Tag Archives: studying

Study Tip: Spatial/Relational Studying

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always had a problem with flashcards. Teachers would tell me to make flashcards for vocabulary words, for example. I found that once I’d written the words on the card, and added their definitions, I could already remember which definitions matched which words. Since I could match the words and definitions accurately, studying the flashcards no longer felt necessary. The whole process felt redundant and unhelpful to me. But the problem was that just because I knew which word went with which definition, that didn’t mean I understood the term.

In class, we discussed maintenance rehearsal versus elaborative rehearsal. Maintenance rehearsal is rehearsing a piece of information enough to keep it active. In this rehearsal, it doesn’t ver really move into long-term memory. Elaborative rehearsal, however, is rehearsal that involves processing. It helps us move information into long-term memory. Learning isn’t just about repeated exposure (think of the penny or the Apple logo). Learning needs deeper levels of processing. This might involve imagery, meaning, or personal tie-ins. Learning that involves surface details or sound patterns just doesn’t stick as well. Research supports the textbook and the discussion we had in class. In a study by Craik and Tulving (1975), participants were asked to answer questions about words. Sometimes, the participants answered about the meaning of the word (deep). Other times, they answered about the sound/structure of the word (shallow). They were then asked to pick the original words out of a longer list. While the deep processing took longer, the subjects who semantically processed the words showed greater performance on the recall task.

My original study tip is developed from several sources: my personal study habits, our class discussion, the research, and a technique mentioned in class by a fellow student. In a discussion about the problems of flashcard usage and maintenance rehearsal, this student mentioned how one could create flashcards using class notes etc., but then instead of engaging in repetitive and rote memorization with those cards, attempt to categorize them instead. I felt that this would be a much more meaningful way to interact with the material. As I thought about this suggestion, and pondered my own study habits, I came up with my suggested study tip: Flowcharts

You’ll need a whiteboard (a gallon plastic bag around a white sheet of paper works, but the bigger the board the better. In the ITCC, there are tons of big white boards free for our use!), dry erase markers, and small cards/sticky notes. First, write out important pieces of information on the cards. These bits of info can be definitions, theories, categories, relationships, tasks, people, ideas, studies, aspects of studies, etc. For example, if you have notes on a scientist who did two studies, each of which had two main findings, write out a card for the scientist, each study’s basic details, and details on each of the findings. When you’re done with the information for the chapter, shuffle your cards. Next is the fun part.

diagram-empty-2Now, you want to take your cards and start sorting them into a flow chart! You can stick them up on the board, and use the markers to draw connecting lines and arrows. The most important part here is to emphasize relationships. Thinking about how your concepts interact is important for making them stick in your long-term memory. It’s much more effective than just memorizing!

flowchartPractice putting your cards in a linear/chronological flow and drawing arrows between steps. Show what came first conceptually, and influenced later steps. Then try a hierarchical structure. What are the overarching themes and categories, and the subcategories and details? How do they relate to each other? Don’t be afraid to draw tons of arrows! The more times you engage with the pieces of information in different ways, the more comfortable you’ll be with them.

Good luck studying!

A Guide to Studying and an Original Study Tip

This article by Regan A.R. Gurung and Lee I. McCann from the Association for Psychological Science outlines several effective study strategies in addition to several ineffective study strategies. The effective strategies include techniques such as creating examples that apply to the material, generating mnemonics and mental images, using a study partner, and self testing with the review questions at the end of a chapter in the book. All of these methods require elaborative rehearsal. They require the student to think about what the material means and make connections to material the student already knows as opposed to simply relying on rote memorization. Making connections and thinking critically about new material makes it much more likely that the student will remember the new material. In contrast, the ineffective strategies the article lists, such as spending too much time on key terms and summaries to the extent that pedagogical aids are ignored, highlighting too much, studying with a friend without testing each other, and using review questions as content rather than an opportunity to test knowledge are all tasks that require maintenance rehearsal. This is a more mechanical, rote memorization process. This makes it much less likely that the information will be remembered and understood. However, all of these tasks could easily be tweaked to create tasks that would require elaborative rehearsal. All in all, deeper level processing is integral to memory because the ability to retrieve a memory later depends on the memory connections that were developed during the process of encoding. In order to retrieve a memory, you must be able to rely on a number of connections, each of which triggers another connection, which leads to memory retrieval. This is why mnemonic strategies are effective; they depend on these connections.

