The Study of Learning
For countless centuries humans have known that some learn faster, understand better, and remember longer. But centuries ago this mattered little since learning was not as highly valued as being proficient at basic survival skills, gathering food, raising livestock, defending the realm, or learning and practicing a trade, say a seamstress or blacksmith.

The growth of knowledge in the past was slow, especially after the decline of the Greek and Roman cultures of 500 B.C to 500 A.D. Historians sometimes call the five centuries after the fall of Rome (and before the Middle Ages) the Dark Ages (approximately 500 A.D. to 1066 A.D). The next five centuries, the Middle Ages, were also not a shining moment for the advancement of knowledge and learning throughout much of the world, especially, Europe.

Only a few people, usually of high social status, undertook the pursuit of learning as a scholarly venture. The general population worked, in one manner or another, very early in life.

Some estimate that it took 1000 years to double the collective knowledge of humanity. Today, due to an unprecedented increase in technology, the collective knowledge base of humanity, great strides in understanding the nature of learning, and the elimination of cultural fears linked to pursuing new knowledge, it is estimated that the human knowledge base doubles every five years.

After this slow period of the Middle and Dark Ages, came a period known as the Renaissance that valued learning much more than the previous 1000 years. This movement started in Italy and spread throughout Europe. Paper and the printing press, things taken for granted today, helped spur the distribution of knowledge far and fast. The arts flourished and science, long hindered by cultural obstacles, made headway.

The pursuit of knowledge and learning ebbed and flowed until a new age of learning, the Age of Enlightenment (known to some as the Age of Reason) took hold in the 1700’s. This was an age where intellectualism was admired, instead of feared. The use of reason was intended to vanish superstition from its previous role of hindering the pursuit of knowledge. Politics and philosophy were greatly affected by the Age of Enlightenment and the great documents of the America Revolution, and founding of the United States, were directly linked to the thinking of this era.

While science gradually emerged from the previous fields of philosophy and natural science to become distinct fields of study, for example, biology and geology, no such effort was made on behalf of the study of learning, since the ancient Greeks, until the founding of the field of psychology around 1780. Finally, science had a field that sought to study mental processes through scientific research, with the intent of creating theories to explain functions of the human mind, behavior, and learning.

One of the earliest researchers was Hermann Ebbinghaus. His experimentation still remains a foundation for studying memory and learning. Ebbinghaus experimented with nonsense words, whereby subjects needed to match made up words with actual words. The chance of a lucky match or guess was lessened, and so Ebbinghaus could accurately study memory.

The 20th Century became a treasure chest of research and theory associated with memory and learning. Early in the century, Ivan Pavlov demonstrated that learning could be conditioned. He provided a natural stimulus, such as a dog seeing food that yielded a response; in this case the dog increased the production of saliva. Pavlov then substituted another stimulus, in this case a bell that was rung when the dog saw the meal. The neutral stimulus (the bell) became known as a conditioned stimulus. Eventually, Pavlov could get the dog to increase saliva by hearing the bell ring instead of seeing the meal.

Pavlov’s work was known as classical conditioning and led to the formation of perhaps the most dominant school of psychology in the 20th Century, the Behaviorist school. Two Americans, John B. Watson and B. F. Skinner, were giants of the Behaviorist movement.

The Behaviorists’ research findings ended up being infused into mid 20th Century school life. The concept of positive and negative reinforcement is a part of the Behaviorist theory. This is also known as reward versus punishment.

A major tenet of Behaviorist theory is that all behavior can be explained by response to the environment. As a result, all behavior can be shaped by environmental stimuli to achieve a desired result. For example, if a group of students sign a behavior contract that defines what good and bad behavior is, and then display the behaviors defined as good (positive), a reward would be given. This is positive reinforcement. Or, using negative reinforcement, a punishment, may be issued for not achieving the desired result.

Behaviorism attempts to shape and modify behavior, attitude, and motivation through external sources (extrinsic) to achieve the predetermined Behaviorist outcomes. The inner motivation of the learner was secondary to the external environmental stimuli presented to the learner. To this day researchers and parents frequently practice behavior modification, either knowingly or unknowingly.

Behaviorism did not greatly consider mental and cognitive actions for explaining behavior and learning. Therefore, results were mixed. Behaviorists value pure objective, observable data over theory to study and eventually modify human behavior. The overriding belief is that using the proper stimulus to get the desired outcome could control both human behavior and learning.

This all sounds so perfect and foolproof, but humans do not always modify behavior and learning patterns simply by using an external stimulus. Even at its peak, the Behaviorist school was criticized for dismissing mental/cognitive activities as a possible cause of behavior and learning. Both conscious and unconscious thought were not given much consideration by the Behaviorists. Mental activities could not be studied in a manner that yielded the pure data Behaviorists demanded. That objection changed with the advancement of cognitive science when electrical brain activity could be studied by scientific means such as brain mapping. Data became plentiful for identifying how the brain functioned during learning tasks. In short, the actions of the brain became observable and measurable by sophisticated machines and the Cognitivists gained plenty of evidence to support their primary belief that mental processes are linked to learning.

Two evolving schools of mid- 20th Century psychology, the Humanists and the Cognitivists, competed with the dominating Behaviorist school. The Humanists were in total philosophical disagreement with the Behaviorists and the Cognitivists emphasized mental functions and processes they believed affected learning. A branch of the cognitive movement, the Constructivist school, strongly accepted as true that learners, through undergoing unique personal experiences, construct their own view of the world. The learner creates much of what is eventually comprehended. Below is a further discussion of the Humanists and Cognitivists.

Humanists were/are not in agreement and most likely annoyed by the Behaviorist implication that humans were no more than stimulus and response robots, whose behavior could be easily manipulated. Humanists rejected the Behaviorist position of discounting the importance of developmental stages, emotions, and personal choice.

Abraham Maslow was the banner carrier for the Humanist movement. Obviously, his views, and that of the entire Humanist movement, differed greatly from the dominant and entrenched Behaviorist movement. Humanists believed in the existence and importance of free choice versus humans being manipulated to achieve desirable behavioral responses.

The Humanist philosophy accepted as true that humans are emotional, innately good, and possess creative traits that conditioned behavior hinders. People, then, are capable of determining their own destiny and are not mere pawns to environmental stimuli. Humanists support the idea that learning and life advancement is developmental, that emotions play an important part in the process of learning. To the Humanists, education is more than mere content and grade achievement. Learning is holistic and the practice learning how to learn overrides teaching methods that manipulate the learning environment.

