The Science of Learning – How to revise effectively.

This has some really interesting stuff about how students learn and revise: for those who still believe that there is such a thing as learning styles. Click on the image for the full report but here’s a summary:


  1. Students learn new ideas by reference to ideas they already know.
  2. To learn, students must transfer information from working memory (where it is consciously processed) to long-term memory (where it can be stored and later retrieved). Students have limited working memory capacities that can be overwhelmed by tasks that are cognitively too demanding. Understanding new ideas can be impeded if students are confronted with too much information at once.
  3. Cognitive development does not progress through a fixed sequence of age related stages. The mastery of new concepts happens in fits and starts.
  4. Information is often withdrawn from memory just as it went in. We usually want students to remember what information means and why it is important, so they should think about meaning when they encounter to-be-remembered material.
  5. Practice is essential to learning new facts, but not all practice is
    equivalent.
  6. Each subject area has some set of facts that, if committed to long-term memory, aids problem-solving by freeing working memory resources and illuminating contexts in which existing knowledge and skills can be applied. The size and content of this set varies by subject matter.
  7. Effective feedback is often essential to acquiring new knowledge and skills.
  8. The transfer of knowledge or skills to a novel problem requires both knowledge of the problem’s context and a deep understanding of the problem’s underlying structure.
  9. We understand new ideas via examples, but it’s often hard to see the unifying underlying concepts in different examples.
  10. Beliefs about intelligence are important predictors of student behaviour in school.
  11. Self-determined motivation (a consequence of values or pure interest) leads to better long term outcomes than controlled motivation (a consequence of reward/punishment or perceptions of self-worth)
  12. The ability to monitor their own thinking can help students identify what they do and do not know, but people are often unable to accurately judge their own learning and understanding.
  13. Students will be more motivated and successful in academic environments when they believe that they belong and are accepted in those environments.

• Students do not have different“learning styles.”
• Humans do not use only 10% of their brains.
• People are not preferentially “right-brained” or “left-brained” in the use of their brains.
• Novices and experts cannot think in all the same ways.
• Cognitive development does not progress via a fixed progression of age related stages.