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What the Psychology of Human Memory Tells Us about How to Learn Better
What method helps you retain more information — reading, highlighting, or even interrogation?
Have you ever stayed up all night, cramming for exams, practicing two of the worst ways to study, namely, 1) consuming a large amount of information at once on a 2) lack of sleep? Me too. Wouldn’t it have been nice if we were taught not only what to study but also how to study it effectively?
A UK-based company called InnerDrive is doing just that with their initiative Studies that every teacher needs to know -- finding and summarizing the most relevant research that can provide practical tips and tools for teachers to help them improve their students’ memory, mindset and behavior.
The first study InnerDrive highlights focuses on memory. It is a comprehensive paper from 2013, where researchers dug through the cognitive and educational psychology literature to find the best and worst approaches used for learning and memorizing information. The researchers evaluated 10 learning techniques that can easily be adopted by students, teachers and lifelong learners alike.
There were two techniques that came up as most effective for long-term retention of information - practice testing and distributed practice.
Negative associations with testing, stemming from high-stake standardized assessments, overshadow the fact that testing is one of the best techniques to solidify knowledge. When done as a no-stakes practice, testing substantially improves recall of information at a later time. It requires learners to search their long-term memory, activate related information, retrieve and organize information, thus creating multiple pathways in the brain to facilitate later access to that information. You can do practice testing with cue cards, free recall, short-answer questions, and fill-in-the-blank questions. The format of the practice test doesn’t need to be like the one of the actual test you may have to take.
If you are going to spend 8 hours in total studying a particular material, you are much better off distributing it over several days than doing it in one long study session. You are also better off spacing your study sessions with bigger gaps in between. In one study, results surprisingly showed that the students who experienced the most intersession forgetting (because their relearning sessions were separated by 30 days) exhibited better retention of information on the final test compared to students whose learning sessions were separated by 1 day.
In the fairly effective category of learning techniques, we find elaborative interrogation and interleaved practice.
This is the often annoying habit of kids (and teachers) to keep asking “why” even after you give them an answer. This practice forces the learner to generate an explanation, instead of simply recite facts, which facilitates the integration of new information with prior knowledge. For this technique to work, however, higher prior knowledge is needed. The more the learner can process both similarities and differences between related material, the better the retaining of information.
Usually students take a variety of subjects and it is common that when they practice, they do it in blocks - a separate session for each subject. While not abundant, recent research suggests that it is actually better to practice different types of material in the same block. This helps students learn to discriminate between various kinds of problems by promoting organizational processing and item-specific processing.
Finally, here are the two techniques that you probably use most, but are least effective - rereading and highlighting.
Rereading is one of the most widely used techniques amongst students, but there haven’t been enough quality studies done to assess its effectiveness. The only available evidence is mixed and comes from correlational findings from self-reported surveys. For example, there has been found a non-significant negative association between rereading textbook chapters and exam performance and a small but positive association between rereading lecture notes and exam performance. Ultimately, rereading may help the recall of main ideas but not so much of details.
(But my notes look so pretty in all these colors!) Highlighting, underlining, coloring, drawing around and marking text in general are also extremely popular amongst learners. In theory, you should be able to better recall what you have highlighted because of a basic cognitive phenomenon known as the isolation effect -- you are more likely to remember information that sticks out in one way or another. However, studies show very limited positive effects of highlighting on performance, mainly because most students highlight too much or too little, and also because of worse performance related to material that wasn’t highlighted. So, if you are going to highlight anyway, put a limit of one highlighted sentence per paragraph and keep in mind that it will simultaneously help you better remember what you have highlighted and better forget what you have not.
In addition to using these study techniques, learners should also take care of their environment and physical well-being. Getting enough sleep and staying hydrated are particularly important for the brain.
Northwell Health is using insights from website traffic to forecast COVID-19 hospitalizations two weeks in the future.
- The machine-learning algorithm works by analyzing the online behavior of visitors to the Northwell Health website and comparing that data to future COVID-19 hospitalizations.
- The tool, which uses anonymized data, has so far predicted hospitalizations with an accuracy rate of 80 percent.
- Machine-learning tools are helping health-care professionals worldwide better constrain and treat COVID-19.
The value of forecasting<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTA0Njk2OC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMzM2NDQzOH0.rid9regiDaKczCCKBsu7wrHkNQ64Vz_XcOEZIzAhzgM/img.jpg?width=980" id="2bb93" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="31345afbdf2bd408fd3e9f31520c445a" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1546" data-height="1056" />
Northwell emergency departments use the dashboard to monitor in real time.
