Yes. Next question.
Okay, like all things, this is more nuanced. When this question is posed, the intended point is often that students should be engaged in higher-order learning rather than spending all of their time memorizing disconnected facts. I generally agree with this sentiment, but in order to engage in higher-order learning, students need a solid grasp of the relevant facts and how they are related. In some ways this is obvious, but other reasons behind this may surprise you.
Early in my graduate studies, I took “The College Classroom”, a semester-long course that was a mix of learning theory and teaching techniques. I had vaguely heard of Learning Styles before, but this was the first time I was formally taught about it. If I remember correctly, we even gave mini-lessons attempting to teach to different styles. I more or less accepted this as fact and I even had a sentence or two in my teaching statement about how I recognize students have different learning styles and try, when possible, to present important concepts in multiple ways.
Learning Styles are a myth, and there is a large body of research confirming this.
As an undergraduate, my study regimen mostly consisted of:
- Reading and highlighting assigned material (usually)
- Doing assigned homework / problem sets
- Taking notes during class
- A week or so prior to exam…
- Rereading the portions of the text that I highlighted
- Reading chapter summaries
- Rereading my notes
These are typical learning strategies, and they seemed adequate at the time. (However, grad student Patrick really wished undergrad Patrick had retained some more calculus and linear algebra.) Now, in my perpetual quest to become a better teacher, I’ve been dabbling in the cognitive sciences literature. The research around effective learning strategies (AKA studying techniques) has been especially interesting. I now realize I could have been studying much more effectively and efficiently. This literature has been wonderfully summarized by Dunlosky et al. (2013) in a comprehensive review of 10 common learning techniques used by students. Here is a small part of what they found:
Read I’ve Been Studying All Wrong: Highlighting and Rereading if you haven’t already.
Retrieval Practice (AKA Practice Testing)
Retrieval practice, also known as practice testing, has consistently shown to be one of the most effective and efficient learning strategies.
Read I’ve Been Studying All Wrong: Highlighting and Rereading and How I Should Have Studied. Part 1: Retrieval Practice if you haven’t already.
Ask a group of students which study strategy is more effective:
- Studying for 2 hours per week over a 12 week semester
- Studying for 24 hours over the 2 days prior to an exam (cramming)
Most students would select option 1, and they would be correct. (Although ask them which they do in practice, and they will probably admit option 2.)