread: we all understand “it” better when we have experience of active involvement with it, not just passive studying.

    • That works well, along with teaching; however, it takes extensively huge time and is very tiring (needs lot of efforts and patience).

    • I think you’re spot on. You don’t really understand something unless you can explain it to an interested yet uninformed outsider.
    • We retain (1):

        10% of what we read    20% of what we hear    30% of what we see    50% of what we hear and see    70% of what we say    90% of what we teach 

       I used to lecture at a college. After learning about this the answer for me was like duh…

      I made my students teach my classes.

      (1) Edgar Dale, Audio-Visual Methods in Teaching 3rd Edition. Holt, Rinehart, and Winston (1969)

    • Recalling information is not necessarily learning. That ‘drawing-relation-diagrams’ method contributes more towards understanding in my view.

      Also this is very limited in domain. As an example, here in India students learn English for an year or two before appearing in MBA examinations. One common observation is that many students do thousands of comprehensions and unseen passages but still stand nowhere in the ‘reading between the lines’ part, which is essentially, understanding. They spend all the time testing themselves, whereas ‘testing’ should follow after ‘acquiring the knowledge’.

    • Recalling information is not necessarily learning. That ‘drawing-relation-diagrams’ method contributes more towards understanding in my view.

      As far as I know, all definitions of learning include the ability to recall. As the article points out, the students that drew concept maps “felt” they understood the material, but later were actually worse at demonstrating it with the follow-up test on understanding of the material (ie, both recall of the previous facts and the ability to draw inferences from them).

      It’s true that rote memorization is not the same as learning, but that’s not what was being tested in the study. They specifically tested to determine both recall and understanding.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

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