To the Humanists, interaction of teachers and students is very important in the learning process. This interaction is much “softer” than the behavior modification of the Behaviorists. Humanists are less formal, support a strong self-concept, engage the learner through knowledge of learning processes, and value cooperative group work. Whereas, to Behaviorists learning is directed by the teacher or adult attempting to gain a response through a stimulus, Humanists value student choice, independent thinking, and experiences that stimulate thought and creativity. Course content is dictated by student need, based on surveys and pretests. Behaviorists, base content on predetermined objectives.

The Cognitivists once were criticized for having limited data to support their views on learning and mental functions. Not giving in, several famous learning theorists developed human developmental stage theories that supported the Cognitive and Constructivist views of human learning.

So, with the rise of the Humanists, and the continued progress of research-based cognitive science, and the associated rise of constructivist theory, Behaviorists saw their sunset as the new combination of the Cognitive and Humanist schools ascended. But make no mistake; Behaviorism will always be present as there will always be instances where behavior modification may be the simplest and best manner to change behavior and achieve desired results.

A Summary of Learning Theories
Psychology was founded in the late 1700’s, breaking off from other sciences and philosophy. Psychology has always been concerned about the mind and mental aspects, including how people learn and think. Wilhelm Wundt is given credit for being a founding father of learning theory. His school of psychology was known as Structuralism.

Structuralism- the idea behind structuralism was to study conscious mental thoughts, or deep thinking.

The method of scientific study used in Structuralism is today known as introspection or reflective thinking. Introspection (reflective thinking) happens when an individual spends time and seriously examines his or her thoughts or emotions, and then reflects on the meaning of what was self-interpreted from sensory, emotional, or cognitive experiences.

Introspection is self-interpretation and is not based on the observation of others. People who keep diaries or journals that analyze the personal meanings of thoughts and events are engaging in this oldest of learning theories, Structuralism.

Wilhelm Wundt believed that the use of evaluation instruments (like surveys and observation forms) and collecting data to substantiate making correct conclusions would greatly benefit the field of psychology; he was late proven correct.

Functionalism- everything changes in a new field of study such as psychology. Eventually, a new school of psychology known as functionalism evolved. This is an important step up from structuralism because the role of mental processes, memory and how the brain functions was being heavily studied. Functionalism is much closer to today’s Cognitive school, but still learning was not intentionally studied. Thoughts and behaviors were broken down into small, discrete units and events.

Famous people in the Functionalism school include William James and John Dewey.

Gestalt Psychology- still survives today. Have you ever seen a picture that asks what you see (visually perceive)? One famous picture asks the viewer if two faces or a vase is seen? Another picture asks whether the viewer sees a duck or a rabbit? If you like optical illusion pictures, then Gestalt psychology may be fun to study. Famous people to study include Max Wertheimer, Kurt Koffka, and Wolfgang Kohler.

Gestalt psychology combines two concepts. The first is that visual perception is important, and the second is that the organized whole people perceive is more important than the sum of all the parts put together.

This field of psychology has a group of core beliefs called principles. Some sources name five core principles of Gestalt psychology and some name six or more. The principles may have slightly different names. Below is a short description of the Gestalt principles.

Similarity principle- humans tend to group many objects by perception into a whole, if the objects look similar. Below are light dots and dark dots that make up lines

Proximity principle- human perception group objects close to each other. The spaces have created four groups of dots

Principle of Closure-The law of closure states that individuals perceive objects such as shapes, letters, pictures, etc., as being whole when they are not complete.

Principle of Multistability-an object changes in perception back and forth. Below is the classic vase/face figure on the right and the Necker cube, which may show depth.

Principle of continuity -states that elements of objects tend to be grouped together, and therefore integrated into a perceptual Image resulting in perceiving wholes if they are aligned within an object. Continuation occurs in the example because the viewer's eye will naturally follow a line or curve.

Figure and ground- human perception can distinguish the difference between an object (figure) and the surrounding area (background), including forms, shapes, and shadow silhouettes. Below is an example of a figure and ground from Apogee Photo.

The value of Gestalt psychology is the idea of the whole makes the parts and is not the sum of the parts. This is known as holism.

Behaviorism- is a school of psychology that dominated the mid 20th Century. The famous people to study are Ivan Pavlov, John Watson, and B. F. Skinner. Behaviorism is discussed in the initial section, but the basics are repeated below.
Behaviorism does not take into consideration mental processes. To some this is known as minimalism, where human thought is reduced to nothing more than humans responding to environmental stimuli. Mental processes were not a primary focus since no observable data could be derived from studying mental processes (since reputed as false). Learning to Behaviorists involves modifying behavior through the use of a stimulus to get a desired response. Observation is a key scientific tool used by Behaviorists to identify behaviors and assess the success of a stimulus. If a stimulus is provided, a planned, conditioned response is expected. Positive and negative reinforcement (rewards and punishments) are basics of Behaviorism and may be incorporated into behavioral contracts, where an individual makes a pledge to change negative behaviors and as an incentive frequently a reward is offered. But sometimes a punishment may be avoided.
Humanism- is essentially in direct contradiction to the robotic view of humanity Behaviorists held. Abraham Maslow carried the banner for this movement. Emotion, personal development and choice are important, as is free choice. Humans possess creativity, goodness, and are capable of determining their own destiny. Motivation is held to be important for gaining success and achieving personal goals. The entire person is valued, development of the person is recognized, and development is holistic. These factors create the total human experience.
Maslow had a five-stage pyramid shaped hierarchy of basic, or motivational needs. When a need goes unmet, the motivation to achieve a need increases. The needs are in an order from lowest (most basic) to highest (bottom to top of pyramid).

Cognitivism and Constructivism- focus on mental processes in learning. Information processing is associated with learning. Learners can use processes to gain knowledge and determine good ways to process and understand information, and place it into the memory bank. Learners, in the Cognitivist view, use mental representations to learn, such as words, shapes, and numbers. To the cognitivists, mental schemas, and the concepts created from schemas, are critical to organize and interpret information. Previous knowledge is important to the Cognitivists and Constructivists and is used to create new knowledge. Schemas do have disadvantages, one example is a learner may take previous knowledge and mistakenly create a false preconceived conclusion. Stereotypes, prejudice, and bias have been blamed on learners using only preexisting schemas.

