Posts Tagged ‘Academics’

Doodle to Do Well

November 25th, 2013 9 comments

Ms. Barry’s short purple curls bounced whenever she yelled at me to pay attention. My elementary school years were filled with crayon and graphite tornadoes, spirals,  and flowers in the margins of my math-boxes. However, when work got serious in fifth grade, Ms. Barry would take away my pencil when she felt that I was not paying attention.

Four years after my fifth grade graduation, Jackie Andrade of University of Plymouth, UK found that doodling while listening to dull material could actually help listeners pay attention (2009). In her experiment, the researchers asked participants who had just completed another experiment if they would stay to listen to an “answering machine recording” that listed names of people attending a birthday party. Half of the participants listening shaded in printed shapes. At the end of the study, the participants were asked to remember as many of the eight people coming to the party as they could. The participants that had not shaded shapes were able to remember on average about 5.8 out of the possible eight names. Those who had shaded shapes were able to remember about 7.5 out of the possible eight names. This means that those doodling were significantly better at remembering the names of who were coming to the party. Although the research did not measure boredom or daydreaming, the researcher believed doodling acted as a tool to prevent daydreaming, thereby allowing the participants to be more attentive to the material they were hearing.

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Categories: Attention, Memory Tags:

Did They Pass or Did They Mass: A Context Perspective

November 25th, 2013 2 comments

Let’s go on a journey into the life of a student, shall we? It’s 11PM the evening before your final exam. You are reading over the material countless times, hoping that it will still be fresh in your mind at 9 AM the next morning. Thoughts may be running through your head, one of them being: I wish I had studied this material before this dreadful, crammed study session. Well, it turns out that your thoughts are on the right track! Memory research has suggested advantages for distributing the study of material across time, also known as the spacing effect. This effect suggests that one is better able to remember information when learning is spaced across multiple, separate sittings. On the other hand, material is not remembered as well when the learning is crammed into one sitting.  For example, you may have a list of vocabulary words to learn for next week. According to the spacing effect, you will better remember the words if you study for a half hour every other day than for an hour and a half the night before the test.

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ATTENTION: Tips for Finals Week!

November 23rd, 2013 6 comments

Finals week…both a blessing and a curse. First, you think: “YES! This semester is almost over!” But, then you realize final exams, papers, and projects are still ahead. Awesome. Right after loudness is usually when sleep starts to lose importance and studying takes over. Breaks include Dunkin, Cap’n Crunch at Dana, and funny cat videos. Your bed sees less and less of you as all-nighters and power naps become your routine. This may be a bit exaggerated, but we all know the truth: finals are crazy and exhausting. Climbing into bed is not just the solution for these problems—sleep will also help you remember what you studied! Unbelievable right? The Zzzquil commercials are not lying when they say “Sleep is a beautiful thing.” To prove it to you, I will explain an experiment by Payne et al. (2012) in which sleep benefits were found.

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Listen to Miley Cyrus then study or Study while listening to Miley Cyrus?

November 23rd, 2013 4 comments

           Forgetting, which is defined as an inability to remember something, occurs daily. We forget a variety of things such as where we parked our cars, what our old and new cellphone numbers are, who Paul Walker was, the color of our parents’ cars and when assignments are due. Forgetting is a common occurrence and we have invented numerous methods to help us remember important information. However, writing down information does not always help, especially in circumstances like interviews or exams where we have to rely on our memory. When you try to remember an event that is filed in your memory, and you can’t remember, it seems like it has disappeared or was never there to begin with. Despite this feeling, the information is stored in long-term memory, but at that time you cannot access it. Most students can relate to this experience, because sometime after an exam we immediately remember the answer to a certain question—sometimes just a second after submitting the examination paper. Instead of relying on written information, we can increase the probability of remembering stored material by engaging in challenging learning practices, such as self-quizzes.

