Best Ways to Learn - Active Recall
Highlights by David Willden
Jeffrey D. Karpicke, a Purdue psychology professor and Janell R. Blunt point out that educators focus on and encourage the use of elaborate study methods to learn information. The best way to learn is to practice retrieving and reconstructing knowledge.
Jeffrey stated, “our view is that learning is not about studying or getting knowledge ‘in memory.’ Learning is about retrieving. So it is important to make retrieval practice an integral part of the learning process.”
Much effort is put into learning content. There are many tools, such as mind-maps, outlines, etc., help learners to understand how information fits together. While this is important, it isn't the best way to learn information.
The best approach to learn is to set aside the learning material, and spending more time trying to retrieve and reconstruct the knowledge generates better learning results.
Jeffrey D. Karpicke,and Janell R. Blunt conducted two studies where they compared “concept mapping,” a powerful studying method, to simply practicing retrieving knowledge. Concept mapping involves mapping out what they learn in the form of visual outline. This process helps students to record and remember in a fluid and personal way.
A total of 200 students studied texts on topics from different science disciplines. One group used concept maps to learn the text. Another group read the text, put the text away, and simple practiced recalling the concepts they had just read. Initially, the learning between the two groups was about the same. However, a week later the two groups were tested again. The group who had just practiced retrieving the information remembered 50% than the group who studied using concept maps.
These two groups were asked inference questions (not explicitly stated in the text) to assess how deeply the groups had learned the material. The group that had just practiced recalling, performed better.
What does this mean? It doesn’t mean the concept mapping or other learning tools aren’t important. They are. However, more time needs to be spent in retrieval practice.