Constructivists believe each person constructs their own view of the world and from their viewpoint, new knowledge. In Constructivism, students are active and the teacher is a mere facilitator. Learning involves social interaction and collaboration in groups is typical. The cognitivist view is more teacher-centered. To the Constructivists, and it could be argued also the cognitivists, previous knowledge is important for linking new ideas and concepts to new information just past the current limit of the learner (Vygotsky and the Zone of Proximal Development). However, every person on the planet has different schema and based on previous knowledge, making the Constructivist method of teaching many by one teacher difficult. The Cognitivist school encourages the teacher to provide all students with similar schema.

Famous Cognitivist and Constructivist theorists to study include-
David Ausubel, David Bruner, Jean Piaget, Lev Vygotsky, George Miller, and Howard Gardner. These theorists are discussed in another section.

Conditions That Affect Learning
Now that learning has been defined, a list of circumstances that influence how people learn will be presented. There are clear differences in how people learn and also how much and how fast information can be assimilated and fully understood. There will be no mention of specific learning disabilities or potential medical conditions that could affect learning here within this handbook.

Cognitive Skills- most learners have a perception that learning depends on how “smart” a person is. As a learner gets older and progresses through various stages of the educational process, this assumption may grow even stronger. All of us have a great potential to learn. Some, as mentioned before, have a built in benefit of a brain that processes information faster and more effectively, allowing for the learning of difficult concepts and abstract material.

The above assumption can create a self-fulfilling prophecy that you, as a learner, cannot perform intellectual activities that the so-called gifted seemingly breeze through. Do not fall into this trap. Learning is sometimes difficult for anyone and everyone. Learning can take planning, effort, and time. But the end result of learning is almost always beneficial and the knowledge, skills, and processes gained by learning are certainly enhance success. There are ways to make learning easier and there are other factors that affect learning besides pure brainpower.

The State of Self- can a person be forced to learn? Even with great teachers, great adult role models, and sufficient resources, a person cannot truly be forced to learn. So, the state of each individual, the self, becomes a very important consideration in the quest to achieve maximum learning.

Fortunately, most humans truly want to learn, especially the vey young child who frequently acts like a learning sponge. As learners age and go through different stages of development, personal interest becomes important. For example, if a learner has taken a recent vacation throughout the western states, and the trip was enjoyable, a social studies unit on the states just visited may create or increase learning motivation.

There are conditions related to the state of self that can increase learning. As mentioned above interest is important. A second factor is ease of learning. When new knowledge can be linked to previous knowledge, a learner can more easily assimilate (gather) the new and old knowledge into a brand new mental schema that is created in the brain. A third factor is motivation. Motivation can be broken down into two types: intrinsic (internal) and extrinsic (external).

First off is a discussion of extrinsic motivation. Everyday learners are given extrinsic directions that affect and can cause, hopefully not impede, learning. For example, a student is given an assignment with directions, a time limit, and information about how the assignment will be graded. School may seem like an endless parade of extrinsic directions, and a learner may wish to be more independent and rely on internal, intrinsic motivation, but most learners need at least some direction to formulate and carry out a learning plan.

There are times when learning slows down or even stops. The second type of motivation, intrinsic, then becomes important, most important. Learners simply cannot be their own worst obstacle to learning through attitude, effort, or whatever. There is a concept called academic intensity, which really means the willingness of the self to engage in learning as a means to a final product, usually skills, knowledge, or processes, that can provide a reward or desired final product, like high grades, honor roll status, passing a course, getting praise from parents and teachers, or the ultimate intrinsic reward, satisfying the state of the self by obtaining sought after goals. Make no mistake, intrinsic motivation is a valuable tool for any learner and may be the best tool in a learner’s tool bag.

Environmental Factors- who we are when born is a result of genetics. What we become as learners is determined somewhat by environmental factors. An environment can be conducive to learning, or it can be provide obstacles.

Some learners have more resources than others, for example, books, electronic aids, travel opportunities, and adult support. Some learners, to excel at learning, must overcome impediments and obstacles that are a result of the physical or social/communication environment. But the key is to believe obstacles can be overcome and great results can be achieved.

Learning certainly includes the physical environment, but never discount how a social environment can contribute to learning. The peer group of a student can be positive or negative towards learning. Parents can be driven to see their youngsters succeed in school (sometimes to the detriment of a learner), or be disengaged, in which case learning is left mostly up to the student. The above discussion reinforces a final thought: the environment is critical to creating and maintaining the motivation needed to obtain a high level of learning.

Decision Making- to be successful in learning and numerous other aspects of life good decisions must be made. Decisions are a result of cognitive skills, the state of self, and the total environment. Critical thinking is very important in making good decisions that can enhance and advance learning.

It is a reality that very smart people can make very bad decisions. So, intelligence and good critical thinking do not guarantee an ability to be a good decision maker. There are many models of decision-making, but every model focuses on gathering information, deriving possibilities, identifying potential consequences, and finally making a decision that is the best option. Some learners like to use experience and evidence to make decisions, and others make decisions through a mechanism called “gut feeling,” which is termed by learning experts as intuition.

Functionality and Organization- how a learner maximizes time usage and organizes information and daily activities is related to the brain. Cognitive experts have identified a group of skills called executive functions located in the frontal lobe of the brain. Planning, organizing, and time management are three executive functions that can speed up or slow down learning. Academic work needs solid planning for projects, study schedules, maintaining focus, and maximizing memory. Many learning disabilities are linked to problems with executive functions. Very smart students can have problems with executive functions and struggle, not as a result of motivation or effort, but because of connections within the brain. Over time, the brain can mature and better connections can be created. In the meantime there are many strategies that help with learning difficulties.

The Learning Theorists- The Pioneers
The Behaviorist version of learning dismissed the importance of the role of the brain since no observable or measurable behavior could be directly linked to actions/mental processes of the brain. Changes in behavior, that as a result cause learning, can be initiated by using a planned stimulus to achieve an anticipated response. One difficulty with this approach is that not everyone can be directed to the same desired behavior/response by providing the same stimulus. Humans have diversity and some simply do not follow the chosen path of the stimulus giver. Responses other than what was intended as the final result of attempted conditioning could happen. Development was not a prime function of Behaviorism, instead obtaining a conditioned response was the primary aim.

In the early and mid 20th Century, many learning theorists had a perspective different from the Behaviorist view that learning is simply a matter of providing a stimulus to elicit a desired response from the learner. Some researchers and theorists started to think of the learner as going through developmental stages that took into consideration mental processes.

Then in response to the Behaviorist claim that Cognitivists and Constructivists did not have observable data, came research demonstrating the electrical and chemical processes linking the brain and learning. Developmental and brain behavior research became part of the overriding field of cognitive science.

