Want to Remember Something You Read? Skip the Underlining – Exploding Learning Technique Myths

-*Were you always told to underline key points in textbooks to reinforce recall for future examinations?

If so, you may have adopted a low-value practice.

John Dunlosky

John Dunlosky

Kent State University’s John Dunlosky and Katherine Rawson collaborated with Duke’s Elizabeth J. Marsh to investigate the validity of frequently recommended learning and recall strategies.

Katherine Rawson

Katherine Rawson

They were joined in the evaluation by University of Wisconsin’s Mitchell Nathan and Daniel Willingham of University of Virginia. 

The team evaluated ten learning techniques:

  • Practice testing
  • Distributed practice
  • Elaborative interrogation
  • Self-explanation
  • Interleaved practice
  • Summarization
  • Highlighting or underlining text
  • Keyword mnemonic
  • Imagery for text learning
  • Rereading 
Elizabeth J. Marsh

Elizabeth J. Marsh

Dunlosky’s team assessed the effectiveness of each approach according to their impact across four domains:

      • Learning conditions, such as solo or group efforts
      • Learner characteristics, including age, ability, and level of prior knowledge
      • Learning materials, ranging from simple to complex
      • Criterion tasks for outcome measures of memory, problem solving, and comprehension and related skills.
Mitchell Nathan

Mitchell Nathan

The team debunked the value of many frequently-recommended practice, but validated several of the more challenging and least enjoyable approaches:

  • Practice testing.  All testing, whether practice testing or high-stakes performance testing, can increase performance and recall, sometimes up to 100% improvement in free recall.
    The most effective practice tests go beyond multiple-choice recognition question to require more detailed, process-oriented inquiries created by the learner.
    Besides its effectiveness, practice testing is also the less time-consuming than other approaches, even the less effective techniques.
Daniel Willingham

Daniel Willingham

Open Source, no-cost Anki software provides flash-card reviews and Walter Pauk of Cornell’s note-taking system enable users to list questions in the column next to notes to speed development of practice tests.

The most powerful learning approach combines both strategies in self-tests over time.

->Moderately helpful learning and retention techniques:

  • Self-explanation documents how to solve problems while providing rationales for choices during learning.
    This approach is nearly twice as time consuming as its similarly-rated peer technique, elaborative interrogation explanation, so has a less effective “Return on Investment” of time and attention.
  • Interleaved practice involves shifting study from one related topic to another, and appears to enhance motor learning and mastering cognitive tasks like mathematical problems up to 43% and augment longer-term skill retention.

->Lowest utility practices:

  • Summarization requires succinctly describing content of every text.
    Like note-taking, it was helpful in preparing for written exams but less useful for recognition tasks like multiple choice tests.
    This method was more useful than the most common techniques of highlighting, underlining and rereading, but still had low efficacy for performance enhancement.
     
  • Highlighting or underlining is the most frequently-used practice but has low value as a performance, learning, and recall practice because it requires little critical thinking beyond reading.
  • Keyword mnemonic advocates linking words to meanings by word sounds and imagery.
    This approach is helpful to trigger short-term recall for people’s names and occupations, scientific terms and foreign words but not English word definitions.
    Keyword practice appears effective in limited instances when the material includes easily memorized keywords, but is less effective than rote learning for long-term recall.
  • Imagery for text learning requires imagining visual images while reading texts.
    This approach is somewhat effective for short texts and when the text is heard rather than read, but much less useful for longer text learning.
  • Rereading was much less effective than other techniques.
    Massed rereading immediately after reading was more effective than outlining and summarizing but spaced rereading was more beneficial than massed rereading, echoing the consistent finding that spaced practice enhances performance and retention.

Dunlosky’s team provided a critical evaluation of frequent learning practices and advocates adopting only those that have proven impact on learning, performance, and retention.
Their analysis suggests that leading practices are:

  • Scheduling practice spaced over time to increase retention and to reinforce skill acquisition
  • Creating practice why questions while reading
  • Writing detailed explanations of the why, how, and what of the topic.

-*How do you enhance your ability to learn, retain information, and perform new skills?

Please follow-share-like www.kathrynwelds.com and @kathrynwelds

RELATED POSTS:

Twitter:  @kathrynwelds
Blog: – Kathryn Welds | Curated Research and Commentary
Google+ google.com/+KathrynWelds
LinkedIn Open Group Psychology in Human Resources (Organisational Psychology)
Facebook Notes:

©Kathryn Welds

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “Want to Remember Something You Read? Skip the Underlining – Exploding Learning Technique Myths

  1. Pingback: Mindfulness Impedes Implicit Learning, but May Enhance Explicit Learning | Kathryn Welds | Curated Research and Commentary

  2. Pingback: An End to “Death by PowerPoint”: Neuroimaging Studies Improve Visual Display Design | Kathryn Welds | Curated Research and Commentary

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s