Vладiмiр (1way_to_english) wrote,

20 rules of formulating knowledge in learning

1. Do not learn if you do not understand. Trying to learn things you do not understand may seem like an utmost nonsense. Still, an amazing proportion of students commit the offence of learning without comprehension. Very often they have no other choice! The quality of many textbooks or lecture scripts is deplorable while examination deadlines are unmovable.

If you are not a speaker of German, it is still possible to learn a history textbook in German. The book can be crammed word for word. However, the time needed for such "blind learning" is astronomical. Even more important: The value of such knowledge is negligible. If you cram a German book on history, you will still know nothing of history.

The German history book example is an extreme. However, the materials you learn may often seem well structured and you may tend to blame yourself for lack of comprehension. Soon you may pollute your learning process with a great deal of useless material that treacherously makes you believe "it will be useful some day".

2 bloomshierarchy
retention - удержание в памяти

2. Learn before you memorize. Before you proceed with memorizing individual facts and rules, you need to build an overall picture of the learned knowledge. Only when individual pieces fit to build a single coherent structure, will you be able to dramatically reduce the learning time... This is closely related to the problem comprehension mentioned in Rule 1: Do not learn if you do not understand. A single separated piece of your picture is like a single German word in the textbook of history.

Do not start from memorizing loosely related facts! First read a chapter in your book that puts them together (e.g. the principles of the internal combustion engine). Only then proceed with learning using individual questions and answers (e.g. What moves the pistons in the internal combustion engine?), etc.

3. Build upon the basics. The picture of the learned whole (as discussed in Rule 2: Learn before you memorize) does not have to be complete to the last detail. Just the opposite, the simpler the picture the better. The shorter the initial chapter of your book the better. Simple models are easier to comprehend and encompass. You can always build upon them later on.

Do not neglect the basics. Memorizing seemingly obvious things is not a waste of time! Basics may also appear volatile and the cost of memorizing easy things is little. Better err on the safe side. Remember that usually you spend 50% of your time repeating just 3-5% of the learned material! Basics are usually easy to retain and take a microscopic proportion of your time. However, each memory lapse on basics can cost you dearly!

4. Stick to the minimum information principle. The material you learn must be formulated in as simple way as it is only possible. Simplicity does not have to imply losing information and skipping the difficult part. Simplicity is imperative due to the way the brain works. There are two main reasons for which knowledge must be simple:

- Simple is easy. By definition, simple material is easy to remember. This comes from the fact that its simplicity makes is easy for the brain to process it always in the same way. Imagine a labyrinth. When making a repetition of a piece of material, your brain is running through a labyrinth (you can view a neural network as a tangle of paths). While running through the labyrinth, the brain leaves a track on the walls. If it can run in only one unique way, the path is continuous and easy to follow. If there are many combinations, each run may leave a different trace that will interfere with other traces making it difficult to find the exit. The same happens on the cellular level with different synaptic connections being activated at each repetition of complex material

- Repetitions of simple items are easier to schedule. I assume you will make repetitions of the learned material using optimum inter-repetition intervals (as in SuperMemo). If you consider an item that is composed of two sub-items, you will need to make repetitions that are frequent enough to keep the more difficult item in memory. If you split the complex item into sub-items, each can be repeated at its own pace saving your time.

Very often, inexperienced students create items that could easily be split into ten or more simpler sub-items! Although the number of items increases, the number of repetitions of each item will usually be small enough to greatly outweigh the cost of (1) forgetting the complex item again and again, (2) repeating it in excessively short intervals or (3) actually remembering it only in part!

[Here is a striking example...]ill-плохо-formulated knowledge - Complex and wordy
Q: What are the characteristics of the Dead Sea?

A: Salt lake located on the border between Israel and Jordan. Its shoreline is the lowest point on the Earth's surface, averaging 396 m below sea level. It is 74 km long. It is seven times as salty (30% by volume) as the ocean. Its density keeps swimmers afloat. Only simple organisms can live in its saline waters

Well-formulated knowledge - Simple and specific
Q: Where is the Dead Sea located?
A: on the border between Israel and Jordan

Q: What is the lowest point on the Earth's surface?
A: The Dead Sea shoreline

Q: What is the average level on which the Dead Sea is located?
A: 400 meters (below sea level)

Q: How long is the Dead Sea?
A: 70 km

Q: How much saltier is the Dead Sea as compared with the oceans?
A: 7 times

Q: What is the volume content of salt in the Dead Sea?
A: 30%

Q: Why can the Dead Sea keep swimmers afloat?
A: due to high salt content

Q: Why is the Dead Sea called Dead?
A: because only simple organisms can live in it

Q: Why only simple organisms can live in the Dead Sea?
A: because of high salt content

You might want to experiment and try to learn two subjects using the two above approaches and see for yourself what advantage is brought by minimum information principle. This is particularly visible in the long perspective, i.e. the longer the time you need to remember knowledge, the more you benefit from simplifying your items!

Note in the example above how short the questions are. Note also that the answers are even shorter! We want a minimum amount of information to be retrieved from memory in a single repetition! We want answer to be as short as imaginably possible!

You will notice that the knowledge learned in the ill-structured example is not entirely equivalent to the well-structured formulation. For example, although you will remember why the Dead Sea can keep swimmers afloat, you may forget that it at all has such a characteristic in the first place! Additionally, rounding 396 to 400 and 74 to 70 produces some loss of information. These can be remedied by adding more questions or making the present ones more precise.