Cognitive researchers map the brain and visually validate electrical activity patterns during various learning tasks. Brain mapping can also compare he patterns of different types of learners and seeks to explain how learning and explain differences between learners. Today, the Cognitive School of Psychology is the dominant theory in learning, as applied to typical school tasks such as memory, understanding difficult concepts, and developing executive function skills that enhance academic success. The 1990’s were known as the “Decade of the Brain.” In short, learning became a science. And the brain became the center of the Cognitive universe.

The research findings from cognitive science not only demonstrate how the brain functions in tasks such as memory, reading, calculating, and problem solving, but also allows educators to put in place “prescriptive strategies” for learners who are having difficulties with normal schoolwork.

Cognitive science and modern educational practices focus on the learner as a unique individual, one that possesses a personal style, preferences, and an exclusive skill set for learning. It is now recognized that students who experience difficulties in learning may be very intelligent, even though the results of classwork may not indicate high success. As a result, learners are obtaining intervention strategies that can hopefully help to overcome learning impediments.

Next is a brief look at some of the cognitive/constructivist theorists, whose theories have greatly affected the understanding of, and practices related to, learning and teaching.

Jean Piaget-

Jean Piaget was a Swiss psychologist who lived from 1896 to 1980. He was the pioneer of pioneers concerning cognitive learning theory and developmental psychology.

Piaget used a research method known as a case study with his own children. In a case study one or a few subjects is/are studied with great detail. He is given credit for founding the fields of cognitive learning and developmental psychology, and developing a theory of cognitive development that included four stages, other researchers would later offer versions of developmental stage theories.

Piaget developed a series of tasks, now known as Piagetian tasks, to determine what stage of development (see below stages of development) a child was undergoing; his tasks were used to verify when a child passed from one stage to the next. Piaget’s four stages were in order and could not be leapfrogged or skipped.

One task Piaget used involved taking two identical amounts of water and transferring the contents of one into a skinny tall container. Even though a young child saw that both amounts of water were equal, the water in the skinny, tall container appeared to hold more to a young child that had not yet passed through a certain stage of development.

Piaget also came up with a learning mechanism known as a discrepant event. When a learner is given a situation, or a conclusion, that makes no sense, that goes beyond and/or against what the learner knows from previous experience, this creates a state of puzzlement known as disequilibrium. The learner’s interest is peaked and motivation to learn and break the unpleasant state of confusion is increased. Piaget used discrepant events to start a learning session. A very good example would be a science teacher starting a class by placing an index card completely over a small cup of water and turning it upside down. A learner with no previous experience with this experiment, or the governing scientific principle of air pressure, probably assumes that the water will quickly spill. The difference in air pressure outside and inside the cup causes the water to stay in the container. This is a great way to learn about air pressure because the learner wants to know the reasons for the unexpected result; the Constructivist would take this a step further by having the student directly experience the experiment. Piaget and others have created many discrepant events. But it would be near impossible to develop enough discrepant events for every lesson presented. Science is the subject best suited for using discrepant events.

Piaget is best known for his theory of developmental stages. There are four stages in his theory listed below:

  • Sensori-motor- from birth to 2 years.
  • Preoperational- from 2 years to 7 years
  • Concrete operational- from 7-11 years old (or later)
  • Abstract (formal operational)- 11 years old to adult

In the sensori-motor stage, the child is the center of the universe. For example, a one year old sees a ball roll behind a couch and it disappears from sight. To the sensori-motor learner, the ball ceases to exist, but a child in the next stage, preoperational, would go after the ball.

Mammals care for their young during this critical early time of development, which provides a great advantage for survival. No infant could survive without parental care. Environmental exposure slowly develops skills that are critical to human function. The process of development is slow the first two years of life, and then picks up as movement and language use becomes more proficient.

As mentioned, preoperational children, by two years of age, have developed some skill in the use of symbolic language, such as words, and later letters and numbers. The brain increases in size during the first two years of growth and speech centers allow verbal language. At first an infant may just mimic back a sound with no real understanding of what the word represents. But later mental representations are formed so that the preoperational child knows who Mom and Dad are, what is a dog, and thousands of other ideas that become life-long schema.

During the preoperational stage, the child is still vey self-centered. This fact, plus the use of verbal language, not always correctly, may explain the phase known to some as the terrible two year. Children do learn, helped by past experiences from the first two years, but learning is still largely trial and error.

In the third developmental stage, concrete operational, the learner can engage in logical thought using mental operations, including events and mental representations. In this stage a learner passes through the Piagetian tasks of conservation: number, mass, and weight. Learners in this stage can perform simple sorting, based on a common characteristic, and can also classify.

The last stage is known as abstract, abstract thinking, or formal operational. Sometimes middle schoolers seem to bounce between concrete operational and formal operational thought. This can be frustrating to young learners, but adults also may encounter difficulties with the abstract. The scientific process is an example of abstract thinking that involves a series of logical steps. Theoretical analysis and thinking about the hypothetical are common higher-level operations used to arrive at and support a valid conclusion.

The use of Piagetian tasks can provide evidence that a child may be ready to proceed to the next level of development by reversing mental operations. As an example, a child of six is shown two balls of clay that are absolutely equal in size and shape. The child declares both clay balls to be equal. The experimenter then makes one ball of clay really long, like a log. A child in the preoperational stage of development would say the long clay ball is bigger; a child in the next stage, concrete thinking, would say something like “Of course the two balls are equal, all you did was stretch one..”

Reviewing, Piaget believed humans passed through the four stages in order, from first (sensori-motor) to last (abstract) and development could not be leap-frogged or significantly speeded up. This explains how some learners appear to lag behind others but later catch up as adults. It explains why 13 year olds have great differences as learners and people, since there is not only a wide range of physical characteristics, but clear differences in mental development as well.

Schemas were important to Piaget in explaining developmental growth and learning. A schema is a broad idea or concept based on experience. Those who study human learning may define a schema somewhat differently, but to Piaget a schema was a building block of knowledge and a way to understand and make sense of the world.

Every learner uses thousands of schema daily. A schema is a set of smaller mental representations linked together by similarity. For example, the idea of a chair is a mental representation, as is a table. The idea of all of the furniture in the house, or where the furniture is placed to create a house plan, would be more of a schema. A baseball is a mental representation. How to follow all of the rules of baseball correctly is more of a schema. When a learner understands, and is comfortable with, a collective group of schemas, Piaget referred to this state as mental equilibrium. Tough learning (abstract) means more schemas and more difficult schemas. Medical school schemas are far more advanced than forming a plan to clean your room.

