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Report
Top Study Tips
with
Richard Spacek
Being a modification of “Bjork’s Big Seven,”
developed by Dr. Robert Bjork, Professor of
Psychology, University of California, Los Angeles, and
supplemented by my own research.
• Try the Neuromyths quiz!
1
False.
• fMRI has repeatedly shown
several brain areas at work during
activities
• There is no unused “reserve,” only
some degree of specialization
2
• False.
• Polyphasic sleep (more than two
sessions per night)
• Usually the result of illness
• Often supplemented by daytime
napping
3
• False.
• 1993 study suggested better
“spatial task performance”
• Result of mood, not congnitive
improvement
• Learning a musical instrument
does contribute to self-regulation
and possible cognitive ability
4
• False.
• Wakefield’s study was fraudulent
and was withdrawn
• He was stuck from the British
Medical Register
5
• False.
• Repairs are constantly carried out
• “neuroplasticity” can help
recovery in some serious cases
6.
• False.
• In certain areas, new neurons are
formed constantly: hippocampus
and olfactory bulb
• Cells constantly regenerated
7
• True.
• “spacing effect” is well
documented
• current research focuses on
finding the ideal spacings
8
• False—BUT . . .
• Damage to dendrites will occur as
a result of chronic abuse
• Vit. B1 deficiency can cause
Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome
9
• False.
• Only physical trauma can create a
hole in your brain
• Key brain regions in drug addicted
people may be reduced in size
• Some drugs interfere with the
way cells send and receive
messages
10
• False.
• Crossword puzzles and similar
games can help you learn words
and improve specific skills, but
will not enhance overall brain
function
11
• True.
• regular exercise can help maintain
memory and general cognition
• Aerobic exercise increases blood
flow to the brain, lessening rate of
tissue loss during aging
• John Ratey, Harvard: increases
production of brain-derived
neurotrophic factor (BDNF)
12
• False.
• Both hemispheres work together
in almost every cognitive task
that has been studied
• Something as broad (and illdefined) as “creativity” is not
centered in one hemisphere.
13
• False.
• Arzi et al. (2012) determined that
sleeping subject could learn
smells—but that’s about it!
Bjork’s Big Seven
• Bjork combined years of research
into a system of key study
activities
• I have built on this
The Big Seven
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
Concentrate
Interpret & Understand
Organize & Structure Information
Space & Repeat
Test, Retest/Generate, Retrieve
Organize Time
Recognize Physical Factors
1. Concentrate
• Ever BLANK OUT while reading?
• Ever notice that a lecture has moved on to
a completely different topic while you
“tuned-out”?
• Ever driven miles while your mind
wandered?
Concentrate
• If you feel yourself slipping right now. Stop!
• Stand up; stretch
• Tap your head three times while muttering
“think”, “think”, “think”
• Now refocus. Feel better?
Attention, Please!
• Decades of attention research
show us
1. Dividing your attention between
multiple tasks is inefficient (no
multi-taking)
2. Attention cannot be sustained
indefinitely
Multi-tasking
Multi-tasking is inefficient . . .
• often an attempt to combine necessary
with desired tasks
• turn off the stereo
• leave the residence
• tell yourself that if you study/practice
for 20 min. effectively then you’ll
spend 5 minutes . . . doing those other
things you might otherwise be doing
Lecture Multitasking
• “significant negative correlation
between in-class phone use and
final grades . . . corresponding to
a drop of 0.36 plus or minus 0.08
on a 4-point scale where 4.0 = A”
• “students cannot multitask nearly
as effectively as they think they
can”
Concentration Killers
• Alcohol
• Depression
• Interrupting reading with
texting/messaging/email
Exceptions
• “separate perceptual domains”
• Allows one to read while walking
on a treadmill without
interference
• Writing while singing NOT so
successful
Limits of Concentration
2. A person can concentrate for a
limited amount of time.
• The duration of attention differs from
person to person, from task to task.
