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The Science of Learning

Nicole Furlonge
When we consider high school academics, most of us see it as a time for great learning and the development of scholarship. At Holderness, emphasis is placed on how we learn in addition to what we learn. Cognitive science informs educators on the practical application of their teaching and also provides learners with methods to guide and augment their learning process. Director of Teaching and Learning Nicole Furlonge, PhD shares her thinking on a method of remembering and how best to retrieve memories. Nicole writes her posts in The Lamp, a Holderness forum on ideas, critical reflection, and innovative thinking. We share Nicole’s two recent posts emphasizing the science of learning, especially as our student body is in the midst of exams and assessments.
 A Powerful Way to Remember: Spaced Practice

The science of learning -- how we learn what we learn -- is as important to learning as the disciplines in which we work with students. Yet it is easy to feel like findings in Mind, Brain, Education might be inaccessible or difficult to incorporate into our teaching practice. 
If we feel that way as educators, imagine how our students must feel as they engage in their job of learning.

So this Fall, I shared two -- just two -- learning strategies with students and faculty: Spaced Practice and Retrieval Practice. The two strategies I highlighted, informed by research in the science of learning, are two of the most powerful practices a student can develop and teachers can introduce in their classroom practice and assessment design. They are, in fact, two of the six learning strategies emphasized by the Learning Scientists. I called these email shares On the Brain.

The first focused on Spaced Practice.

Question: What is a powerful way to remember what you study?
Answer: Spaced Repetition, or Spaced Practice

Want to learn how to make your learning stick? Want to learn a highly effective way to use notecards to study?

Check out this video:

And, if you want to learn even more, here is the blog post the College Info Geek references:

Close Your Book to Learn Deeply

Spaced Practice and Retrieval Practice are two strategies informed by research in the science of learning that are two of the most powerful practices a student can develop and teachers can introduce in their classroom practice and assessment design. They are, in fact, two of the six learning strategies emphasized by the Learning Scientists.

Here is On the Brain #2: Retrieval Practice

The Pichette Common Room (a dorm at Holderness) is littered right now with textbooks, notebooks, handouts, stray papers – all used in the service of preparing for exams…

But if you never step away from those materials and quiz yourself, you may have a harder time remembering all those theorems in Math, systems in the Sciences, declensions in Latin, and figurative language terms in English – in the short-term and definitely in the long-term.

You may not realize it, but you already practice retrieval when you:
  • Prepare a study guide
  • Take a quiz or test
  • Recall moments from a reading during class discussion or in the midst of writing an essay
How Do I Retrieve as I Study?
  • Close your materials and write down, sketch, or record yourself saying as much as you can from memory about a concept or a subject. Be thorough. You can even time yourself, but you don’t have to.
  • Then open your materials and check your accuracy and misses. The mistakes are where you need to focus your review or ask questions about during study sessions.
  • You can use flashcards to quiz yourself, Quizlet is great for self-testing! Go beyond what is on the card and also think about links between ideas.
You can also practice Social Retrieval: find a friend and quiz each other!

We printed stickers, bookmarks, and posters from the Learning Scientists website that remind students how to practice retrieval and spaced practice. Find these resources here.
Holderness School
33 Chapel Lane, Holderness NH, 03245
mail P.O Box 1879 Plymouth, NH 03264-1879
phone (603) 536-1257