The latest research on improving memory power, long term health effects of poor sleep and more
WHY THE TUTORIAL METHOD REALLY WORKS! You love to boast that you swotted hard for your SSC Biology exam just the night before and still managed to get a handsome 70 per cent marks. Now this strategy may have worked back in school and college, but it may not be the best route to retaining important stuff that you want to hold on to for the long term, say researchers. While cognitive scientists do not deny that honestto-goodness cramming can lead to a better grade on a given exam, hurriedly jam-packing a brain, they say, is akin to speed-packing a cheap suitcase — it holds its new load for a while, then most everything falls out. “With many students, it’s not like they can’t remember the material” when they move to a more advanced class, explains Henry L. Roediger III, a psychologist at Washington University in St. Louis. “It’s like they’ve never seen it before.” Everything is wiped out from the memory. When the neural suitcase is packed carefully and gradually, say experts, it holds its contents for far, far longer. An hour of study tonight, an hour on the weekend, another session a week from now: such so-called spacing improves later recall, without requiring students to put in more overall study effort or pay more attention, dozens of studies have found. No one knows for sure why. It may be that the brain, when it revisits material at a later time, has to relearn some of what it has absorbed before adding new stuff — and that process is itself self-reinforcing. That’s one reason cognitive scientists see testing itself — or practice tests and quizzes that are heavily used in private coaching classes in India – as a powerful tool of learning, rather than merely assessment. The process of retrieving an idea is not like pulling a book from a shelf; facing practice tests it seems to fundamentally alter the way the information is subsequently stored, making it far more accessible in the future, it’s theorized. In one experiment, Dr. Roediger had college students study science passages from a reading comprehension test, in short study periods. When students studied the same material twice, in back-to-back sessions, they did very well on a test given immediately afterward, then began to forget the material. But if they studied the passage just once and did a practice test in the second session, they did very well on one test two days later, and another given a week later. “Testing has such bad connotation; people think of standardized testing or teaching to the test,” Dr. Roediger says. “Maybe we need to call it something else, but this is one of the most powerful learning tools we have.” Of course, one reason the thought of testing tightens people’s stomachs is that tests are so often hard. Paradoxically, it is just this difficulty that makes them such effective study tools, research suggests. The harder it is to remember something, the harder it is to later forget. This effect, which researchers call “desirable difficulty,” is evident in daily life. The more mental sweat it takes to dig it out, the more securely it will be subsequently anchored.