Credit: Northwell Health<p>One unique benefit of forecasting COVID-19 hospitalizations is that it allows health systems to better prepare, manage and allocate resources. For example, if the tool forecasted a surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations in two weeks, Northwell Health could begin:</p><ul><li>Making space for an influx of patients</li><li>Moving personal protective equipment to where it's most needed</li><li>Strategically allocating staff during the predicted surge</li><li>Increasing the number of tests offered to asymptomatic patients</li></ul><p>The health-care field is increasingly using machine learning. It's already helping doctors develop <a href="https://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/early/2020/06/09/dc19-1870" target="_blank">personalized care plans for diabetes patients</a>, improving cancer screening techniques, and enabling mental health professionals to better predict which patients are at <a href="https://healthitanalytics.com/news/ehr-data-fuels-accurate-predictive-analytics-for-suicide-risk" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">elevated risk of suicide</a>, to name a few applications.</p><p>Health systems around the world have already begun exploring how <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7315944/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">machine learning can help battle the pandemic</a>, including better COVID-19 screening, diagnosis, contact tracing, and drug and vaccine development.</p><p>Cruzen said these kinds of tools represent a shift in how health systems can tackle a wide variety of problems.</p><p>"Health care has always used the past to predict the future, but not in this mathematical way," Cruzen said. "I think [Northwell Health's new predictive tool] really is a great first example of how we should be attacking a lot of things as we go forward."</p>
Making machine-learning tools openly accessible<p>Northwell Health has made its predictive tool <a href="https://github.com/northwell-health/covid-web-data-predictor" target="_blank">available for free</a> to any health system that wishes to utilize it.</p><p>"COVID is everybody's problem, and I think developing tools that can be used to help others is sort of why people go into health care," Dr. Cruzen said. "It was really consistent with our mission."</p><p>Open collaboration is something the world's governments and health systems should be striving for during the pandemic, said Michael Dowling, Northwell Health's president and CEO.</p><p>"Whenever you develop anything and somebody else gets it, they improve it and they continue to make it better," Dowling said. "As a country, we lack data. I believe very, very strongly that we should have been and should be now working with other countries, including China, including the European Union, including England and others to figure out how to develop a health surveillance system so you can anticipate way in advance when these things are going to occur."</p><p>In all, Northwell Health has treated more than 112,000 COVID patients. During the pandemic, Dowling said he's seen an outpouring of goodwill, collaboration, and sacrifice from the community and the tens of thousands of staff who work across Northwell.</p><p>"COVID has changed our perspective on everything—and not just those of us in health care, because it has disrupted everybody's life," Dowling said. "It has demonstrated the value of community, how we help one another."</p>
"You dream about these kinds of moments when you're a kid," said lead paleontologist David Schmidt.
- The triceratops skull was first discovered in 2019, but was excavated over the summer of 2020.
- It was discovered in the South Dakota Badlands, an area where the Triceratops roamed some 66 million years ago.
- Studying dinosaurs helps scientists better understand the evolution of all life on Earth.
Credit: David Schmidt / Westminster College<p style="margin-left: 20px;">"We had to be really careful," Schmidt told St. Louis Public Radio. "We couldn't disturb anything at all, because at that point, it was under law enforcement investigation. They were telling us, 'Don't even make footprints,' and I was thinking, 'How are we supposed to do that?'"</p><p>Another difficulty was the mammoth size of the skull: about 7 feet long and more than 3,000 pounds. (For context, the largest triceratops skull ever unearthed was about <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02724634.2010.483632" target="_blank">8.2 feet long</a>.) The skull of Schmidt's dinosaur was likely a <em>Triceratops prorsus, </em>one of two species of triceratops that roamed what's now North America about 66 million years ago.</p>
Credit: David Schmidt / Westminster College<p>The triceratops was an herbivore, but it was also a favorite meal of the T<em>yrannosaurus rex</em>. That probably explains why the Dakotas contain many scattered triceratops bone fragments, and, less commonly, complete bones and skulls. In summer 2019, for example, a separate team on a dig in North Dakota made <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/26/science/triceratops-skull-65-million-years-old.html" target="_blank">headlines</a> after unearthing a complete triceratops skull that measured five feet in length.</p><p>Michael Kjelland, a biology professor who participated in that excavation, said digging up the dinosaur was like completing a "multi-piece, 3-D jigsaw puzzle" that required "engineering that rivaled SpaceX," he jokingly told the <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/26/science/triceratops-skull-65-million-years-old.html" target="_blank">New York Times</a>.</p>
Morrison Formation in Colorado
James St. John via Flickr
|Credit: Nobu Tamura/Wikimedia Commons|
Archaeologists discover a cave painting of a wild pig that is now the world's oldest dated work of representational art.
- Archaeologists find a cave painting of a wild pig that is at least 45,500 years old.
- The painting is the earliest known work of representational art.
- The discovery was made in a remote valley on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi.
Oldest Cave Art Found in Sulawesi<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a9734e306f0914bfdcbe79a1e317a7f0"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/b-wAYtBxn7E?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Persian polymath and philosopher of the Islamic Golden Age teaches us about self-awareness.