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Top Study Tips with Richard Spacek

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1 Top Study Tips with Richard Spacek
Being a modification of “Bjork’s Big Seven,” developed by Dr. Robert Bjork, Professor of Psychology, University of California, Los Angeles, and supplemented by my own research.

2 Try the Neuromyths quiz!

3 1 False. fMRI has repeatedly shown several brain areas at work during activities There is no unused “reserve,” only some degree of specialization You use all of your brain. Though the 10-percent myth is widespread, recent neuroimaging technology has conclusively destroyed this falsehood. While not all of the brain is active all at once, functional magnetic resonance images (fMRI) show several brain areas are at work for any given activity, depending on what function is needed.

4 2 False. Polyphasic sleep (more than two sessions per night)
Usually the result of illness Often supplemented by daytime napping Polyphasic sleep is usually abnormal and causes sleep deprivation. It can seem to work for gifted, highly-motivated individuals (who are still more effective than average even with impaired performance) and for those NOT performing cognitively demanding tasks.

5 3 False. 1993 study suggested better “spatial task performance”
Result of mood, not congnitive improvement Learning a musical instrument does contribute to self-regulation and possible cognitive ability In 1993, a small study (Rauscher, Shaw, & Ky) showed that college students who listened to a Mozart sonata and then took an IQ test got higher scores than those who didn’t. But this so-called “Mozart effect” wore off in less than 15 minutes. Blasting classical music hasn’t been shown to improve intelligence in children or adults. In fact, researchers have found that young children who watch classical music-based television learn fewer words, just as children who watch regular television do. However, learning how to play a musical instrument has been shown to enhance cognitive skills in the long term. The actual “Mozart effect” seems to derive from improved mood. A 1999 study found the effects to be “an artifact of preference”: when people are in a good mood, they perform somewhat better. Listening to Mozart or to a narrated story both led to better results in a spatial-temporal task than did silence. Rauscher, F. H., Shaw, G. L., Ky, C. N. (1993). Music and spatial task performance. Nature, 365 (6447): 611. doi: /365611a0 Nantais, K. M., & Schellenberg, E. G. (1999). The Mozart effect: An artifact of preference. Psychological Science, 10(4),

6 4 False. Wakefield’s study was fraudulent and was withdrawn
He was stuck from the British Medical Register There has been no conclusive, scientific evidence that any part of a vaccine causes autism. A link was initially suspected by some because the first symptoms of autism typically emerge around the time children receive vaccinations. This link has been thoroughly reviewed, studied, and rejected, and the initial study by Andrew Wakefield purporting this link has been found to be FRAUDULENT and has been withdrawn (and he has been struck from the British Medical Register). Recent studies have shown that autism is tied to genes that influence brain cell connections.

7 5 False. Repairs are constantly carried out
“neuroplasticity” can help recovery in some serious cases While brain injury is always serious, in some instances, the brain can repair itself. Whether a person recovers from a brain injury depends on the location and severity of the damage. A concussion, a typically mild and common type of brain injury, usually results in only temporary disruption of brain functions as long as there is adequate recovery time and no repeated injury. Even after more serious brain injury, such as stroke, research indicates that—especially with the help of therapy—the brain may be capable of developing new connections and “reroute” function through healthy areas.

8 6. False. In certain areas, new neurons are formed constantly: hippocampus and olfactory bulb Cells constantly regenerated Your brain constantly generates new cells and remains adaptable—or “plastic”—as you age. Most brain cells, or neurons, are created before you are born. However, throughout adulthood new neurons are created in a few regions of the brain, including the hippocampus, where new memories are formed, and the olfactory bulb, where smells are processed

9 7 True. “spacing effect” is well documented
current research focuses on finding the ideal spacings The “spacing effect” is well documented; current research focuses on finding the ideal spacings, both in relation to the total time the information is meant to be retained and in relation to permanent availability Cepeda, N. J., Vul, E., Rohrer, D., Wixted, J. T., & Pashler, H. (2008). Spacing effects in learning: A temporal ridgeline of optimal retention. Psychological Science, 19(11), doi: /j x

10 8 False—BUT . . . Damage to dendrites will occur as a result of chronic abuse Vit. B1 deficiency can cause Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome Moderate amounts of alcohol do not kill brain cells; however, chronic alcohol abuse or binge drinking will damage the dendrites, affecting inter-cellular communication. Alcoholism can also cause vitamin B1 deficiency, leading to Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome (confusion, coordination problems, amnesia, and death). Zuccala, G. , et al. Dose-related impact of alcohol consumption on cognitive function in advanced age: Results of a multicenter study. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 2001, 25,

11 9 False. Only physical trauma can create a hole in your brain
Key brain regions in drug addicted people may be reduced in size Some drugs interfere with the way cells send and receive messages Only physical trauma can create a hole in your brain. Key brain regions in drug addicted people may be reduced in size, but no actual holes are formed as a result of drug use. Drugs interfere with the way cells send and receive messages. With chronic use, progressively more drugs are needed to achieve stimulation, and pleasure becomes more difficult to achieve naturally.