Piaget understood that to learn humans needed to respond to their environments. He proposed that this was done through two processes known as assimilation and accommodation. Assimilation is taking input from the environment and finalizing schemas that make sense. Accommodation is the new and the old mixing to create new understanding between the environment and the knowledge created by the learner.

Jerome Bruner-

Jerome Bruner in the early part of the cognitive revolution was a giant of learning theory.
Jerome Bruner did much of his famous research and writing in the 1960’s. Two still classic psychological works he wrote are The Process of Education and Towards a Theory of Instruction. His theoretical elements of learning are discussed below.

Bruner believed deeply in discovery learning as a means of effective learning. Bruner’s insights from his research led to a great outgrowth of this teaching/learning method being used in classrooms.

Discovery learning is meant to be very active. Discovery and active perfectly describe hands-on science. So, starting in the 1960’s the use of many funded, research-based discovery science programs became the desired teaching method in science education. Discovery, of course, is not merely limited to science.

Bruner preferred the spiral approach for teaching a concept. The spiral approach is when a concept is taught over and over at different times until the concept is mastered at the highest abstract level. Today many textbook programs and courses of study still use the spiral approach; it simply seems to work.

The key to learning, Bruner stated, is motivation; therefore, starting a discovery lesson mandates interest that causes motivation. To gain and hasten interest, Bruner advocated starting a lesson (providing motivation) with a problem, whereas Piaget used discrepant events.

Eventually, children, and adults as well, must learn how to learn, a condition learning theorists refer to as metacognition. Bruner believed that discovery learning enhances higher level thinking skills and problem solving, true building blocks of learning.

Bruner disagreed with Piaget, in that Piaget theorized that children must pass through his sequential series of four developmental stages before being capable of higher-level thinking. Bruner believed that precise teaching with superb methodology could cause learners to achieve abstract thinking. He valued the use of concept mapping to present ideas and accelerate abstract learning.

Bruner also valued the interaction process between teachers and learners encouraged by discovery learning. Bruner labeled the problem and discovery phase as the action or enactive mode and the final product of discovery learning should be abstract or formal thinking.

Bruner was a forerunner to learning style research. His visual, tactile, and auditory styles of learning are well known to teachers and learners alike. Although simple, his three style preferences remain in wide use today.

The field of learning theory (discussed in a different section) known as Constructivism owes much to Bruner and his research. His research and theory provided a framework for this important school of psychology.

Lev Vygotsky-

Vygotsky is often compared to Piaget; there are similarities and differences. Both are Constructivists and both addressed cognitive development. Piaget was more in the Cognitivist camp and Vygotsky can be labeled as a Social-Constructivist. Piaget proclaimed the importance of the self for initiating motivation and Vygotsky, being in the social camp, valued collaborative group learning and social interaction. Vygotsky’s theory stated that the group enables individuals to construct knowledge and create an atmosphere that causes learning. Vygotsky’s theory recognizes the role of culture and language in the learning process; language being the tool for increasing intellectual growth. Piaget seemed far less concerned about the role of peer groups or culture and asserted that individuals construct their own knowledge since each person’s experience is different from others. Piaget viewed the teacher as a guide and Vygotsky viewed the teacher as a mentor. Vygotsky was concerned more about processes than a child’s age or developmental level.

Today, Vygotsky’s theory is revered by many learning specialists. His Zone of Proximal Development is taught at great length and essentially states that learners need expert help to be pushed beyond what is known, but cannot be achieved independently. The interaction and mentoring provided by a skilled adult can create knowledge for young learners. This contradicted Piaget’s view of strict developmental stages.

David Ausubel-

Ausubel may be most famous for advocating advance organizers. Advance organizers provide the learner with a heads-up of what is important before the teaching begins, either through stated lesson objectives or the confirming of intended outcomes beforehand. Students tend to focus on what has previously been identified as being important. Ausubel thought discovery learning was fine, but that other methods could also be effective. He did believe that discovery learning was effective for learners not yet capable of formal thought. In short, Ausubel believed that good teaching yielded excellent results, regardless of the selected teaching method.

Ausubel also introduced another famous learning tenet: that learning is most meaningfuland lasts longerif linked to previous knowledge. The known is linked to what needs to be learned. Students fill out pretests and graphic organizers to identify what is known, what a learner wants to learn, and perhaps what must be learned. Later on, concept mapping (inspired by Bruner and developed by Joseph Novak) has been used for reinforcing advance organizers and concept development.

Robert Gagne-

Gagne became famous for developing individualized instruction. Teachers should test for prerequisite skills and gauge previous knowledge. Learning is sequential and like many other theorists, Gagne stated that learning progressed through a hierarchy. Alternative teaching methods should be offered for those not succeeding as well as most students. Today this is known as INTERVENTION and is the law of the land.

Memory- Forever Linked to Learning
When discussing learning, the topics of intelligence and memory are always a part of the discussion. This section of the learning guide will examine: (1) a reasonable definition of memory; (2) components of memory models; (3) types of memory; (4) forgetting and memory; (5) memory research, and (6) study techniques.

Defining Memory-
Memory is a part of human function. Memory is the ability to obtain, detect, retain, process, construct, and reconstruct (to change an idea into a new idea) information. Memory can be classified several ways into several types as discussed below.

Defining memory involves information processing models and also categorizing memory into separate types that humans have clearly used throughout history.

Components of Memory Models

First, let us look at typical information processing models. A good way to approach understanding a memory-processing model is to consider the number three. Most models present three distinct parts: sensory memory, short-term memory, and long-term memory.

Sensory memory involves all of the environmental input that literally bombards humans every minute. Our senses gather constant sounds, light waves and visual images, smells, tastes, and touches.

Fortunately, sensory memory has a filtering system that instantly dismisses most of the multitude of environmental stimuli. What is instantly perceived to be important gains the condition/mechanism learning theorists refer to as attention. When reading, the words being interpreted by the brain and eye mechanism gain attention. If the words are truly evaluated by the learner as being important, they may be committed to the next step of memory, termed short-term memory. An unusual or loud noise creates attention and a person may react to find the cause. Like visual stimuli, auditory stimuli are only remembered for a few seconds, so if attention is achieved the learner must act quickly. So, only stimuli of interest gain attention, the rest of the multitude are quickly dismissed as being unworthy for attention and transfer to short-term memory.

