MAKE IT STICK – Chapter 4 – Embracing Difficulties

The more I read this book – the more I realize that so much of what is written is easily understood when reflecting on years in the classroom.  I decided to include some direct quotes from this chapter and let you engage in your own thoughts and reflect on your own learning…

Reconsolidation – “the act of retrieving a memory from long-term storage can both strengthen the memory traces and at the same time make them modifiable again…retrieval practice modifies and strengthens learning.”

“When you let the memory recede…retrieval is harder, your performance is less accomplished and you feel let down, but your learning is deeper and you will retrieve it more easily in the future.”

Knowledge is more durable if it’s deeply entrenched, meaning that you have firmly and thoroughly comprehended a concept, it has practical importance or keen emotional weight in your life, and it is connected with other knowledge that you hold in your memory.”

The paradox is that some forgetting is often essential for new learning.”

“…the easier knowledge or a skill is for you to retrieve, the less your retrieval practice will benefit your retention of it.  Conversely, the more effort you have to expend to retrieve knowledge or skill, the more the practice of retrieval will entrench it.”

First, that some difficulties that require more effort and slow down apparent gains-like spacing, interleaving, and mixing up practice-will feel less productive at the time but will more than compensate for that by making the learning stronger, precise, and enduring.  Second, that our judgements of what learning strategies work best for us are often mistaken, colored by illusions of mastery.”  This was demonstrated by the California Polytechnic State University baseball team.  Those that play the game know that hitting a baseball is one of the hardest skills in sports -( probably why a batting average of .333 can get you into the Hall of Fame).  They decided to embark on two different training regiments to increase their ability to hit a curve ball.  One group engaged in massed practice – they were thrown curve ball after curve ball after curve ball.  Performance increased during this type of practice and they believed their skill in hitting the curve was increasing.  The rest of the team were given three different types of pitches in random order and the batter had no idea which pitch was being thrown.  At the end of these practices, many were still struggling to hit the ball and they were not convinced their skills had improved.  After six weeks of this regimen, the players who practiced on random pitches had clearly benefited and improved their ability to hit the curve in a real game situation.  “It is one skill to hit a curveball when you know a curveball is being thrown; it is a different skill to hit a curveball when you don’t know it’s coming.”

The more effort that is required to recall a memory or to execute a skill, provided that the effort succeeds, the more the act of recalling or executing benefits the learning.”

Trying to come up with an answer rather than having it presented to you, or trying to solve a problem before being shown the solution, leads to better learning and longer retention of the correct answer or solution, even when your attempted response is wrong, so long as corrective feedback is provided.”

I’m pretty confident that we can all reflect on our own learning history and finds times when we can prove the above.  The discussions that these studies spark are essential as we continue to enhance what we do in the classroom.

More to come….

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