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27/03/2015

Effective Learning

The science of effective learning is a much discussed topic and very relevant to what we do here at Wolsey Hall Oxford.

 

Our Primary Level Tutor, Tina Hemphill has been doing a bit of research into effective learning techniques. Here’s what she’s found out…

 

“It may seem counter-intuitive, but the trick is actually to study at intervals, rather than trying to learn everything in one sitting.

 

According to a New Scientist article, “we learn much better if we revisit material after an interval rather than hammering it home during a single session.” 

 

Learning is a scientific process. The following is an explanation of the changes which happen within the brain in order for learning to take place”

 

“When we learn something new, we form new neural connections. The nerves that form are wrapped in a fatty coating called myelin. This makes the nerve impulses faster. The more myelin coating the nerve, the faster the impulses work in order to facilitate learning. Every time you remember the same piece of information, you add more myelin. Imagine coating a piece of wood with layers of varnish.”

 

It is therefore more effective to spend a number of short periods of time learning a new concept – studying something for a little while, leaving the topic, and returning to it about five different times.

 

This is because the brain is remembering the information five separate times and building five new layers of myelin. If one were to spend the same amount of time on the concept without a break, only one layer of myelin would be set down.

 

A person can struggle with a concept for three weeks and still find it difficult. However, if they revisit the topic about six weeks later, the triggered memory and added myelin will make the topic much easier to understand.

 

This process of introducing a topic, leaving it and returning to it frequently is called the “spiral curriculum”. Each time the topic is revisited, the understanding becomes more complete and knowledge of the concepts is reinforced.

 

The process also facilitates the chemical changes necessary for the transition between short-term and long-term memory. So the next time you or your child is struggling to learn something, consider taking a break and coming back to the concept later – not only will it ease frustrations, it’s also more likely to have a lasting impact on learning!”

 

We’d love to hear about your effective learning techniques – let us know what works for you!

 

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