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And the Goose Ran Away With the Worm: Keyword Mnemonic as a Study Strategy

November 21st, 2013 1 comment

There exists a myriad of study strategies available for students to use in their academic endeavors.  One of the more imaginative strategies is keyword mnemonic. In this strategy students connect the material with another keyword to better remember information. This is most commonly used for foreign language vocabulary. For example, the Spanish word for worm is gusano and a possible keyword for remembering this is “goose”. The student then would create interactive imagery between the vocabulary word and the keyword, such as imagining a goose running away with a giant worm in its beak.  This interactive image should help distinguish the vocab word from other possible objects in the image, hence why the worm is “giant.” It is presumed that by creating a vivid memorable image in the student’s mind, that when presented with the Spanish word gusano he/she will recall the scene and easily know the Spanish word’s meaning.  Other material keyword mnemonic has been found useful for includes obscure English and science vocabulary, states and their capitals, medical terminology, and people’s names and accomplishments.

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Categories: Education, Memory Tags: ,

“Practice makes Perfect”–but what type of practice?

November 19th, 2013 1 comment

Students spend an immense amount of their time studying—after all, have you ever taken a class in hopes of failing the final exam?  Most students study class material before a test to try and avoid this fate.  Despite making an effort to do this, almost anyone who has ever been in school can recall a time when they spent hours, days, or even weeks studying, only to arrive at a test and find that they are unable to answer any of the questions.  While this can be very frustrating, it also shows that the amount of time you spend studying is not the only thing that determines how well you will do on a test.  In order to determine which other factors might play a part, psychologist Andrew Butler conducted a study at Washington University in St. Louis that looked at different studying techniques and how they affect test performance.  More specifically, Butler compared test-enhanced learning, which involves studying by being tested on the material at hand (like testing yourself with flashcards) to repeated restudying of information (picture yourself reading a textbook page over and over again).

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Categories: Education, Memory Tags: ,

Test Me Now, I’ll Thank You Later

April 29th, 2013 3 comments

I wish I could have taken a picture of every student’s face that walked into Mr. B’s middle school history class on Friday morning. It was always a struggle to get up on Fridays because I knew that my first class of the day always meant it was time for a quiz. All of my peers despised Mr. B for his quizzes to make sure that we had been paying attention all week and that we were keeping up with the information. “Isn’t that what tests are for? Why do we have to take a quiz every week?”

Teaching To The TestBeing tested frequently is something that students are most of the time not too fond of, but in the long run when you get the grade of your exam, you will thank the teachers that made you recall and tested you on the information learned every week! Recent research in cognitive psychology has provided strong evidence to support this notion.

Retrieval, the process by which information can be extracted from memory, is treated as an evaluative tool that reveals what people remember and what they have forgotten; retrieval shows what people know but it also changes what people know. From an educational perspective, it is important to understand that retrieval serves more than just the purpose of reinforcing memory of a tested fact! Cognitive psychologists have recently been seeking to provide educators with clear, effective advice on how to improve student learning.

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Categories: Education, Memory Tags: , ,

Music and Test Taking: When to Hit Pause

April 28th, 2013 8 comments

Do you ever listen to music while doing your homework? I know I do! In my opinion my iTunes library helps me stay on task and finish my work in a more timely manner. If you feel the same way I do, you should know that studies have shown that the effects of background music varying depending on the type of work you are doing; in some cases music can help you while in other situations you’re better off putting the headphones down.


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Categories: Education Tags: , ,

Tests are good! Especially for learning!

February 6th, 2013 1 comment

For many students and faculty alike, testing is often considered a necessary evil in learning contexts. Tests – for students – are stressful, requiring hours of preparation, and may feel like a hurdle to be cleared. For many, testing is seen primarily as an assessment tool – it determines a grade, can have powerful and long-reaching implications on an individual’s future success and career options. Failing a test can have negative effects on academic performance and also on a student’s sense of worth. All in all, tests are typically seen as a rather negative event (unpublished data in our lab indicated an average rating of 3.04 on a 1-7 scale, where 1 was ‘extremely negative’ and 7 was ‘extremely positive’ for the word test).

multiple choice

For faculty, tests are often not held in much higher consideration. Tests can ‘take time away’ from more productive pursuits such as lectures or discussions. Preparing and grading a test is extremely time-consuming – thus pushing many faculty to opt for multiple choice questions that can be graded quickly and easily. Small wonder, then, that many college courses only include 2 or 3 exams over the course of a semester.

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Categories: Education, Memory Tags: ,