Posted in learning, Psychology

Effortful Learning: Synthesis​

Learning is an effortful process, as demonstrated in the last three blogs. This synthesis will reinforce the notion of effortful learning, with the goal of inspiring other individuals to reflect on their learning and question the current system of education.

As mentioned in the post about desirable difficulties, the brain and memory are less of a filing cabinet, but more of a muscle. When novel information has entered the mind, the information must be rehearsed for it to be encoded within long-term memory, much like working out the muscle to keep fit; if the memory is not repeated or muscle is not worked out, both slowly diminish.

In the case of desirable difficulties, the information obtained must be continuously reviewed over a more considerable amount of time (testing and spacing effects) to maintain the information both time and energy must be applied.

Unfortunately, teachers do a lot of the work of learning for us. By organizing the material onto slides (organizational effect) that allows for easier comprehension of the material in a way that diminished attention (disfluency effect), so that little effort is needed by the student to understand the material. Not only do teachers do the work for us, but the traditional structure of education and standardized testing assist students with fast-tracking of information so that they can obtain a high grade through a multiple choice exam. With the goal of the education system to achieve A high GPA and test results; which is pursued by both students and teachers. It appears that teachers and post-secondary institutes want students to succeed only in the form of grades as that is how they measure success. Providing students with effort-less learning contradicts how learning is acquired: through effort, time, persistence, and difficulty, not through the ability to fill in a bubble on a scantron sheet.

The current study techniques as illustrated in my prior post consist of cramming, lecture slides, highlighters, flashcards, and the list of ineffective study techniques goes on and on. But for learning to be meaningful and active, students cannot merely rely on surface level strategies such as rereading the textbook or highlighting their notes. Unfortunately, these methods achieve decent if not exceptional results within grading, but the function of the current education is to make learning easy, but learning should not be easy, as emphasized in previous posts.

In conjunction with the effort-less student strategies, learning is individualized. By this I mean, that unless students form a study group, studying and learning is done as an individualized activity.  For example, in our Camus library, there are more isolated cubicles than study rooms or work tables, which promotes secluded studying. In individualistic societies, collective learning and test taking in the classroom are frowned upon; many call it cheating.

By not giving students the opportunity to see different perspectives, discuss, reflect on and challenge the information with each other, students become used to learning in one manner which is lecture halls and isolated. Resulting in a lack of effort because students are habituated to the same environment, and less attention is needed to succeed, so studying becomes subjective. This is because of this set structure of individualized learning and lecture halls, other forms of learning or feedback never occur (differentiated instruction delayed feedback). To illustrate this lack of effort and individualization for students, a news article recently came out that states that millennials would give up their right to vote for the next two elections to have their student loan debt forgiven. To some, this may be an acceptable choice, but to a majority of people, this is shocking. This example shows how millennials and a portion of society think individualistically rather than thinking of the collective. Now whether this choice is due to an overabundance of debt, the lack of effort it takes to vote, or that their vote doesn’t matter, it still reflects the focus of individualized effort rather than collective effort.

At this state, it appears that studying and learning are done without any scientific evidence, even go against psychology and how we actually learn; education and learning have become subjective, in the way that their methods are based upon tradition and opinion. But as we have seen in the SAFMEDS post, learning should not be subjective, and that there is a significant amount of psychology within learning, to make learning more effective in the long run. With this being said, I end this synthesis with one question: Do C’s really get degrees? I believe so.

The featured image, although disturbing, is an accurate portrayal of the learning, knowledge, and effort within the education system.

