Do you want to strengthen your memory regarding facts? Journalist Tom Stafford explains to us a different way to preserve information and store it in memory.
If you were asked to sit down and recite a list of numbers, or a series of facts, how would you respond? There is certainly room for error.
One of the funny things is that although each of us has one brain, we do not fully know how to make the best possible use of it. This is due in part to flaws in our ability to rethink the way we think, which is called metacognition.
• Tests and memory:
Researchers Jeffrey Karpick and Henry Roediger set out to look into how tests can enhance our memory of facts.
After the students participating in the study learned a set of words in both languages, they were scheduled for a final test one week later.
Now, if many of us set out to review such a list of vocabulary, we might study the list first, then test ourselves on it, then repeat this process again, and then drop from it the vocabulary that we have already succeeded in remembering. This makes studying (and testing) faster, in our view, and allows us to focus our efforts on things we haven’t learned yet.
This seems like a completely logical plan, but on the contrary, it is a truly disastrous plan if we want to learn properly.
Caprick and Roediger asked the students to prepare for the final exam in different ways, and compared the students’ successes and failures. For example, members of a certain group continued to test themselves on all the items in the lists without dropping the ones they had reached correctly, while members of another group stopped testing themselves on the items they had succeeded in remembering and answered correctly.
• Different results:
In the final test, the differences between the two groups were very large, while dropping such vocabulary did not affect the study much. The researchers found that students who dropped these items from the review and tested themselves on them had relatively poor performance on the final exam. They only remembered about 35 percent of the words as lexical pairs.
This is compared to the second group, which achieved about 80 percent, and it is the group whose members kept all the words on the list, even those that they remembered well the first time.
It seems that the effective way to learn is to practice retrieving data or vocabulary from memory, or in other words to continue testing our memory on that data or vocabulary, rather than trying to consolidate it through further study only.
In addition, omitting some data or vocabulary entirely from the review process, which is the advice given by many learning counselors, is a completely wrong practice.
You can stop studying those items or materials that you have learned, but you must continue to test your memory on them if you want to actually remember these things at the time of the final exam