Depending on the source, short-term memory is usually considered to be between a few seconds and 30 seconds. Short-term memory is temporary but none the less is still a critical step if information is to eventually be placed into long-term memory; it is also called working memory. One of the greatest memory experts ever was George Miller, who conducted research on short-term memory and how to place bits of information (chunks) into long-term memory. His Magic Number 7, Plus or Minus Two, research concluded that most people can place between 5 and nine bits of information into short-term memory within a few seconds, the common and comfortable number being seven. And so the seven-digit phone number became a reality in the 1950’s. Taking much information and placing it into shorter, but easier to remember, chunks helps to efficiently place information into short-term and later on long-term memory. Let us return to the phone number: Miller and the phone companies placed a dash between the first three and the last four numbers of a phone number (for example 758-2689). The seven bits of information were chunked into two groups of numbers, the first three and the second four. It is easier to remember two, short bits of information rather than four.

Short-term memory is like a notepad, and in fact millions of notepads are used each year to put down information that can save retrieval time if short-term memory fails after a few seconds. Things like phone numbers, addresses, number sequences, and perhaps even a music passage can be remembered for a few seconds, but easily forgotten even a minute later unless the learner purposely “rehearses’ the information into long-term memory. We all know our phone number and address, perhaps even longer library card numbers, social security numbers, and similar items, since such information is constantly being used and has been incorporated into the memory centers of the brain. Older learners may remember a childhood phone number from fifty years ago. This would indicate how well the information was rehearsed into permanent long-term memory. It would also indicate that the learner considered the information to be critical enough to rehearse hundreds of times to ensure the information stayed in long-term memory.

Again, short-term memory (working memory) lasts for a short period of time (30 seconds) and requires reinforcement before the memory is lost (decays). Use this memory type quickly if you want the information to hang around and be retrieved.

Long-term memory is information important enough to be rehearsed into memory that lasts for more than a mere few seconds. If the amount of information is overwhelming, then leaning strategies must be employed to make the task shorter and ultimately achievable. If information successfully is transferred to long-term memory, it must be rehearsed now and then or the memory will eventually fade away (decay). For example, a difficult earth science test requires that 15 pieces of evidence supporting the theory of plate tectonics must be identified and explained with confirming examples. The student memorizes all of the material needed to perfectly answer the long essay. If that same essay was given again to the student, without any preparation just a mere two weeks into the future, there would be little chance that 100 percent of the information previously memorized could be retrieved from long-term memory to complete the second attempt. The student would almost certainly remember some of the points and evidence, perhaps those thought to be most important, or those that took the most preparation time, or those with which the learning was linked to previous knowledge. Any memorized information can decay over time and become extinguished. Continuous rehearsal is a must to keep the information totally intact within the long-term memory structures.

Below is a typical three-part information-processing model.

Types of Memory

The types of memory as classified by Peter Russell in The Brain Book and others are defined and discussed below:

Episodic memory- refers to long-term memory and is the ability to keep intact in memory past events.
Factual memory- is common to everyone’s daily life and involves events such as important dates, phone numbers, facts for tests, and anything else that needs simple recall. Recall is a mental process that all of us use dozens of times daily. Sometimes it fails- for example, a student studied the order of the Presidents and forgot President number 20. Immediately after the test, the memory came back through simple recall. So, in this case factual memory worked, but since the test was over, there would be no credit for the answer, even though the learner now has President number 20 in the long-term memory. This happens on tests, sometimes because of bad luck, other times due to factors such as stress.
Semantic memory- is another type of memory humans use daily, maybe even hundreds or thousands of times. Semantic memory involves symbols that have meaning, such as numbers, letters, and other symbols (like road signs). Humans use these symbols to make sense out of daily living. Each letter, number, or symbol takes on a meaning. Semantic memory is long-term and starts very early in life.
Sensory memory- as one would expect, sensory memory uses the senses, like vision, sound, taste, touch, and smell to make sense of the environment. Remembering a face is sensory memory, as is remembering a familiar piece of music, recognizing pumpkin pie by sight or taste, or identifying an object by touch in the dark.
Skills- humans acquire thousands of skills throughout a lifetime. Some skills are needed for survival, although in today’s world, not everyone practices survival skills. Some skills, such as sports skills, are learned, rehearsed, and placed into kinesthetic motor skill areas of the brain. For example, a good golf swing must be constantly rehearsed and placed into brain and motor muscle memory. Walking, speaking, mowing the yard, riding a bicycle, or driving a car are skills created through memory processes. Learning this way is referred to as procedural knowledge or procedural memory.
Instinctive memory- this includes automatic (autonomic) survival skills for humans such as feeding, breathing, digestion, and sleeping. It has been inferred by research that much of this knowledge may be genetic and therefore is stored in the genes. It is also theorized that this memory eventually shows up in mental and physical traits.
Collective memory- is a type of memory suggested by Carl Jung, a researcher best known for identifying personality types, such as introvert and extrovert. Jung believed humans had access to past, collective human race memories that were manifested in dreams.
Past-life memory- is similar to collective and instinctive memory cited above and is based on events that happened before a person was born, perhaps important events that were passed on through ancestral genes.

Other categories of memory proposed by researchers include:
Iconic memory- is remembering visual images. Short-term visual images may last about 1/4th of a second. Some images are so profound, shocking, or important that an image almost appears to be carved into memory. This phenomenon is referred to by some as flashbulb memory. Like all memory, even flashbulb memories fade with time leading to inaccuracies. Witnesses who view important events are certainly not foolproof in describing what actually happened, especially as time passes.

Closing the eyes and visualizing images (mental pictures) can be a learning tool. Some students use this technique to remember notes. Learners with a visual preference may find this memory method effective. Famous researchers of iconic memory (1960’s) include George Sperling, whose research indicated typical iconic memory is ¼ of a second, or less, and Ulric Neisser, who defined the term iconic memory. Neisser also researched echoic memory discussed below.
Echoic memory- lasts longer than iconic memory, according to Sperling’s research. It is, like iconic memory, sensory, in this case memory that involves sound (auditory). Iconic memory can be repeated over and over by focusing on a visual source. But Echoic memories may involve a sound with no future stimulus. The brain can basically make a copy of a sound for a few seconds (echoic memories last for about four seconds). In everyday life, a listener may be able to repeat an exact short conversation for a few seconds, after which the accuracy of the exact conversation probably declines.
Eidetic memory is known as photographic memory, which is the ability to remember considerable information for much longer times than short-term memory. It appears that few people (if any) really have total photographic memory. Children have a higher percentage than adults for possessing eidetic memory and this type of memory is not directly linked to superior intelligence scores.
Lexical memory- is a type of memory centered on vocabulary and words. George Miller studied lexical memory and reported that this memory type is complex and massive in volume, at the very least thousands of words. Lexical memory is stable and throughout life new words and their meanings are added to the mind’s memory vault. While the words humans use are exclusive of each other, collectively words become a system of communication that enhances both memory and learning.

