Learning is a lifelong process, spanning way beyond the classroom. we should guide our children to learn effectively, so that they can start reaping the compounded benefits from a young age. Here are three ways to improve your child’s learning.
METHOD 1: RELATE; DON’T MEMORISE
Our brain remembers information by relations—unlike computers where information is stored in discrete files. When we try to learn something new, our brains try to relate it to a piece of knowledge we already have. This is why mind maps are sometimes recommended as effective learning tools.
Memorising concepts without understanding how they fit into the big picture is therefore similar to building sandcastles in the air—there is no solid foundation, and this knowledge will come crumbling down in no time.
Therefore, when reading a new chapter in the textbook, instead of simply going page by page, we should take a quick glance through the material to get the big picture, identifying the main concepts, how they are related to one another and how they are related to something we already know.
METHOD 2: USE SPACED REPETITION; DON’T OVER-LEARN
A good way to internalise a piece of knowledge is to revisit it often. Spending 3 sessions of 20 minutes learning and revising a concept beats 1 session of 60 minutes repeatedly hammering it into our memory.
We often hear about students “hugging the Buddha leg” (a colloquial term for studying at the last minute), attempting to spend a large chunk of time—most likely one or two days before an examination—to aggressively and intensively get themselves up to speed with the curriculum.
They may succeed in ramming the facts into their brains to tide them through the examinations, but this information does not get retained well. After a holiday break, when the new academic year starts, they may not remember what they had learnt, and in turn face difficulties learning new content which builds on this knowledge.
METHOD 3: USE THE FEYNMAN TECHNIQUE
This method is similar to the one above—it also makes use of the fact that every time we retrieve a memory, we make it stronger. While the previous method focuses on the “when”, this method focuses on the “how”.
In the Feynman Technique, students should pretend that they are teaching a 5 year old kid about the concept that they are trying to internalise. This means that they must break it down into simple words so that the 5 year old can understand. The crucial step here is that if they get stuck, they must fill the gaps in their understanding by reviewing the materials or seeking help from tutors. By breaking down the concept, it deepens the understanding of what students already know and also raises awareness of what they don’t know.
Here’s an example of how a student can apply the Feynman Technique to understand the concept of “heat capacity” by explaining it to himself, using his own words:
A property of a material that describes how much heat energy it can store before its temperature changes.
For example, Jack uses the same burner to heat up both substances A and B for 5 minutes. He notices that substance A ends up having a higher temperature than substance B. In other words, the temperature of substance A is “more responsive/reactive” to heat. This means that substance A has lower heat capacity—less heat energy is required for a rise in temperature.
THREE WAYS TO IMPROVE YOUR CHILD’S LEARNING
Parental influence on children in the first 12 years of their lives have a permanent effect. Unfortunately, children come with no user manual. Each child is different from the other. Discuss how to handle emotional and educational needs of your child here.