You will also lose the ability to fluently recite the description of the Dead Sea when called up to the blackboard by your teachers. I bet, however, that shining in front of the class is not your ultimate goal in learning. To see how to cope with recitations and poems, read further (section devoted to enumerations)

5. Cloze deletion is easy and effective. Cloze deletion is a sentence with its parts missing and replaced by three dots. Cloze deletion exercise is an exercise that uses cloze deletion to ask the student to fill in the gaps marked with the three dots. For example, Bill ...[name] was the second US president to go through impeachment.

If you are a beginner and if you find it difficult to stick to the minimum information principle, use cloze deletion! If you are an advanced user, you will also like cloze deletion. It is a quick and effective method of converting textbook knowledge into knowledge that can be subject to learning based on spaced repetition. Cloze deletion makes the core of the fast reading and learning technique called incremental reading.

Ill-formulated knowledge - Complex and wordy
Q: What was the history of the Kaleida company?
A: Kaleida, funded to the tune of $40 million by Apple Computer and IBM in 1991. Hyped as a red-hot startup, Kaleida's mission was to create a multimedia programming language It finally produced one, called Script X. But it took three years. Meanwhile, companies such as Macromedia and Asymetrix had snapped up all the business. Kaleida closed in 1995

[Well-formulated knowledge - Simple cloze deletion...]
Q: Kaleida was funded to the tune of ...(amount) by Apple Computer and IBM in 1991
A: $40 million

Q: Kaleida was funded to the tune of $40 million by ...(companies) in 1991
A: Apple and IBM

Q: Kaleida was funded to the tune of $40 million by Apple Computer and IBM in ... (year)
A: 1991

Q: ...(company) mission was to create a multimedia programming language. It finally produced one, called Script X. But it took three years
A: Kaleida's

Q: Kaleida's mission was to create a ... It finally produced one, called Script X. But it took three years
A: multimedia programming language

Q: Kaleida's mission was to create a multimedia programming language. It finally produced one, called ... But it took three years
A: Script X

Q: Kaleida's mission was to create a multimedia programming language. It finally produced one, called Script X. But it took ...(time)
A: three years

Q: Kaleida's mission was to create a multimedia programming language: Script X. But it took three years. Meanwhile, companies such as ... had snapped up all the business
A: Macromedia/Asymetrix

Q: Kaleida's mission was to create Script X. But it took three years. Meanwhile, companies such as Macromedia and Asymetrix had snapped up all the business. Kaleida closed in ...(year)
A: 1995

6. Use imagery. Visual cortex is that part of the brain in which visual stimuli are interpreted. It has been very well developed in the course of evolution and that is why we say one picture is worth a thousand words. Indeed if you look at the number of details kept in a picture and the easiness with which your memory can retain them, you will notice that our verbal processing power is greatly inferior as compared with the visual processing power. The same refers to memory. A graphic representation of information is usually far less volatile.

Usually it takes much less time to formulate a simple question-and-answer pair than to find or produce a neat graphic image. This is why you will probably always have to weigh up cost and profits in using graphics in your learning material. Well-employed images will greatly reduce your learning time in areas such as anatomy, geography, geometry, chemistry, history, and many more.

The power of imagery explains why the concept of Tony Buzan's mind maps is so popular. A mind map is an abstract picture in which connections between its components reflect the logical connections between individual concepts.
по теме * облегчает понимание и запоминание интеллект карта - mind map.

Less beneficial formulation
Q: What African country is located between Kenya, Zambia and Mozambique?
A: Tanzania

More effective formulation
Q: What African country is marked white on the map?

20 правил упорядочивания инфы для запоминания
A: Tanzania

7. Use mnemonic techniques. Mnemonic techniques are various techniques that make remembering easier. They are often amazingly effective. For most students, a picture of a 10-year-old memorizing a sequence of 50 playing cards verges on discovering a young genius. It is very surprising then to find out how easy it is to learn the techniques that make it possible with a dose of training. These techniques are available to everyone and do not require any special skills!

Before you start believing that mastering such techniques will provide you with an eternal solution to the problem of forgetting, be warned that the true bottleneck towards long-lasting and useful memories is not in quickly memorizing knowledge! This is indeed the easier part. The bottleneck lies in retaining memories for months, years or for lifetime! To accomplish the latter you will need SuperMemo and the compliance with the 20 rules presented herein.

There have been dozens of books written about mnemonic techniques. Probably those written by Tony Buzan are most popular and respected. You can search the web for keywords such as: mind maps, peg lists, mnemonic techniques, etc.

Experience shows that with a dose of training you will need to consciously apply mnemonic techniques in only 1-5% of your items. With time, using mnemonic techniques will become automatic!

Exemplary mind map:

20 правил упорядочивания инфы для запоминания 2

Six Steps mind map generated in Mind Manager 3.5, imported to SuperMemo 2004, courtesy of John England, TeamLink Australia

8. Graphic deletion is as good as cloze deletion. Graphic deletion works like cloze deletion but instead of a missing phrase it uses a missing image component. For example, when learning anatomy, you might present a complex illustration. Only a small part of it would be missing. The student's job is to name the missing area. The same illustration can be used to formulate 10-20 items! Each item can ask about a specific subcomponent of the image. Graphic deletion works great in learning geography!

Exemplary graphic deletion:

20 правил упорядочивания инфы для запоминания 3
Tags: про знания и их источники

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