12 10 False. Crossword puzzles and similar games can help you learn words and improve specific skills, but will not enhance overall brain function Crossword puzzles and similar games can help you learn words and improve specific skills, but they won’t enhance overall brain function. Some software packages such as “Brain Gym” make this claim—on little evidence.

13 11 True. regular exercise can help maintain memory and general cognition Aerobic exercise increases blood flow to the brain, lessening rate of tissue loss during aging John Ratey, Harvard: increases production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) If you want to preserve your mental abilities, exercise your body. A healthy diet and regular exercise can help maintain memory and general cognition, particularly later in life. Starting habits that promote healthy cognitive aging early in life can preserve brain function during aging. Studies show that foods rich in nutrients and antioxidants appear to reduce the risks of age-related impairment. Aerobic exercise increases blood flow to the brain, and even lessens the rate of tissue loss during aging

14 12 False. Both hemispheres work together in almost every cognitive task that has been studied Something as broad (and ill-defined) as “creativity” is not centered in one hemisphere.

15 13 False. Arzi et al. (2012) determined that sleeping subject could learn smells—but that’s about it! Unfortunately, it appears that you can only learn smells. In a 2012 study, researchers sprayed volunteers with pleasant and unpleasant smells while they slept. Sleepers took bigger breaths for pleasant smells and smaller ones for unpleasant smells. Each smell was paired with a particular sound: a high-pitched beep for pleasant smells and base tone for unpleasant. When they played high-pitched beeps without a scent present, sleepers took deep breaths. They had learned to expect the pleasant smell; they were conditioned if not taught. Arzi, A., Shedlesday, L., Ben-Shaul, M., Nasser, K., Oksenbert, A., Hairston, I., & Sobel, N. (2012). Humans can learn new information during sleep. Nature Neuroscience 15, doi: /nn.3193

16 Bjork’s Big Seven Bjork combined years of research into a system of key study activities I have built on this

17 The Big Seven Concentrate Interpret & Understand
Organize & Structure Information Space & Repeat Test, Retest/Generate, Retrieve Organize Time Recognize Physical Factors

18 1. Concentrate Ever BLANK OUT while reading?
Ever notice that a lecture has moved on to a completely different topic while you “tuned-out”? Ever driven miles while your mind wandered? 1. Ever read several pages of text only to discover that in this case reading meant “running your eyes over the words without any comprehension whatsoever”?

19 Concentrate If you feel yourself slipping right now. Stop!
Stand up; stretch Tap your head three times while muttering “think”, “think”, “think” Now refocus. Feel better? We continue to study, teach, try to learn, practice and so on long after we’ve caught ourselves (or our students) slipping into semi-consciousness.

20 Attention, Please! Decades of attention research show us
Dividing your attention between multiple tasks is inefficient (no multi-taking) Attention cannot be sustained indefinitely

21 Multi-tasking Multi-tasking is inefficient . . .
often an attempt to combine necessary with desired tasks turn off the stereo leave the residence tell yourself that if you study/practice for 20 min. effectively then you’ll spend 5 minutes doing those other things you might otherwise be doing

22 Lecture Multitasking “significant negative correlation between in-class phone use and final grades corresponding to a drop of 0.36 plus or minus 0.08 on a 4-point scale where 4.0 = A” “students cannot multitask nearly as effectively as they think they can” Duncan, D. K., Hoekstra, A. R., & Wilcox, B. R. (2012). Digital devices, distraction, and student performance: Does in-class cell phone use reduce learning? Astronomy Education Review, 11 (1), p  

23 Concentration Killers
Minor! Alcohol Depression Interrupting reading with texting/messaging/ Moderate! Major! Haines, M. E., Norris, M. P., & Kashy, D. A. (1996). The effects of depressed mood on academic performance in college students. Journal Of College Student Development, 37(5),

24 Exceptions “separate perceptual domains”
Allows one to read while walking on a treadmill without interference Writing while singing NOT so successful

25 Limits of Concentration
2. A person can concentrate for a limited amount of time. The duration of attention differs from person to person, from task to task. You will know when you’ve reached your limit: your mind will start to wander

26 Limits of Concentration
For lectures, give yourself a pep talk beforehand: “Even the most boring lecture will end eventually.” When you find yourself beginning to lose attention, try to think of a question to ask the instructor and write it down Write one down now!

