Students everywhere, put down those highlighters and pick up some flashcards! Some of the most popular study strategies — such as highlighting and even rereading — don't show much promise for improving student learning, according to a new report published in Psychological Science in the Public Interest, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.
In the report, John Dunlosky of Kent State University and a team of distinguished psychological scientists review the scientific evidence for ten learning techniques commonly used by students.
"Schools and parents spend a great deal of money on technology and programs to improve student achievement, even though evidence often isn't available to firmly establish that they work," says Dunlosky. "We wanted to take a comprehensive look at promising strategies now, in order to direct teachers, students and parents to the strategies that are effective, yet underused."
Based on the available evidence, the researchers provide recommendations about the applicability and usefulness of each technique.
While the ten learning techniques vary widely in effectiveness, two strategies — practice testing and distributed practice — made the grade, receiving the highest overall utility rating.
Most students are probably familiar with practice testing, having used flash cards or answered the questions at the end of a textbook chapter. Students who prefer last-minute cram sessions, however, may not be as familiar with the idea of distributed practice.
Dunlosky and colleagues report that spreading out your studying over time and quizzing yourself on material before the big test are highly effective learning strategies. Both techniques have been shown to boost students' performance across many different kinds of tests, and their effectiveness has been repeatedly demonstrated for students of all ages.
In contrast, five of the techniques received a low utility rating from the researchers. Notably, these techniques are some of the most common learning strategies used by students, including summarization, highlighting and underlining, and rereading.
"I was shocked that some strategies that students use a lot — such as rereading and highlighting — seem to provide minimal benefits to their learning and performance. By just replacing rereading with delayed retrieval practice, students would benefit," says Dunlosky.
So why don't they? Why aren't students and teachers using the learning strategies that have been shown to be effective and inexpensive?
Dunlosky and colleagues found that the answer may have to do with how future teachers are taught.
"These strategies are largely overlooked in the educational psychology textbooks that beginning teachers read, so they don't get a good introduction to them or how to use them while teaching," Dunlosky explains. As a result, teachers are less likely to fully exploit some of these easy-to-use and effective techniques.
To help address this gap, the researchers organized their report in distinct modules, so that teachers can quickly decide whether each technique will potentially benefit his or her students and researchers can easily set an agenda on what we still need to know about the efficacy of these strategies.
"The learning techniques described in this monograph will not be a panacea for improving achievement for all students, and perhaps obviously, they will benefit only students who are motivated and capable of using them," Dunlosky and colleagues note. "Nevertheless, when used properly, we suspect that they will produce meaningful gains in performance in the classroom, on achievement tests, and on many tasks encountered across the life span."
Association for Psychological Science: http://www.psychologicalscience.org
This press release was posted to serve as a topic for discussion. Please comment below. We try our best to only post press releases that are associated with peer reviewed scientific literature. Critical discussions of the research are appreciated. If you need help finding a link to the original article, please contact us on twitter or via e-mail.
Polish doctors used cells from patient's nose to heal spinal injury
Like any trench war, the fight to protect America's kids against disease is proceeding only inch by inch. A new report shows why there's reason for hope—and reason for worry
Decontaminating biohazard sites can be a tough job, but the hardest microbe to wash away may not be what you think
The discovery of a possible trigger for the onset of Parkinson's disease could lead to new treatments for patients who still depend on a 50-year-old drug
Many people experience severe anxiety in mundane social situations, such as group introductions or paying bills. Why does this happen? And is there any useful purpose to it?
Along with the usual suspects, cigarettes and booze, the European code for avoiding cancer has been updated to include having the HPV vaccine and breastfeeding
Lose the pounds too fast, gain them all back? It seems not. Crash dieters regain the same amount of lost weight as those taking a longer-term approach
A new study suggests a little spending now can buy you a lot of time later
Researchers have identified a chemical that melanoma cells follow when they spread around the body raising the prospect of eventually switching it off
Some of the planet’s scariest, most lethal viruses find a natural refuge inside bats, including Ebola, rabies, Marburg and the SARS coronavirus. Many high-profile epidemics have been traced back to bats, and scientists are discovering new bat-borne viruses all the time.