With this in mind, I would suggest writing journal entries relating material from class to material from other classes as a way to learn and study material. It requires elaborative rehearsal due to the need to think about the material in a different way in order to connect it to other classes, possibly in different disciplines. It would also be effective to relate the material to previous material from the same class. Both tasks would serve as an active learning process that would create connections and facilitate later retrieval. This strategy would also serve to solidify understanding of concepts in the other classes to which the student was relating the material. It also forces you to put the concepts into your own words while learning and studying material; this is an important skill to have because it also aids in memory retrieval, as it requires elaborative rehearsal.

Lastly, it is also important to note that another important element of learning and studying is attention. As the article mentions, it is not beneficial to study while engaging in distracting activities such as watching tv, texting, or using social media. This is due to the fact that we have limited cognitive resources. If we are dividing our attention between multiple tasks that require similar resources, such as texting and reading a textbook, we will not be able to encode the information as well because some of our cognitive resources will be devoted to texting.

To sum up, the best study strategies are those that require elaborative processing, or making connections and thinking critically about new information. It is also best to engage in these study strategies when you are devoting all your attention to them.

Technology and Cognition: Helpful or Harmful?

 

Personal Technology in Class

The availability and practicality of technology has increased drastically in the last few decades alone. As the development of personal devices has progressed, and social media has increased in popularity, young people are increasingly sucked into a virtual world. This begs the question, is technology hampering or helping us? Especially in a class setting, is it problematic that students are continually “plugged into” their devices and networks? Is it distracting them or providing new and unique ways for them to connect with information?

An article in the student newspaper of Texas Tech connected with students and professors to assess their opinions regarding technology and learning. There are two basic positions. First, the article discusses the negative aspects of technology in class. Several students say that having their phones available to them in study time is detrimental to their attention and efficiency. Not only do students misjudge their own ability to multitask, but they also find themselves going to their phones for distraction when they’re bored in class, or between ideas in an essay. Secondarily, the article discusses the way that personal technology can be helpful to learning. It can provide helpful study tools, such as providing music (although studies looking at music and studying have mixed results, music can often increase positive mood while studying). More significantly, it connects students with a vast pool of information. With just a few taps, students have a world of data and research at their fingertips. Overall, the article doesn’t pass judgement on technology in the classroom, but simply interviews and presents various opinions.

The cognitive ideas behind this article include the idea of parallel processing vs. serial processing. We know that the human mind is capable of doing multiple things at once on a neural level. However, this does not mean that we are good at multitasking. Research has shown that it is very difficult for us to focus consciously on multiple things at once. A specific study cites how those individuals who were heavy media multitaskers (those who use more than one type of media at once were not actually able to multitask on cognitive tasks. Another issue with technology in the classroom addressed in this article is it’s effect on how we relate to others. This study discusses the social distancing that occurs when individuals make excessive use of the internet. Could this have something to do with the lack of involvement that occurs with technology-addicted students? Students who are already prone to social anxiety or shyness seem more likely to be addicted to the Internet. Perhaps these students are the ones that “hide” in their technology instead of participating in class discussions.

Adaptive Communication Technology in the Classroom

Adaptive Communication Technology in the Classroom

While I think that this article prompts interesting discussions, I was concerned that the article didn’t bring up several important aspects of technology in the classroom. First, it did not discuss the use of technology for adaptation and accessibility in communication. How we communicate is certainly an important aspect of cognitive psychology. My younger brother has autism and Down syndrome, and he has made progress in his communication since he began using iPads, Smartboards, and other adaptive technology. The use of images and switches and recorded voice to assist him in communicating in class has been incredibly helpful. Second, the article doesn’t mention the use of technology as a memory aide. I have known many students who use flashcard apps to practice memorization. These apps quiz you on information and cycle through the ones you struggle with. It would be interesting to look into the effectiveness of technology such as this, and how students feel about it.

What do you you all think? Does having access to technology help or harm your cognitive functions in class?

Multitasking: Do Music and Studying Mix?