27 Limits of Concentration
Study: more difficult (or more boring) subjects may require more breaks Your ability to sustain focus tends to increase with practice Fatigue, illness will decrease endurance

28 Limits of Concentration
Example: You have 50 minutes to study You will actually learn more by studying for 45 of those 50 minutes and then taking a short physical break for 5 min.

29 Limits of Concentration
If you don’t take a break, your brain will go on one without you anyway. . . Possibly during the most important part of study For every 50 minutes, study, practice, or self-test for 25, take a break for 5, and then start again for 20. This study investigated if an acute bout of aerobic exercise could improve the selective attention aspect of executive functioning in higher- and lower-income middle school students. Participants took a selective attention task before and after either watching a 12 min video (control group) or engaging in 12 min of aerobic exercise (experimental group). As expected, watching a 12 min video did not impact the selective attention performance of either the higher- or lower-income students. However, 12 min of aerobic exercise did statistically significantly improve the selective attention performance of both higher- and lower-income students. Specifically, students processed a larger number of items correctly, while not increasing the proportion of errors made. This finding fits with an established body of research suggesting that acute bouts of aerobic exercise can improve EF skills (see Best, 2010; McMorris & Graydon, 2000; Tomporowski, 2003).”

30 Limits of Concentration
DON’T FORGET TO START AGAIN! For the next 50 min. time period, you might notice diminishing returns from that 5 min. break. You might find that you need a 10 min. break Eventually your stamina will increase

31 2. Interpret & Understand
Read the following: The exposure was insufficient because of the weather conditions. The crash was due to the keys sticking. The numbers slid down because of the crisis abroad.

32 Interpretation Interpretation can be thought of deep processing
Now try to recall the three sentences that you just read on the previous slide. Can you do it? Fill in the blanks

33 Interpretation Remembering the sentences was probably difficult
They seemed meaningless That which cannot be interpreted, cannot easily be recalled

34 Interpretation Read the sentences again:
The exposure was insufficient because of the weather conditions. (Taking a picture) The crash was due to the keys sticking. (Computer break-down) The numbers slid down because of the crisis abroad. (Stock-market)

35 Interpretation Context provides comprehension
Now try to recall the three sentences again.

36 Interpretation Other factors: you saw them before (repetition).
You tried to recall them once already (retrieval practice) Repetition and retrieval practice are both crucial for learning & memory Research suggests that the sentences with “clues” are easier to remember even at first sight, because you were able to interpret the sentences.

37 3. Organize/Structure List the months of the year—write them down.
How long did that take you? Did you get them all?

38 Organization/Structure
Pretty trivial, pretty easy? Now list the months of the year alphabetically. How long did that take? Are you sure that you got them all?

39 Organization/Structure
A change in organization is a change in information

40 Organization/Structure
Preview the chapters of textbooks Look over section headings how chapters are organized How many of you read the chapter summaries at the beginning (or end) of the chapters before you begin reading?

41 Chapter-Level Organizers

42 4. Space/Repeat You have 4 hours to study for tests in Class A & Class B. What do you do? Do you spend two hours on Course A and then two hours on Course B? Study Course A for an hour, then Course B for an hour, then Course A for an hour, then Course B.

43 4. Space/Repeat Spacing your study in this way is an easy way to increase variability of encoding Spacing your study increases retention

44 4. Space/Repeat Each time you study something, you will encode the information slightly differently. Especially when time intervenes between the two study sessions. “encoding variability”

45 Going Postal: Optimal Spacing
BPO: teaching typing to postal workers Option 1: take workers off their jobs and give intensive typing training Option 2: combine training with job and brief practice each day Lance Workman, “Interview with Alan Baddeley.” The Psychologist, 25(5),

46 Typing Sessions Two 2-hour sessions per day (total of 4 hours)
One 2-hour session per day (total of 2 hours) Two 1-hour sessions per day (total of 2 hours) One 1-hour session per day (1 hour)

47 Results: Acceptable Standard Attained
80 hours 78 hours 55 hours Also, group 4 retained their competence better than group 1

48 “SPACING EFFECT” Remember the curve of decay:
Knowledge initially declines rapidly, dropping by 80-90% within a week Review material before forgetting Brief reviews produce benefits Spaced recall promotes long term memory: separate instances of effortful recall!