References

Blumberg, J. (2017). 50% of millennials would give up this fundamental American right to have their student loans forgivenCNBC. Retrieved 24 November 2017, from https://www.cnbc.com/2017/09/29/millennials-would-give-up-this-right-to-wipe-out-their-student-loans.html

Dangel, H. (2017). Effortful Retrieval | Center for Excellence in Teaching and LearningSites.gsu.edu. Retrieved 24 November 2017, from http://sites.gsu.edu/scholarlyteaching/effortful-retrieval/

Davis, M. (2017). How Collaborative Learning Leads to Student SuccessEdutopia. Retrieved 24 November 2017, from https://www.edutopia.org/stw-collaborative-learning-college-prep

Hopper, E. (2017). Individualist or Collectivist? How Culture Influences BehaviorHealthyPsych.com. Retrieved 24 November 2017, from https://healthypsych.com/individualist-or-collectivist-how-culture-influences-behavior/

Introduction to cooperative learning. (2017). En.wikipedia.org. Retrieved 24 November 2017, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Introduction_to_cooperative_learning

Introduction to cooperative learning. (2017). En.wikipedia.org. Retrieved 24 November 2017, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Introduction_to_cooperative_learning

Learning Myths vs. Learning Facts – The Effortful Educator. (2017). The Effortful Educator. Retrieved 24 November 2017, from https://theeffortfuleducator.com/2017/07/17/learning-myths-vs-learning-facts/

McFeeters, F. (2017). The Effects of Individualism Vs. Collectivism on Learner’s Recall, Transfer, and Attitudes Toward Collaboration and Individualized Learning (PH’D). Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

McGarry, K. (2017). effortful learning: desirable difficulty. Cognitive Mindset. Retrieved from https://kassiemcgarry.wordpress.com/2017/10/27/effortful-learning-desirable-difficulty/

McGarry, K. (2017). Effortful Learning: ineffective Pedagogy and Academia. Cognitive Mindset. Retrieved from https://kassiemcgarry.wordpress.com/2017/11/10/ineffective-pedagogy-and-academia/

McGarry, K. (2017). Effortful Learning: SAFMEDS. Cognitive Mindset. Retrieved from https://kassiemcgarry.wordpress.com/2017/11/03/effortful-learning-application-of-safmeds-2/

No authorship indicated. (1987). Learning Together and Alone: Cooperative, Competitive, and Individualistic Learning (2nd ed.). Psyccritiques32(6). http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/027279

 

Posted in learning, Psychology

Effortful Learning: Application of SAFMEDS

For the second part of this three-part series, we will examine different methods of effective learning that use desirable difficulties. Learning is typically viewed in a subjective manner, especially learning strategies; but this post will apply psychology and cognition to learning.

Learning is typically viewed in a subjective manner, especially learning strategies; but this post will apply psychology and cognition to learning.

Differentiated instruction, is about varying the way material is presented, and there are a few effective ways of doing this. The first as we know is having discussions rather than a lecture because every discussion is different in how it is presented and the information that is discussed. another way is to have student participation in class, rather than having a single professor give the same speech (that she/he has probably given multiple times) invite student involvement. Unfortunately, there is a lack of student participation, and some time to get students to interact in class is quite difficult. This is because we are uncomfortable talking to 200 students, we are unsure of our understanding, it could be embarrassing, or (just like teachers) we have an image that we don’t want to risk, so maybe we should start a social movement to take control of our class and learning (but that is a different blog).

The organizational effect is about organizing your own material, and by doing so it is better understood and remembered. I use this technique myself, where I collect all the information from lecture slides, notes, textbook and additional resources, and organize them into what I call the “golden notebook” where I organize and rewrite my material in a way that makes sense to me. By doing so, I am not just memorizing, but understanding the material in a more comprehensive way. With lectures and slides, most professors organize material so that we can easily understand it, but by doing so, they professors are learning more than we are in the long run, as they are organizing the material is a way that makes sense to them and teaches it to us, even though we are the one taking the exams. For example, one of my professors begins every set of slides with a detailed outline of talking points, which he sticks to religiously: outline

The nice thing about desirable difficulties is that a variety of components can be exploited in the same learning technique, which leads us to a highly effective tool.

Say-All-Fast-Minute-Every-Day-Shuffled aka SAFMEDS is a type of learning system (Lindsley, 1996) that stems from B.F. Skinner and his free operant learning, which is that the learner is free to make as many responses to each stimulus without interference, but there is varying of the environment or stimuli, resulting in development and learning occurs, to which these same principles are used in the SAFMEDS technique.

Index cards are used, where on one side you have a definition or explanation, while on the other side features a term, a statistic, or a name that is short to read.  The goal of SAFMEDS card is to promote fluency with novel stimuli.

