Do you know the best way to activate your neurons for learning? Do you know what memory retrieval training consists of? Do you know the relative effectiveness of the most commonly used study techniques such as proofreading, highlighting or practice tests? Finally, do you believe that we can learn through observation? Test your knowledge on the topic by answering the following five questions.

1. True or false? The best way to activate your neurons – and thus start the learning process – is to reread the lesson you need to master.

CORRECT ANSWER

FALSE

In the brain, all learning results from repeated activation of neurons related to the targeted learning. However, rereading the lesson to be mastered repeatedly (ad nauseam!) is not the best way to activate your neurons. On the contrary, prolonged practice decreases neuronal activation, which can be recognized by the fact that the study suddenly seems more accessible and less motivating. At these signs, it is better to put it aside and return to it later, ideally after a 24-hour delay for the first sessions.

One of the most effective ways to stimulate neural activation is to train memory retrieval, also known as “recall,” which consists of searching in your head for learned information that is not yet consolidated – moving it from long-term memory to working memory.

Find out more: Neuroscience: 3 mistakes to avoid when studying

2. Which of the following statements about memory retrieval training is incorrect?

A) This “feedback” step is crucial for learning because it sends a signal to the brain that helps encode the response.
B) This “feedback” step is crucial to learning because it allows the brain to correct the answer if it is wrong, preventing the unfortunate encoding of errors.
C) If you are the teacher or other person responsible for giving feedback to the learner, it is advisable to provide the correct answer up front rather than giving the learner time or cues to find it on their own.
D) There are two types of feedback: feedback that confirms a correct answer is called “positive,” and feedback that corrects an incorrect answer is called “negative. While positive feedback is particularly influential in learning, negative feedback also has its place.

CORRECT ANSWER

C.

Quite the opposite, if the learner is wrong, rather than providing the correct answer right away, it is better to encourage the learner to dig a little deeper to find the answer or to rephrase incorrect explanations by giving clues. As we have seen, searching in our heads allows us to reactivate the neurons linked to the targeted learning. Note that it is also possible to practice memory retrieval on your own.

For out more: Neuroscience: 3 Mistakes to Avoid When Studying

3. Which of the following study techniques were rated highly effective in a study published in the Psychological Science in the Public Interest?

A) Practice testing and distributed practice
B) Elaborate interrogation, self-explanation and interspersed practice
C) Summaries, highlighting/underlining, mnemonic keywords, text imaging, and proofreading

CORRECT ANSWER

A.

Elaborative interrogation, self-explanation, and interspersed practice were rated as having moderate effectiveness, whereas summaries, highlighting/underlining, mnemonic keywords, text imagery, and proofreading were rated as having low effectiveness.

Interestingly, the study techniques that emerged here as the most effective are rather “active.” It is important to note that highlighting, rereading and the use of mnemonic keywords are among the most used techniques by learners, yet their effectiveness for learning was found to be low in this study. That said, passive approaches are not necessarily to be ruled out, as they also have some advantages.

Find out more: 10 study techniques and their effectiveness

4. True or false? Observing our fellow human beings is not only our first mode of learning; it also remains one of the most effective even in adulthood.

CORRECT ANSWER

TRUE

In the social-cognitive theory of psychologist Albert Bandura, this process at the root of human development and behaviour is called “modelling” or vicarious experience. Modelling is a form of learning by observing others that goes far beyond simple imitation (Modeling or Learning Through Observation). It involves the observer grasping implicit rules of the observed subject’s behaviour, as well as its positive or negative consequences, to produce new patterns of behaviour that will be similar to, but go beyond, them in the sense that they will be interpreted and used in a personal way by the learner.

Three steps have been identified as being essential for optimal results.

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5. Select the correct term to complete the following statements.

Terms: memorization, recharge, brain capacity, task

To be successful in learning, the learner must…

A) learn to control their attentional system by avoiding situations where they are exposed to doing more than one ________ at a time (Jean-Philippe Lachaux, cognitive neuroscientist and attention specialist)

B) have confidence in one’s own ________ since, with the exception of specific cases of learning disabilities, we can all learn as long as we make an effort (Stanislas Dehaene, neuroscientist and professor of cognitive psychology)

C) keep the brain “actively engaged” by alternating review activities that encourage ________: rephrasing, diagramming, questioning, being questioned, etc. (Steve Masson, professor of neuroeducation)

D) help the brain to stop and ________ so that it can continue to have the desire and energy to learn. Learners must “strategically” make sure that they do not call upon the same cognitive structures, the same reflexes, the same systems of thought, the same habits that they normally use when the brain works, when it expends energy. From this point of view, it is important to diversify one’s interests and to dare to take on new challenges, including in one’s leisure time. (Guillaume Dulude, neuropsychologist)

CORRECT ANSWER

The complete, correct statements are as follows:

To be successful in learning, the learner must…

A) learn to control their attentional system by avoiding situations where they are exposed to doing more than one task at a time (Jean-Philippe Lachaux, cognitive neuroscientist and attention specialist)

B) have confidence in one’s own brain capacity since, with the exception of specific cases of learning disabilities, we can all learn as long as we make an effort (Stanislas Dehaene, neuroscientist and professor in cognitive psychology)

C) keep the brain “actively engaged” by alternating review activities that encourage memorization: rephrasing, diagramming, questioning, being questioned, etc. (Steve Masson, professor of neuroeducation)

D) help the brain to stop and recharge so that it can continue to have the desire and energy to learn. Learners must “strategically” make sure that they do not call upon the same cognitive structures, the same reflexes, the same systems of thought, the same habits that they normally use when the brain works, when it expends energy. From this point of view, it is important to diversify one’s interests and to dare to take on new challenges, including in one’s leisure time. (Guillaume Dulude, neuropsychologist)

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Catherine Meilleur

Author:
Catherine Meilleur

Communication Strategist and Senior Editor @KnowledgeOne. Questioner of questions. Hyperflexible stubborn. Contemplative yogi

Catherine Meilleur has over 15 years of experience in research and writing. Having worked as a journalist and educational designer, she is interested in everything related to learning: from educational psychology to neuroscience, and the latest innovations that can serve learners, such as virtual and augmented reality. She is also passionate about issues related to the future of education at a time when a real revolution is taking place, propelled by digital technology and artificial intelligence.