The Most Effective Learning Methods
School is a place for studying and learning but not all students get to study and learn effectively while in school. Students have different learning capabilities. Some of them find it a breeze to go through school, pass all subjects, and perform well in class without having any problems while some struggle and need extra help to survive in school. Each person has different learning capabilities.
In school, the teachers don’t really teach students how to study. Students are often taught to memorize and absorb the lessons that are being taught in class, but the learning methods and techniques aren’t taught in class. There are different learning techniques out there that students can use to study effectively. The effectiveness of each method varies per student but based on studies, the effectiveness of each learning method was identified. Here are some of the most effective learning methods:
Highly Efficient Learning Methods
Practice testing is one of the most effective learning methods according to research. A hundred years of experiment and research have showed that students who have done practice testing were able to learn effectively although it’s less unlikely for students to use this method because of how they react and feel whenever they need to go through tests.
Practice testing is not an actual test in a testing environment. It is usually done outside the classroom. There are different ways to test yourself and you can test yourself anytime and anywhere. You can test yourself by asking yourself questions and answering them without getting any help and reading notes or books. You can also test yourself by using flash cards. You can also answer practice tests or problems without peeking into notes and books. You can use the questions at the end of textbook chapters or answer the online tests provided by textbook publishers. Finally, you can come up with your own test and put yourself into a testing environment.
Practice testing is effective because it allows the brain to retain information in a long-term memory and retrieve related information. Practice testing also helps students improve their ability in mentally organizing their knowledge which results in an increased speed and efficiency in the process of retrieving information.
Any type of practice test improves a student’s performance in the actual or final test. It is more effective to do practice tests that require identification or short answers rather than using multiple choice or fill-in-the-blank tests. The effect of practice testing is better if a feedback with the correct answer is given right after the practice tests.
Practice test works for all kinds of subjects and tasks.
Distributed practice is also a highly effective method of learning. It benefits students of various ages and levels of learning ability and it enhances the performance of students in different aspects.
Distributed practice means spreading or dividing studies over a period of time instead of doing it all at once. This is the main reason why cramming before exams doesn’t really work. Based on studies, distributed practice is great for absorbing and retaining material. It works well because it allows the brain to absorb information by shifting the mind between a diffused and focused mode of thinking. It’s important to put gaps between studies to remember what you are studying.
Distributed practice isn’t really implemented in school, but it is a good way of learning when at home. Based on research, about 10 to 20% of the total length of time in learning is the optimal level of distribution of sessions for learning. So, for example, if you have a big exam in one year, then you should study at least every month.
It would be great to do a combination of distributed practice and a self-testing for better and improved results.
Moderately Efficient Learning Methods
Self-explanation is a moderately efficient learning technique that works for various ages and subjects. It is a learning method that is good for abstract learning. It involves a student trying to explain how he or she understands the problem as he or she tries to come up with the answer and giving a reason for the choices that he or she makes as he or she derives the conclusion. The main factor in self-explanation involves allowing students to communicate some of the aspects of processing what they are learning.
Self-explanation is more effective and efficient when it is done during the introductory stage of learning rather than after learning. It works best when no one provides any explanations before the student does the self-explanation. This is better than self-explanation after solving the problem. The problem is that this method is time consuming and it also requires some training for the student. There aren’t also enough studies that show the effectiveness of retaining the material learned into long term memory.
To make this method more effective, it is better to write down the questions that you wish to ask yourself with regards to the topic and then write down the answers afterwards. This will help you in effectively retaining the questions and answers in your memory and it allows your brain to organize the importance of the study materials.
Interleaved practice is another moderately effective way of learning. It involves a student that studies a topic at hand and relates or associates it with concepts or topics from the past. It means that the student mixes different study materials or various types of problems that are interrelated to each other within a single study session. This method of learning allows students to put the pieces of the puzzle together to see the bigger picture as they put the puzzles that match together.
The effective approach to interleaved practice is learning all the aspects of one topic and then trying to solve problems while applying that concept before moving on to the next topic in a linear manner.
5. Elaborative Interrogation
Elaborative interrogation is like self-explanation. This method involves the process of asking yourself why for a concept or an explicitly stated fact to understand concepts. It is a simple method and doesn’t require training compared to self-explanation. The only problem is that it requires the student to be familiar with the concept and other related topics or concepts for it to be effective.
Elaborative interrogation is effective if it is done frequently. While you are reading, always check your understanding of each concept and material by asking questions after a couple of paragraphs or pages. You can write down the questions and the answers while reading to retain them in your memory.
Other methods of learning include joining online classes, highlighting, marking, and underlining materials, summarizing, rereading, coming up with mnemonics, and using images for learning texts.
The level of effectiveness of each method does not apply for everyone as it varies per student. It is up to the student to try out each of these methods and test what works best for them.