Three Tips for More Effective Learning, from Andrew Watson

I just ran across a short article [1] summarizing a talk with some techniques on learning more efficiently, which seemed worth sharing here. It may be something for professors to pass along to their students.

The speaker was Andrew Watson, who is an expert on learning and the brain, and currently a teacher at the Loomis Chaffee School in Connecticut. He noted three key ways that students (and adults) can work with the ways the brain learns information. The last two points are good but well known, while the first point was not something I have seen emphasized much:

( 1 ) Retrieve information while studying:

To study better, students should focus on the idea of retrieval rather than review. Trying to recall information before looking back at it produces more remembering than simply reading it through again. He suggested creating flash cards and using visual hints and clues as effect retrieval techniques.

( 2 ) Change the environment to avoid distractions:

The environment in which someone studies also affects how well they retain information because the human brain works best when it focuses on one activity at a time.

(My comment: That is absolutely true for me, I can’t stand any distraction when I am studying or writing, but I know people who claim they study more effectively with a TV show or music going in the background…I wonder what academic studies show about that.)

( 3 ) Bolster your health:

The brain, like the rest of the body, benefits from a healthy lifestyle, including eating well and exercising regularly. Ample sleep helps the brain to process and solidify information absorbed during the day. If homework is everything that helps a person learn and if sleep help you learn, then sleep is a part of homework.

[1] “Brain Hacks for Brainiacs” in the Loomis Chaffee Magazine, Spring 2022, page 13.