We all need to remember things in our daily lives. Students, especially, need to cram their brains full of facts and concepts. One of the primary benefits of a college education is learning how to learn. New research, however, has overturned some honored strategies for best learning and replaced them with startling new approaches.
Dr. Robert Bjork knows a lot about how we learn. He is a professor of psychology at UCLA and director of their Learning and Forgetting Lab. He has built a distinguished career focused on how we learn everything from our ABCs to how to return a tennis serve. His research contradicts much of the time-honored advice on success with learning.
Remember those all-night cram sessions? Did you notice how ineffective they were? Dr. Bjork believes that learning is more effective if there is a pause between learning sessions. That means that studying for a while and then taking a break before coming back for more study is more effective than one long, brutal cram-fest. In fact, the longer the delay between study sessions the more effective the learning .
Forget about those study carrels in the library, too. Dr. Bjork suggests that studying in one place is only useful if you are going to take the exam in that location. Otherwise, he suggests that you vary your study surroundings to better prepare your mind for recall in the test environment.
Dr. Bjork also recommends against a grueling night of studying one subject. Instead, he suggests "interleaving" your studying. That means skipping from topic to related topic, returning often but never bogging down. He believes that this approach results in better overall retention than intensive focus on each topic in its turn.