Continuing from my last post about Learning How to Learn, this time I want to turn my focus to another effective technique for recalling and reviewing information.
Many people, when learning something make the mistake of attempting to learn it all at once ('cramming'). I've been guilty of doing this in the past :-). I'm a fast reader, and I used to retain a fair amount of what I read on the first past (or at least, *I* thought so). This may allow you to hold onto the information long enough to recall it shortly afterwards, but for true, deep understanding, it's a poor way to learn.
Your brain needs time to create the neurological connections, to grow the new dendrites after learning. This doesn't happen all at once, so trying to stuff everything into your brain in one session won't work. You're just overfilling your working memory. So what is a good technique for learning something, for really understanding it in depth?
Forcing yourself to remember something, almost relearning it, after a gap or 'space' from when you first learned it is very useful for improving. Spaced repetition is the idea that if you review material at different intervals, ranging from minutes after you first learned it, to days, weeks, even months, then you will have stored it permanently and will be able to recall it with ease.
What you want to do is go from the short time - for example: reading a page of a book, then closing it and attempting to recall what that page was about, to writing down what you recall and understand about the material later that same day, to then recalling the material a few days later, and then extending that out to many days/weeks/months later.
You can use flash cards to help you review, or if you prefer software, there is Anki, which is spaced repetition software.
This works because you want to practice recalling the information not just the moment after you have read/watched/heard something, but again just before you are about to forget it. Practicing like this at spaced intervals allows you to extend how long you retain the information, and increases your understandng. Your neural pathways expand, make more connections, and can lead you to being more creative as you see other uses and related ideas.
- Article: Derek Sivers. Memorizing a programming language using spaced repetition software. Derek Sivers
- Article: Gary Wolf. Spaced Repetition and Learning. Quantified Self
- Article: wikipedia. Spaced Repetition. Wikipedia