New study shows how to boost your ability to learn

learning-mathsWhether as an organization or as individuals, learning is central to our success in the modern world.  So it should surely be of interest when researchers discover a method that significantly boosts our ability to learn.

The method revolves around what’s known as ‘interleaving’.  Whilst traditionally when we wanted to improve a particular skill, we might focus solely on that skill, interleaving suggests that we would actually develop it much better if we combine our learning with other areas at the same time.

The benefits of multitasking in learning

To use an example, if a musician wanted to interleave, they could practice chords, scales and arpeggios in the same practice session.

The method has proven effective in studies of motor skills, and the same researchers have returned with a fresh study that explored our ability to learn maths.

The study saw one group of students taught maths in the traditional way, with one technique taught per lesson, with practice devoted to that technique.  Only once they had achieved a degree of success in that area did they move on.

The second group were given a mixture of assignments that covered a range of techniques.

A better way to learn

When the two groups were tested, it emerged that those in the interleaving group performed roughly 25% better than their peers in the traditional group.

Even more impressively, when the two groups were tested again a month later, those in the interleaving group outperformed their peers by 76%.

Considering that both groups received exactly the same amount of tuition, that difference is quite remarkable.  The authors accept that the method can appear challenging at first as it requires concentration on multiple topics, but they suggest it’s effective precisely because it requires the brain to work harder.

They contend that the act of forcing our brain to keep searching for solutions to a wide range of problems is very good for us, which hopefully provides you with some food for thought the next time you try to learn a new skill.


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