Liquid being is an art exhibit currently at the university of Lethbridge. There was one art piece that really struck me (in a psychological way).
This art piece is like associative learning. Individual cones are interconnected into the next cone, and leads to the next; resulting in a fluid and intricate track. If the cones were used individually, they would hardly hold any water, other than a few droplets on the surface; when the cones are interconnected creating a track which can hold and carry large amounts of water from one location, to another. Thus, being more effective when placed together, rather than individually. Through associative learning, pieces of information that are interconnected to each other become more durable and effective in their function, compared to individual pieces that are separate from one another.
Simply put, associative learning is a learning principle that states that ideas and experiences reinforce each other and can be mentally linked to one another. In a nutshell, it means our brains are not designed to recall information in isolation, so we group information together for better recall. Part of associative learning is associative memory; defined as the ability to learn and remember the relationship between unrelated items. This is typically done by associating a fact or information to you personally, making it more memorable. By using associative learning and memory, or linking ideas and information together (like the cones), the information is encoded deeper, thus stored in long-term memory.
Typically, with associative memory, having multiple inputs of information or connections during the encoding stage results in deeper storing f information, making the memory stronger and easier to recall later, which as we know can produce more effective learning that is associated with more information than a term or fact or isolated piece of knowledge.
But in education, associative learning and memory, are subordinate strategies for studying and learning. For example, one of the go-to strategies for studying is flash cards, as it is the opposite of associative learning or dissociative learning (If there was such a thing). With flashcards, you have a term or cue on one side, and on the other side you have the description, definition or information pertaining to that cue. When using flashcards, you remove the associations that are connected to that information. Flashcards only focus on pure memorization and/or recognition; not associative learning, knowledge or understanding.
So how can students learn more effectively and incorporate associative learning in their studies and education? One way is to build a connection with the information when it is presented. This can be done by students asking questions of “why am I learning this?”, “how does this class or information relate to me on a personal level or my chosen career?”; or by professors informing students not just what they will learn in their class but “why should students learn it”, or more abruptly “why should they [students] care?”. By asking and reflecting on such questions, it takes advantage of the usefulness portion of the MUSIC. Model of Motivation, creating intrinsic motivation. For students forced to take a class to meet a degree requirement, most students just try to pass the tests or assignments and don’t care about the information outside of the class or test. So, by finding parts of the class, information or skills that relate to the students on a more personal note, more associations are formed, and more effective learning occurs.
Another way that students can incorporate associative learning in their education is to relate to the information on a personal level. For students who can only answer the above questions with responses like “It was the only class available”, “it’s an easy A” “It’s a prerequisite”, or the ever popular ” because I have to, but don’t want to” tend not to have any motivation or interest in the information presented. So, with the course information, students can associate the information to personally, for better recall and understanding. For example, students are in an anatomy class, can relate the body parts and their functions to their own body and bodily functions. Or if students are in a class where the information is dull and difficult to memorize, such techniques like gnomonic devices, made up or real-life stories experiences help remember the dull information better. By using such methods of associative learning, another layer of cues is created resulting in more effective storing of information.
So maybe by students and professors implementing such useful and associative strategies, it could result in more effective learning, to which our minds could metaphorically resemble an interconnected trail of cones that carry information more efficiently than any single, isolated cone, such as flashcards and pure memorization. By having such an intricate track of associated memories and learning, we can construct a beautiful image like the one seen underneath this trail of associated memory pieces (cones), and maybe just maybe, that beautiful image could represent the knowledge and understanding that has developed because of associative learning, like the one seen here:
For this week’s featured image is of my interpretation of what our minds could look like after the implementation of associative learning, that has been built up over time to create intricate networking of information that has been understood, collected and stored for future use and critical thinking.
Craik, F. and Tulving, E. (1975). Depth of processing and the retention of words in episodic memory. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 104(3), pp.268-294.
Shams, L. and Seitz, A. (2008). Benefits of multisensory learning. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 12(11), pp.411-417.
Spanella, T. (2017). Associative Learning: Definition, Theory & Examples – Video & Lesson Transcript | Study.com. [online] Study.com. Available at: http://study.com/academy/lesson/associative-learning-definition-theory-examples.html [Accessed 13 Oct. 2017].
the free encyclopedia, W. (2017). Associative memory (psychology). [online] En.wikipedia.org. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Associative_memory_(psychology) [Accessed 13 Oct. 2017].
Wissman, K., Rawson, K. and Pyc, M. (2012). How and when do students use flashcards?. Memory, 20(6), pp.568-579.