With this task, the learner has freedom in a few different portions that positively impact their learning. Freedom to present the stimuli, pertains positively that they earn can control the fluency of how the cards are presented, resulting in a rhythmical pattern that contributes to their performance of fluency. The learner also controls the pace of when they go through the shuffled deck. if the learner is struggling with the material, then they have the freedom to review the SAFMEDS deck the next day, but if a learner is performing well, then they might wait 2 days before going through the shuffled deck again. with this freedom, it seems quite like one of the desirable difficulties of spaced repetition or the spacing effect. each time the learner goes through their deck active recall is enacted.

Free to form responses is when the learner can adapt the material in their favor, to suit their responses while learning. In other words, learners made their own SAFMEDS deck that contained their own abbreviations and organized the material on each card that made sense to each of them. This again sounds quite like the Organizational effect of desirable difficulties.

Freedom to repeat responses is described as the learner can repeat and go through their SAFMEDS deck as much as they need to learn, which means that repeated responses will occur. But each time they go through their self-made deck is shuffled to help promote fluency and prevent serial learning effect and memorization, by exploiting disfluency through shuffling. so, by varying the material, the learners learn the material better through random repetition. This is like the disfluency effect, where the same material is presented in a novel form that enhances learning through attention.

The final freedom is the Freedom to speed. This is described as establishing a time limit when going through the SAFMEDS deck to motivate the learn and promote more fluent responses that had to better learning. by adding a time limit of one minute, is it able to show the progress and feedback of improvement.  when the learner can only answer 10 cards within 1 minute, it shows to them that they need to improve by going through their deck tomorrow.  In addition to the progression, measurable feedback is provided, through the tracking of their progress. This tracking is done by another tool known as the Standard Celebration Chart: filled+in+chart

With this chart, the learner can track their progress and improvement that extend past days, weeks, into months and years. With the time limit and the Celebration chart, a learner is provided delayed feedback as part of desirable difficulties, by showing their progression and improvement that extend back by weeks, months and years.

This learning system not only applies to four of the desirable difficulties, but it applies to ALL the desirable difficulties that were discussed the last blog. differentiated instruction pertains to the learner’s requirement to shuffle the deck before each use, in which by doing so they vary the content or order of the material. Promoting alertness and fluency. The final desirable difficulty that SAFMEDS applied to is the obvious one of the testing effect. by using novel terms and definitions, where the learner self-tests with their material, by actively retrieving information each time they go through their SAFMEDS deck.

Here is an example of what the SAFMEDS cards look like:Figure-1-Example-of-the-front-and-back-of-two-of-the-SAFMEDS-cards-from-Pack-1

For this weeks featured photo, it is a lithograph print of mine, that I believe relates quite well to one of the desirable difficulties: disfluency effect. Most people when they see this, they assume it is a typical five-fingered hand, but with careful counting, they realize that an extra hand member is added. Did you notice it?

 

References

Calkin, A. (2005). Precision teaching: The Standard Celeration Charts. The Behavior Analyst Today, 6(4), pp.207-215.

En.wikipedia.org. (2017). Precision teaching. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Precision_teaching#Instructional_tools [Accessed 3 Nov. 2017].

Gibson, V. (2017). Differentiating Instruction and Practice: Practical Steps for Implementation | Center for Development and Learning. [online] Cdl.org. Available at: http://www.cdl.org/articles/differentiating-instruction-and-practice/ [Accessed 3 Nov. 2017].

Johnston, J. and Pennypacker, H. (1971). A behavioral approach to college teaching. American Psychologist, 26(3), pp.219-244.

Lindsley, O. (1996). The Four Free-Operant Freedoms. The Behavior Analyst, 19(2), pp.199-210.

Potts, L., Eshleman, J. and Cooper, J. (1993). Ogden R. Lindsley and the Historical Development of Precision Teaching. The Behavior Analyst, 16(2), pp.177-189.

Quigley, S., Peterson, S., Frieder, J. and Peck, K. (2017). A Review of SAFMEDS: Evidence for Procedures, Outcomes and Directions for Future Research. The Behavior Analyst.