Applying Cognitive Science Learnings in Education
Education is the primary medium for facilitating learning in a child life. Education, as a process, involves an individual involved in an activity to enhance her current know-how, knowledge or skills. An important and first step in that is school education which becomes the building blocks for her/his future achievements and success. School education can be demanding for some, easy for others. Since education is a process intrinsically related to mind and its performance in different conditions, it becomes obvious that scientifically proven strategies from cognitive psychology are bound to make an impact and hold the potential to improve your child performance at academics.
This blog highlights these strategies inferred from a set of findings from Cognitive Psychology research done over several decades and thoroughly tested for applications in school education. Some of these are obvious and already practiced but may not be systematically or seriously as their benefit is not understood due to lack of exposure to scientific explanations. So here are 5 methods that help your child learn better, score better.
1. Creating (Generation)
3. Taking breaks (Spaced-learning)
4. Studying different subjects in cycles (Interleaving)
5. Self-assessment (Meta-cognition)
In terms of cognitive science, all these strategies assist in better coding and retrieval of information from long-term memory (LTM). The terms in brackets are the technical terminology used in scientific literature for corresponding methods.
1. Creating (Generation)
Method: Ask your child to create as they study. Creation refers to playing an active role during learning, instead of just passively reading and remembering topics. Instead of a usual revision via re-reading chapters, better understanding can be done by actively creating questions from the topic, answering available questions, doing exercises and experiments.
Explanation : This is called generation effect by scientists. While the method is standard, its systematic and regular application has shown benefit in performance. This method works better than just completely re-reading a topic because of the effort involved in creating whereby the concepts are applied as against just reading the concepts.
Method: Make them test themselves with available question banks and exercises. Just as creation works, testing regularly based on topics studied improves the performance. This testing should be part of the revision process and ensure all concepts are covered under the questions. If students are provided feedback on their errors and performance immediately or even after a break, it further enhances their performance in later exams.
Explanation: Testing the knowledge of students is a standard practice to assess their performance but testing has also been identified to inculcate better learning and retention of material that was tested. This effect, called testing effect, was identified early by scientists whereby instead of a complete re-reading of material, students scored better when revision involved effort in the form answering of questions.
3. Having Breaks (Spaced-learning)
Method: Make them take breaks and divide study time. Instead of usual practice of completing large chapters and topics in a single sitting, if study is divided between breaks, the performance of students shoots up.
Explanation: The effect is known as spacing effect which predicts that distributed learning/practice by incorporating breaks between several study sessions improves learning as compared against a single time bundled or massed practice. This effect has been tested across children with different subjects and has shown positive results.
4. Studying different topics/subjects in cycles (Interleaving)
Method : In this strategy, instead of studying same subject till a large topic is complete, make your child study in cycles, alternating between different subjects. In this way, after completing a small section or chapter, the student should move to a different topic and come back later to the same subject in cycle.
Explanation: Similar to the rationale of learning with breaks, this strategy of studying by students improves performance because of the increase in learning effort when student is switching between topics and materials thus resulting in better memory of the studied topics.
Bonus: Combine these four strategies by making your child give tests and create questions and doubts between breaks and alternating between different subjects. This can combine the benefits of all to boost up the performance even more.
5. Self-assessment (Metacognition)
Method: Self-assessment is an important part of learning as this allows your child and her/his tutor to adapt study strategies as per the requirements. Therefore, it must be ensured several illusions in self-assessment which can harm the preparation, are prevented.
Explanation : Research shows that, re-reading a chapter may give the illusion that a student has learnt it 100% as it is easier to read but instead creating and testing helps remember more.
Similarly, when an entire lengthy topic is completed without any breaks it is easier to do due to the momentum or fluency in studying that topic. But being easier at the time of studying means reduced learning effort by student which will reduce performance later and that is the reason breaks and alternating subjects are recommended which can increase this effort.
Teachers and students are misguided by these illusions that easier is better while according to science more effort by mind results in better learning and thus better performance. That is why ensure that the above strategies are followed by your child and self-assessment illusions are prevented.