T is for Training Article Recommendation: Improving Students’ Learning with Effective Learning Techniques

Mock ShockAt a recent workshop, Jill was shocked to hear that most of the techniques we use as learners to reinforce what we’ve learned do not work.  She was referred to Dunlosky’s article for more information.

Dunlosky J, Rawson KA, Marsh EJ, Nathan MJ, Willingham DT. “Improving Students’ Learning With Effective Learning Techniques: Promising Directions From Cognitive and Educational Psychology.”Psychol Sci Public Interest. 2013 Jan;14(1):4-58. doi: 10.1177/1529100612453266.

Dunlosky and colleagues looked at ten learning techniques which a student could do on his/her own.  Those techniques are:

  • Elaborative interrogation
  • Self-explanation
  • Summarization
  • Highlighting/underlining
  • Keyword mnemonic
  • Imagery for text
  • Rereading
  • Practice testing
  • Distributed practice
  • Interleaved practice

They assessed each technique for its utility or efficacy.  Unfortunately, some of the techniques we have been told to use do not work unless they are implemented to support a specific way of studying. For example:

…highlighting does little to boost performance.  It may help when students have the knowledge needed to highlight more effectively, or when texts are difficult, but it may actually hurt performance on higher-level tasks that require inference making.

Yikes!  Clearly, there is more to know and this study provides that information. For each technique, the authors describe it, describe its effects, talk about issues for implementation, and give an overall assessment.
As teachers/trainers/instructors, it would be useful if we could recommend the best technique for the situation and this article could help us to just that.

The Dunlosky article is available from Sage Journals, which you may be able to access through your library.  You can should also be able to order a copy through interlibrary loan.

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