Forgetting, Memory, and Learning-
Forgetting may best be defined as a loss of previously retained information, whether lost after seconds or years. There are many types of forgetting and reasons for it. There may be no reason or importance for remembering. A person simply may not want to remember a painful event and subconsciously forgets over time. The stimuli that led to the original learning/memory may not be present. The brain organically can diminish the ability to memorize or remember over time, through aging and conditions associated with aging, such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. The cause can be an unfortunate injury or illness. Or, humans can on occasion just happen to forget. Perhaps new material just never was encoded into the long-term memory storage.

The decay theory expresses the position that memories are chemically formed in the brain and that unless these memories are occasionally retrieved, forgetting starts to occur with time and the memory fades.

Interference has long been known to foster forgetting. Interference can be as simple as having environmental stimuli, such as bright light or loud music, interfere with processing and memorizing information. New material being learned competes with older material already previously learned causing memory limits to stretch (although the mind has a remarkable capacity). Old material may be interfered with and forgetting results, or conversely, the old material may interfere with the memorizing or processing of new material.

Human motivation affects memory (and certainly learning). Some learning, and the resulting long-term memory, is just not important to learners. Little effort is put forward and what is processed from short-term to long-term memory may only last minutes or hours without the processes of rehearsal or reinforcement being again encoding information into long-term memory.

Just remember, everyone forgets; this does not mean that the brain is not functioning correctly. Forgetting means that information was not rehearsed or used enough to stay in long-term memory. Also remember there are common causes for forgetting, especially interference that can overload the sensory and short-term memory mechanisms causing confusion and a feeling of being overwhelmed with information.

Famous Memory Research
The research findings related to memory are fun to study and useful in developing personal memory techniques that can make memorizing easier.

Earlier the name Dr. George Miller was mentioned within the short-term memory section. Dr. Miller was an absolute giant in the field of memory. As previously noted, his famous research titled The Magic Number 7, Plus or Minus Two, concluded that most people can place between 5 and nine bits of information into short-term memory within a few seconds, the common and comfortable number being seven. This means that the average person can comprehend and store about seven bits of information within a matter of a few seconds. Without reinforcement (rehearsal) the information learned quickly becomes extinct and does not become part of the long-term memory. If the material is rehearsed and practiced, then the material can be recalled from long-term memory to be used over and over. Phone numbers and addresses are commonly rehearsed into long-term memory and can last for decades.

Dr. Miller discovered another phenomenon related to short-term memory known as chunking. In chunking, bits of information are put together, or chunked, to be able to absorb more information into Miller’s magic number seven. As mentioned earlier, a telephone number with a dash can become two combined chunks of information instead of seven separate bits of information. Social Security numbers have three numbers, followed by a dash, then two numbers, and finally four more numbers. This is a total of nine bits of information, but by chunking the numbers into smaller groups, the nine numbers become three bits of information, which according to Miller’s theory is quite doable.

Hermann Ebbinghaus (1850-1909) was another very famous memory researcher who researched forgetting. To perfectly measure how much information was remembered and forgotten, Ebbinghaus used nonsense words to study how fast short-term memory faded. A nonsense word is a meaningless short combination of one or two consonants, one or two vowels and another one or two consonants. Some examples of nonsense words include kags, zab, trasp, and glab. Such words cannot easily be linked to any previous knowledge or experiences. Therefore, the final actual memory score has minimal error due to pure luck. Many times memory tests match common words with nonsense words to test memory. For example: a cat is a zab, a dog is a glab, and a house is a trasp.

Ebbinghaus also is credited with another important memory finding known as the Primacy and Recency Effect. When memorizing lists of words, or other study material, Ebbinghaus found that the first bits of information (primacy) and the last bits of information (recency) studied were more likely to be memorized (remembered) into long-term memory than the material placed in the middle. So, if a list of 50 spelling words is studied, the first few and the last few have a higher chance of being remembered than words in the middle of the list.

Ebbinghaus also is credited for developing a forgetting curve. He used three-letter nonsense words to measure the effect of the passage of time on memory and forgetting. As one would expect, the accuracy of his memory scores declined over a period of time ranging from a few minutes to 31 days. The forgetting curve showed a decrease in nonsense word scores over various time periods, unless the words were reinforced and kept in long-term memory by further memorization. So, how much time is used to memorize material, and the method of memorizing information are both important in learning.

Factors That Affect Memory

Many believe that intelligence is the primary factor in good memory. Intelligence is more than memory and memory is more than intelligence. Obviously the two factors have some relationship. Some researchers conclude that short-term memory (working memory) is linked to intelligence, but the common concept that good memory equals good intelligence is not an absolute truth.

Memory is only a tool that is used to master typical material in learning situations like the everyday classroom. Memory by itself does not guarantee understanding information, it must also be successfully processed, and eventually the meaning of the new information must be understood and have meaning. Information is either incorporated into a previously existing learning schema, or a new schema (a mental process that creates a framework to organize and interpret information).

There are many other factors in learning besides an individual’s basic, overall intelligence level and ability to place information into memory. Personal motivation plays a major role in learning. Can a person truly be forced to learn? Or, instead, is learning, and the time commitment to learning, dependent on the importance an individual places on the process of learning?

The ability to focus and filter information affects memory. Information must undergo the process of being recognized as important through a filtering process before entering the stage of short-term and long-term memory. Some learners struggle with environmental focus and can become easily distracted. Some learners barely place learned material into long-term memory and it quickly becomes extinct (forgotten) a few hours, or even minutes, later.

Research from the late 20th Century indicates that learning style, preference and personality type can affect learning. Learning styles include auditory, visual, and kinesthetic. Personality styles include introvert, extravert, sensing, intuitive, thinking, feeling, judgmental and perceptive. For some learners, any distraction, however minimal, can influence the memory process and inhibit learning. Some learners can get excellent results by studying in an environment with moderate background noise. Most learners function best in good lighting and a quiet environment, but some can do well with noise and lowered light.

