Problem-Solving: Methods for Teachers and Students

In today’s world, quick grasping of new knowledge is one of the basic skills. However, many people don’t even think about how to learn properly: research shows that most students use learning methods such as cramming, rereading, and highlighting when working with text, which turns out to be just a waste of time and effort.

How do we learn information? By obtaining new portions of knowledge, the brain connects them to the existing ones, thus creating an associative chain that takes time to consolidate. That’s why rote learning and multiple rereading are not the most effective ways to learn. 

Instead, the scientists suggest repeating information after a certain period. In University, we often face serious problems: even though all the time was devoted to studying, most students cannot cope with the amount of information. 

So, professionals from scholarship essay writing service Pro-Papers decided to find ways to improve the effectiveness of education. As a result, they’ve come across the book “Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning”, written by cognitive scientists Henry Roediger, Peter Brown, and Mark McDaniel. The effectiveness of the memorization methods they describe has been proven through numerous studies.

Memorization and Problem-Solving

To learn means to obtain knowledge, skills and be able to instantly extract them from the memory whenever one has to think about a problem and look for solutions. Solving problems is the actual purpose of learning. 

Back in 1885, memory research was conducted by famous German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus. He created a curve showing how quickly we forget. In a very short period, we lose up to 70% of the information we receive, then the process of forgetting slows down.

The conclusions that can be drawn from this curve are that for successful learning, it is necessary to interrupt the process of forgetting. One of the main methods to do it is reminding or a self-test process in which you try to remember the material you have learned. We rarely stop and reiterate the stuff we’ve just read or learned during the learning process. If you want to be mindful of the information you learn, you can stop and think it over when you are reading. 

Interval Learning

So how does this method work? When you are learning new material, you need to consciously ask yourself once in a while: “What have I learned? What are the main ideas? How can I connect them to what I already know? How do I apply this knowledge in practice? While answering, do not look at the text.

Also, after reading a chapter or paragraph try to put the idea of what you have read into words and summarize it as you would tell it to your friend. If you can explain it simply to your friend, it means you understand the topic. 

If you repeat new information within an hour after memorization, you will remember half of the information. Then you should increase the intervals: repeat it in a day, in three days, in a week, in a month, etc.

This way you will remember the information well while spending much less time. As a tool, you can use cards or their electronic analog provided by Quizlet, Tinycards, Anki, Memrise services.

Multi-learning

Psychologists conducted a study in which students were divided into two groups. The first group was doing one type of the tasks, then moved on to the tasks of the second type. The second group mixed the tasks of different types. 

After testing, the second group had made greater progress. From this experiment we can conclude: no matter what you are learning to do: to recognize paintings and artists, to solve mathematical problems, or to code – the use of simultaneous learning of several skills might help to achieve excellent results. 

How does it work? For example, when solving mathematical tasks, instead of consistently solving problems of the same type, do the following: as soon as you have grasped the essence of the solution to a problem but have not fully understood it yet, switch to another exercise and then return to the initial one. Then you will have to alternate solutions to different tasks and remember how they are solved every time.

How to Teach Problem-Solving 

As a teacher, you can implement the methods described above when you are practicing material with students. Just pick the method and it will increase the memorization. However, it is important to make sure a student realizes and fully understands the concept behind the information that you are learning. 

One of the best techniques to help students understand the topic is immersive learning. The idea is close to role-plays and empathy. If it is a history lesson you can role-play certain historical events, but students have not to learn the text by heart, they should explain it in their own words.

Visualization helps when learning foreign languages, builds strong associations. If you are studying literature students can discuss the plot of the story from the point of view of the main characters, which is the next level of the role play. 

It is important to teach a student how to think critically and independently, using knowledge acquired in the lesson. Cramming gives no results unless it is backed by practice. Students need to learn to ask questions ‘why’ and ‘how’, so they know the initial cause of the problem and can take it from there.

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