• You will know when you’ve reached
your limit: your mind will start to
wander
Limits of Concentration
• For lectures, give yourself a pep
talk beforehand:
• “Even the most boring lecture
will end eventually.”
• When you find yourself beginning
to lose attention, try to think of a
question to ask the instructor and
write it down
• Write one down now!
Limits of Concentration
• Study: more difficult (or more
boring) subjects may require
more breaks
• Your ability to sustain focus tends
to increase with practice
• Fatigue, illness will decrease
endurance
Limits of Concentration
• Example: You have 50 minutes to
study
• You will actually learn more by
studying for 45 of those 50
minutes and then taking a short
physical break for 5 min.
Limits of Concentration
• If you don’t take a break, your
brain will go on one without you
anyway. . . Possibly during the
most important part of study
• For every 50 minutes, study,
practice, or self-test for 25, take a
break for 5, and then start again
for 20.
Limits of Concentration
• DON’T FORGET TO START AGAIN!
• For the next 50 min. time period, you
might notice diminishing returns from
that 5 min. break.
• You might find that you need a 10 min.
break
• Eventually your stamina will increase
2. Interpret & Understand
• Read the following:
1. The exposure was insufficient
because of the weather conditions.
2. The crash was due to the keys
sticking.
3. The numbers slid down because of
the crisis abroad.
Interpretation
• Interpretation can be thought of
deep processing
• Now try to recall the three
sentences that you just read on
the previous slide. Can you do it?
• Fill in the blanks. . . .
Interpretation
• Remembering the sentences was
probably difficult
• They seemed meaningless
• That which cannot be interpreted,
cannot easily be recalled
Interpretation
• Read the sentences again:
1. The exposure was insufficient
because of the weather conditions.
(Taking a picture)
2. The crash was due to the keys
sticking. (Computer break-down)
3. The numbers slid down because of
the crisis abroad. (Stock-market)
Interpretation
• Context provides comprehension
• Now try to recall the three
sentences again.
Interpretation
• Other factors: you saw them before
(repetition).
• You tried to recall them once already (retrieval
practice)
• Repetition and retrieval practice are both
crucial for learning & memory
• Research suggests that the sentences with
“clues” are easier to remember even at first
sight, because you were able to interpret the
sentences.
3. Organize/Structure
• List the months of the year—
write them down.
• How long did that take you?
• Did you get them all?
Organization/Structure
• Pretty trivial, pretty easy?
• Now list the months of the year
alphabetically.
• How long did that take?
• Are you sure that you got them
all?
Organization/Structure
• A change in organization is a
change in information
Organization/Structure
• Preview the chapters of
textbooks
• Look over section headings how
chapters are organized
• How many of you read the
chapter summaries at the
beginning (or end) of the
chapters before you begin
reading?
Chapter-Level Organizers
4. Space/Repeat
• You have 4 hours to study for tests in
Class A & Class B. What do you do?
• Do you spend two hours on Course A
and then two hours on Course B?
• Study Course A for an hour, then
Course B for an hour, then Course A
for an hour, then Course B.
4. Space/Repeat
• Spacing your study in this way is
an easy way to increase variability
of encoding
• Spacing your study increases
retention
4. Space/Repeat
• Each time you study something, you
will encode the information slightly
differently.
• Especially when time intervenes
between the two study sessions.
• “encoding variability”
Going Postal: Optimal
Spacing
• BPO: teaching typing to postal
workers
• Option 1: take workers off their
jobs and give intensive typing
training
• Option 2: combine training with
job and brief practice each day
Typing Sessions
1. Two 2-hour sessions per day
(total of 4 hours)
2. One 2-hour session per day (total
of 2 hours)
3. Two 1-hour sessions per day
(total of 2 hours)
4. One 1-hour session per day (1
hour)
Results: Acceptable
Standard Attained
1. 80
2. 78
3. 78
4. 55
hours
hours
hours
hours
Also, group 4 retained their
competence better than group 1
“SPACING EFFECT”
• Remember the curve of decay:
• Knowledge initially declines rapidly,
dropping by 80-90% within a week
• Review material before forgetting
• Brief reviews produce benefits
• Spaced recall promotes long term
memory: separate instances of effortful
recall!