I usually like to study alone, but if I’m ever over with a friend having a study session or just mutual homework time, a common question I get is often, “Hey, do you mind if I put on some music? I work better with it on.” In high school I used to religiously put on music when I did homework, but as I’ve gotten older I stopped. I kept finding it harder and harder to concentrate, and thinking back on it now, in the times that I had my music on while trying to do homework, I was very slow and pretty unproductive. This brings me to my question: is listening to music while doing homework harmful or helpful?

The first article cites two studies (both of which I have not found away around having to pay for to access: 1 & 2). The gist of the first study cited is that people were asked to remember information in a specific order after either being in a quiet environment, listening to someone say “three” repeatedly, listening to random numbers being said, listening to music they reportedly liked, or listening music that they reportedly did not like. The findings were that those who were in the quiet environment or with the person saying “three” over and over scored higher than the other three groups, which were not significantly different from each other. However, the other study that was cited, though getting similar results showing that those who listened to music scored lower than those who did not, also concluded that individual differences must account for a large variation in scores in general. Some of these differences may include if the participants were used to listening to music while studying or not.

Interestingly, this study talks about how music can influence mood, therefore influencing productivity. It states that what a person feels towards a musical piece depends on their past experiences with that specific piece. This was all being studied in the context of software development company, which reportedly is very stressful in nearly all stages of development. The interest in music comes from thinking that lower stress means higher productivity (which may be an entirely wrong assumption but might not be either, I haven’t done the research to know *cough,cough* someone should maybe find out and comment? *cough*). The researchers found that when music was taken out of a person’s daily work habits the person was likely to go through what may have been considered music withdraw, therefore they experienced more stress and less productivity. In the case where music was integrated into a work environment where people were not used to listening to music, results were not positive in the beginning, but after a few weeks people showed a more positive emotion than on the first week. The overall conclusion was that to keep people as stress-free and as productive as possible (when considering music during work) people should be able to choose to listen or to not listen, and also pick their own duration of listening to music.

Even after all that, I still have some unanswered questions. What would the difference be in listening to different cultural music than what you may be used to? Say, for instance if I listened to Indian music? Or, which I’m sure has already be addressed in some study out there, what is the difference in listening to music with lyrics vs. no lyrics? Or even the difference between music that you like but do not know the lyrics, vs. music that you like and you do know the lyrics? I often would find myself singing along and not paying attention to my work when I used to listen to music while trying to study. There is so much music in the world that I feel you would have to read an obscene amount of literature to understand how each one effected you, not even including one’s own feelings and experiences with certain types of music.

One of the things that inspired me to write about music is that, on occasion, either while going about my daily life or while doing homework assignments such as this one, certain songs will get stuck in my head and they often feel very relatable to my current situation. Is this a form of listening to music while working? Or is it something that your brain uses to help you remember things? I’ve heard from teachers that you should try and take tests in the same exact spot that you sit in in class. Or that you should chew the same flavored gum while you study as when you take a test, that supposedly these things will help you hold onto memories that are associated with your gum chewing or seat position as long as they stay constant. Could music be the same way? Though I’m sure it’s not permitted, if I listened to, for example, Jason Mraz’s “Remedy” (the song that happens to be stuck in my head right now), while reading my textbook, would I better remember what was written there on the test day if I listened to the same song while taking the test?

In addition to such questions, which as it turns out just leads to many more questions, do the songs that get stuck in our heads have meanings? In trying to understand why this “Remedy” song (which I dislike greatly and have not listened to since middle school) is stuck in my head, I’m thinking that these lyrics maybe have something to do with what’s going on in this blog post?

This is about to get really outlandish so bear with me… There is a section of the song that goes, “the remedy is the experience/ this is a dangerous liaison.” The definition of liaison being: “communication or cooperation that facilitates a close working relationship between people or organizations” (Google). Is that not relevant to what I’m writing about in an abstract way? If the remedy (music) is experience, which is what this whole article is about, how we experience music in different situations, then perhaps dangerous is a bit of a stretch, but it may be a cooperation of mental faculties to facilitate music and our brains working closely together to help us understand information in certain situations?

Perhaps that’s a load of nonsense.

Do you ever get songs stuck in your head that pertain to your life’s situation? Tell me what you think.