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The science of Learning – Top 6 proven study techniques (Part 2)

2020 SPS Learn Better Top 6 Learning Part 2

Welcome to part 2 of our Top 6 study techniques blog. We now move onto the next group of techniques. This will give you the advantage and bring the best out of your study sessions.

Elaboration

American psychologist and academic, Eliot Hirshman, defined elaboration as:

A conscious, intentional process that associates to-be-remembered information with other information in the memory.

In plain English, it’s a case of adding something new to what you already know i.e. elaborating.

There are a number of variations as to how this concept might be used, but one is called ‘elaborative interrogation’, and involves you questioning the materials you might be studying.

For example, you might ask “how and why” questions in groups, and answering them either from your course materials or your memory (ideally). This technique can also be used by a student studying alone or outside of the classroom. A type of loud self enquiry.

Although the science on exactly how effective some of these ideas are isn’t conclusive, it’s evident that many teachers learn a great deal by saying something out loud to a class.

Concrete examples

Concrete examples make something easier to understand and remember. This is largely because the brain can recognise and recall concrete words easier than abstract ones. It has been proven that more concrete and ‘imageable’ information enhances the learning of associations, even with abstract content.

What you have just read is, to a certain extent, a group of abstract words. For instance, in the previous paragraph we said ‘the brain can recall concrete words easier than abstract ones’ - we’re talking concepts, and intangible things here. But what if we said, for instance, that the brain ‘...can recall concrete words easier than eating an apple’?

Although the experience of eating an apple may vary, everyone knows what an apple looks, smells and tastes like. It’s concrete.

A concrete term refers to objects or events we can see or hear or feel or taste or smell.

Although this apple example does not make logical sense, by using concrete examples it makes it easier for us to absorb information that can be remembered and visualised.

Dual coding

Few people would disagree with the idea that pictures are more memorable than words.

This is referred to as the ‘picture superiority effect’. Dual coding supports this by suggesting that text, when accompanied by relevant visual information, enhances learning. It’s important to be clear that dual coding is the use of text and visuals. Replacing a word with a picture is not the same.

There is also evidence to suggest that by adding a movement, such as drawing something rather than showing the static image, can enhance the process even more.

One final point is that duel coding should not be confused with particular learning styles. We aren’t suggesting that some people will “get” duel coding because it fits their learning styles. It works for everyone.

Well we’ve come to the end of our Top 6 learning techniques, that you can hopefully use with confidence. But don’t hesitate to reread or even watch our webinar video, if you need to remind yourself of these approaches.

All the best with your studies!

The Learn Better blog is a series of evidence based stories from the world of education, with a common theme - to inspire and motivate students. They are mostly based on original articles/blogs by Kaplan's Head of Learning, Stuart Pedley-Smith.

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