Micro-distribution practice
• Spaced presentation enhances
memory
• Landauer/Bjork method:
• Test new item after short delay
• As item becomes better learned,
gradually extend the practice
interval
• Sample learning sequence:
Micro-Distribution
Teacher
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
Stable = l’écurie
Stable?
Horse = le cheval
Horse?
Stable?
Horse?
Grass = l’herbe
Grass?
Stable?
Horse?
Grass?
Church = l’église
Church?
Learner
l’écurie
Le cheval
L’ écurie
Le cheval
L’herbe
L’ écurie
Le cheval
L’herbe
l’église
5. Test, Retest
• When you flip through your
textbook taking note of the
organization before you begin
to read the chapter, try to
generate questions. . . .
Bjork’s Advice
• Step number one: Take out your
highlighting pen.
• Step number two: Make sure
your highlighter has plenty of ink.
• Step number three: Throw
away your highlighter!!!
Read, Write;
Don’t Highlight!
• Testing is BETTER
• Read a paragraph or two and test
yourself: try to summarize
• Check the textbook to make sure that
you have correctly summarized the
information
• Correct as needed
Generate, Retrieve!
• All the time, try to make sense out of
what you are learning (interpretation)
• Using this very powerful technique
may double if not triple your reading
time—but it will produce results.
Generate, Retrieve!
• Retrieval practice.
• How will you know you are ready
to take the test and that you will
do well on the exam?
• PRACTICE RETRIEVING THE
INFORMATION BEFORE THE
TEST!!!
Generate, Retrieve!
• Retrieval practice provides very
effective feedback.
• Immediate knowledge of
performance
• Even better, retrieval practice
makes the information more likely
to be remembered the next time
you try to retrieve it!
Test
Write the French for . . . .
• Stable
• Stable = l’écurie
• Horse
• Horse = le cheval
• Grass
• Grass = l’herbe
• Church
• Church = l’église
6. Organize Time
• “time management and selftesting were generally stronger
predictors of . . . academic
performance than aptitude”
Time Thief: Video Games
• “81% of American youth report playing
at least once per month
• C. 9% of 8-18 year olds are
pathological users
• “consistent negative associations
between liking to play violent video
games and school performance”
Organize Time
• Schedules reduce stress, ensure
performance
• They must be designed
realistically and they must suit
you
• schedules build habits and habits
can work for you!
Fight Procrastination
• Beat procrastination with a limited
commitment
• Promise to spend just 25 minutes
on a large task
• Once you are working, delay
quitting—perhaps 10 minutes
• Extend as necessary
TM Workshop
• For more on Time Management,
attend our next TM workshop
• Or download our slideshows:
www.unbwritingcentre.ca/Workshops
7. Study Environment
a) Light
b) Day vs. Night
c) Height
d) Distractions, internal and
external
a. Daylight
• Lighting (100 watts times 2 or
actual daylight
• Improves concentration, makes
study more efficient
• Improves mood
Four Oaks Elementary
• Wholly “daylit” school
• Scores 7% ABOVE average
• Destroyed by fire
• Students moved to trailers
• Scores 10% BELOW average
• New daylit school: 9% above
average
b. Day vs. Night
• Most are more efficient in daytime
• Try to reserve low priority tasks
for the night
• The later the hour, the lower the
challenge should be
• “Sleep on it” tasks
c. Height
• Big debate: standing vs. sitting
• Standing increases alertness
• Probably less injurious to health
• Ideal: have at least one work
space at which you can stand part
of the time
d. Distractions
• Use the “spider technique” to
overcome your response to a
distractor
• Make a “symbolic” response
• Transition to none at all
The End
• What about those questions you
wrote down?
Want to know more?
go.unb.ca/wss
www.unbwritingcentre.ca/Workshops

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