Another branch of cognitive research indicated learners have strengths in specific types of intelligence. Howard Gardner has identified styles known as multiple intelligences. Examples would include interpersonal, intrapersonal, linguistic, visual, musical, and kinesthetic.

So, memory is but one factor that affects the process of learning. But regardless of style or preference, all humans learn and memory is like the bank window, where money is handed over and placed into a bank vault. In memory, information is placed into short-term memory and placed in the vault of long-term memory.

Using Study and Research Techniques That Help Memory-
Memory can be improved. The methods for improving memory are not difficult and the improvement can be very beneficial.

For years, physical activities such as Brain Gym (copyrighted term) have been available to improve memory. A quick search on a web shows many brain gym activities. Physical activity, that is, movement, makes learning fun. Exercise stimulates blood flow to the brain and muscles. Brain gym uses exercises that incorporate movements that cross right and left (the lateral midline of the body): for example, the right hand touches the left shoulder, or the left elbow touches the right knee. Both brain hemisphere. Physical movements that turn up the blood flow or initiate cross-brain functioning are good warm-ups before starting academic work. In general staying physically active is thought to improve memory and learning.

Classical music has been studied for several years. Many people like to study (use memory) with classical music in the background. Don Campbell, years ago, hypothesized that Mozart could help improve learning and memory. He has turned this idea into a business and is known for what he calls The Mozart Effect.
Campbell’s and others enthusiasm comes from an original study that indicated learners who listened to soft Mozart music (a sonata) for ten minutes before testing had better results. Other researchers immediately pointed out that simply listening to music does not make smarter people.

Regardless, music is creative and relaxing. Listening to classical music certainly will not hinder learning. Mozart wrote very pleasing melodic music, but so did Beethoven, Bach, and others. There are many available music cd’s that contain only adagio (slow, relaxing) movements. Most find this slow, instrumental music calming.

Whether a learner chooses to listen to soft classical music may simple depend on personal preference. There are learners that seem to thrive on higher volume and higher energy selections.

Chunking, a technique pioneered by George Miller, was discussed previously. Chunking is a technique that takes information and compresses it into smaller, easier to learn, blocks. Study notes can be chunk into smaller sections. Information can be chunked into categories, alphabetized, or numbered.

Mnemonic (memory aid) word devices such as rhymes, acronyms, and silly sentences/acrostics have been used for ages to help memory. For most people these devices are very effective and use the principle of chunking larger bits of information into a smaller, more manageable amount that may help short-term memory since many mnemonics use nine or less bits of information.

A familiar rhyme like: In fourteen hundred and ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue. This rhyme tells us what year Columbus traveled to the New World and how voyaged.

An example of an acronym is HOMES for remembering the Great Lakes: Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior. Acronyms are used daily; some common examples are RIP, TV, VIP, and USA.

A familiar silly sentence has been used for decades to remember the order of the planets. It goes like this: My very educated mother just served us nine pizzas. There are many variations of this sentence, but the idea is that nine planets are organized into one bit of information, a sentence. The sentence does not have to be silly, but silly and out of the ordinary slogans/sentences are easier to remember.

A longstanding and still popular memory aid is association. Association links something new that is being learned with something that is familiar. What is used as the link is up to the learner. If a person meets someone named Frank, to avoid forgetting who Frank is the learner can visualize the new acquaintance Frank with a known Frank, maybe even a famous Frank like Franklin D. Roosevelt, or even a hot dog frank. Silly and unusual associations work well in memory aids. Many regard association as the best possible memory aid.

In history class, French History is the topic. To remember Napoleon, a learner may visualize a picture of Napoleon taking a nap. To remember the battle of Waterloo, a learner may visualize Napoleon taking a Nap on a water raft with a guy named Lou paddling. As mentioned above, remembering by using the unusual, weird, funny, unlikely, funny, or outrageous works. Let us say a library card number keeps slipping from memory. The number can be said over and over by rote memory, which is what most people do. The number can be chunked; that may help but the number may still be forgotten. The number is 84149210. Eighty-four is part of your house number, 1492 is when Columbus made it to America, and 10 is the age of your sister. So, visualize Columbus standing on the steps of your house by the number 84 and your sister is on the other side of the number. The idea is to simply associate something that is known to what is being learned.

The Method of Loci is probably not used as much as the other memory methods, but it has been around since ancient times. Creative people probably find this method interesting, exciting, and fulfilling. It uses the principle of association; the association is between items that need to be learned and different locations along a familiar route, say to or from school. There are 10 street signs on the way home from school and the task is to learn the levels of biological classification. So the first sign, Broad Street, becomes Kingdom, the second sign, Maple Street, may become Phylum, and so on until genus and species have acquired associations.

Rote Memory is simply memorizing something over and over again by repetition until a learner is satisfied the material has been placed into memory. Learners universally use this method until a better method is introduced and practiced. Rote memory takes time, is not creative, creates little excitement for learning, is tedious, and may result in material being forgotten quicker than with the methods described above. Rote memory is repetition based and good for reciting basic information such as routine facts or spelling words. It is not optimum for higher-level problem solving or other critical thinking skills. But it can be said that rote learning is the bridge between simple recall learning and understanding difficult concepts that go beyond mere memory.

Overlearning means that a learner places information into long-term memory that even with the passage of time much of the material will remain and can be retrieved. Some learners make the mistake of going through material and quitting after all the mater has been successfully recalled once. A good rule is to try and recite all the material four straight times without an error. If material is memorized several times, say over a period of days, and overlearned each time, the results will probably be better than having overlearned only one day before a test.

Timing: after placing information into memory, Ebbinghaus’s research indicated that memory decayed over time. If at all possible, after putting the information into memory, try and review the material as best possible before test time. If the material really was encoded into long-term memory, then it should take a very short amount of time to review and reinforce the subject matter before a test.

Primacy and Recency Effect, a part of Ebbinghaus’ research was explained earlier. The important finding was that material memorized at the very start of a study/memory session, and material memorized at the very end was more likely to be remembered than material in the middle of the session. So, as a good strategy a learner could identify the material that seems the most difficult to learn and place it at the front end, back end, or both of a study session or the prepared notes.

A learner must accept that the method that works best is the method to use, regardless of how strange it may seem. Visual learners may do well with methods that emphasize concept webs or visualization. Kinesthetic learners may do best by using brain gym and moving while studying. Auditory learners may simply like to read notes to themselves, make note cards, or listening to prepared auditory material like tapes. Introverts may prefer being in a quite setting with no one else around and retreat into a private study world. Extraverts may thrive having five friends over and using social means to share and learn.