Click here to donate to QBI research
The Brain : Learning and Memory
CHAPTER 2. HOW WE LEARN BOOST YOUR LEARNING USE THESE SIX TIPS TO HELP IMPROVE THE POWER OF YOUR BRAIN. 6. USE STORIES How well you remember an abstract concept can be improved by concrete examples or stories. After forming a memory, we need to consolidate it to make it last longer. This is easier when there’s context to the information being learned. This is why memory aids – mnemonics – are useful when studying. Mnemonics and stories help you form associations between the content you want to remember, and the story you recite. These associations are strengthened neural pathways, formed by synaptic plasticity, so that when you think of one (the story or mnemonic), you more easily recall the content you actually care about. The mnemonic Every Good Boy Deserves Fruit, for example, gives the five musical notes on the lines in the treble clef, EGBDF. If you’re studying medicine or nursing, you’re likely to remember the cause of a disease that has affected someone you care about – a personal story contextualises the memory and enhances its meaning. EDUCATORS Provide context, real-world examples, or stories for concepts being taught. 5. COMBINE SPOKEN WORD WITH IMAGES The brain’s visual and auditory processing centres are located in distinct regions and activated separately when we see images and hear words. While multitasking is detrimental to learning, research has found that processing images and spoken words simultaneously has no negative effect on how well we remember them. The same, however, is not the case for images and visual text: when you try to listen to a speaker while reading something unrelated at the same time, neither is well understood. EDUCATORS Use relevant non-text images as teaching aids, in the form of large presentation visuals or image-based handouts. 4. MIX THINGS UP In a traditional and widely applied approach to learning known as ‘blocking’, skills are taught sequentially and you don’t move onto a new one until you’ve mastered the previous one. But it’s now known that mixing up the practice of several interrelated skills can boost performance in the long run. Known as ‘interleaving’, it’s long been established that it can improve motor learning, such as for tennis or piano players. A growing body of research is showing that it also has applications in the classroom. EDUCATORS Intermix step-by-step worked solutions with problem-solving exercises, or provide students with revision material that combines practice questions about multiple topics.