49 Micro-distribution practice
Spaced presentation enhances memory Landauer/Bjork method: Test new item after short delay As item becomes better learned, gradually extend the practice interval Sample learning sequence:

50 Micro-Distribution Teacher Learner Stable = l’écurie Stable?
Horse = le cheval Horse? Grass = l’herbe Grass? Church = l’église Church? l’écurie Le cheval L’ écurie L’herbe l’église

51 5. Test, Retest When you flip through your textbook taking note of the organization before you begin to read the chapter, try to generate questions

52 Bjork’s Advice Step number one: Take out your highlighting pen.
Step number two: Make sure your highlighter has plenty of ink. Step number three: Throw away your highlighter!!!

53 Read, Write; Don’t Highlight!
Testing is BETTER Read a paragraph or two and test yourself: try to summarize Check the textbook to make sure that you have correctly summarized the information Correct as needed

54 Generate, Retrieve! All the time, try to make sense out of what you are learning (interpretation) Using this very powerful technique may double if not triple your reading time—but it will produce results.

55 Generate, Retrieve! Retrieval practice.
How will you know you are ready to take the test and that you will do well on the exam? PRACTICE RETRIEVING THE INFORMATION BEFORE THE TEST!!!

56 Generate, Retrieve! Retrieval practice provides very effective feedback. Immediate knowledge of performance Even better, retrieval practice makes the information more likely to be remembered the next time you try to retrieve it!

57 Test Write the French for . . . . Stable Stable = l’écurie Horse
Grass Church Stable = l’écurie Horse = le cheval Grass = l’herbe Church = l’église

58 6. Organize Time “time management and self-testing were generally stronger predictors of academic performance than aptitude” West, C., & Sadoski, M. (2011). Do study strategies predict academic performance in medical school? Medical Education, 45, 696–703. doi: /j x

59 Time Thief: Video Games
“81% of American youth report playing at least once per month C. 9% of 8-18 year olds are pathological users “consistent negative associations between liking to play violent video games and school performance” BURGESS, S. R., STERMER, S. P., & BURGESS,M. C. R. Video game playing and academic performance in college students. College Student Journal, 46(2),

60 Organize Time Schedules reduce stress, ensure performance
They must be designed realistically and they must suit you schedules build habits and habits can work for you!

61 Fight Procrastination
Beat procrastination with a limited commitment Promise to spend just 25 minutes on a large task Once you are working, delay quitting—perhaps 10 minutes Extend as necessary

62 TM Workshop For more on Time Management, attend our next TM workshop
Or download our slideshows:

63 7. Study Environment Light Day vs. Night Height
Distractions, internal and external

64 a. Daylight Lighting (100 watts times 2 or actual daylight
Improves concentration, makes study more efficient Improves mood

65 Four Oaks Elementary Wholly “daylit” school Scores 7% ABOVE average
Destroyed by fire Students moved to trailers Scores 10% BELOW average New daylit school: 9% above average A study of the fullspectrum fluorescent Canadian schools reported that students had an attendance increase of 3.2 to 3.8 more days per year than the students in traditional fluorescent lighting schools (Hathaway, et al. 1992). Durant Road Middle School is a daylit school in the Wake County, North Carolina, school system. Durant reported the best health and attendance in the entire school system, an attendance rate above 98% (Bailey 1998). Teachers also have lower absenteeism rates, claiming the lowest number of faculty health absences in the area. (Edwards, L., & Torcellini, P. (2002). A literature review of the effects of natural light on building occupants. National Renewable Energy Laboratory report TP Golden, CO.

66 b. Day vs. Night Most are more efficient in daytime
Try to reserve low priority tasks for the night The later the hour, the lower the challenge should be “Sleep on it” tasks

67 c. Height Big debate: standing vs. sitting
Standing increases alertness Probably less injurious to health Ideal: have at least one work space at which you can stand part of the time

68 d. Distractions Use the “spider technique” to overcome your response to a distractor Make a “symbolic” response Transition to none at all The “spider strategy” sounds childishly simple, but it does aid concentration. If you poke a spider web, the spider will initially react. If you do it again, the spider will again come to investigate. If you continue to repeat the disturbance, the spider will learn the pattern and selectively ignore it. Try this: the first time you are distracted by a movement or noise, make a note on a sheet of paper. Do it again the next time and the next. Then merely think of the mark on the paper. Finally, do not react at all—you have dealt with it.

69 The End What about those questions you wrote down?

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