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.
Five Disneyland workers have been diagnosed with illness
The first batch of a vaccine against Ebola is on its way to Liberia and trials are expected to start soon.
A drug that protected mice three days after exposure to radiation could buy more time for survivors of a nuclear disaster
Unexpectedly high levels of the cancer-causing chemical were found in an analysis of the vapor from e-cigarettes, researchers say.
When mosquitoes suck blood from people with malaria, they are more likely to develop an infection if their victim is taking antibiotics
Efforts to prevent suicide, such as those championed by Nick Clegg, must take into account some apparently paradoxical differences between men and women
Scientists are studying how hemp might be used in the electronic, medical and manufacturing industries. Because the plant's been illegal for decades, it's been difficult to do research on its uses.
They leave doctors puzzled in their wake as they migrate and settle to feed on the body they're invading; a classic parasite, but this one can get into your head.
The first world war helped spread TB round the world, but it was the collapse of the Soviet Union that enabled the multidrug-resistant form to take off
A recent survey suggests that 71% of people think that the world is going to the dogs. Are things actually that bad, or is it a psychological trick of the mind?