K. Ponraman

It was years ago, when I finished my first teaching class as a B.Ed. student, my professor asked me, “Have you taught them?”.  With all pride I said that I had taught them. Then he asked “You have taught them. Ok. Have they learnt?”. I don’t remember much whether I have answered this question properly. And how could we assess whether the students have learnt what we have taught. But I have understood one thing that a teacher should not only teach the concepts but also he should teach them how to learn.

Education involves learning in every step, despite its goals and objectives. Learning is the modification of behaviour arising out of past experience or prior activity. The basic learning experiences or the inputs of learning have to reach the student through his senses. Intellect and senses play a vital role in learning. However, senses appear to be more important than the intellect since they are the gate ways to learning. Of all these senses, the sense of sight provides eighty percent of the experiences that a person gains in this world. Visual experience is more effective than verbal experience. Hence it has become vital to teach the learners to use their senses properly.

It has become a necessity for a teacher to achieve the required learning outcome from his students. He has to involve himself to regulate their learning by teaching few learning techniques since he expects a required outcome. Fortunately, educational psychologists have developed easy to use learning techniques that could help students achieve their learning goals. These techniques include elaborative interrogation, self-explanation, summarization, highlighting or underlining, the keyword mnemonic, imagery use of text learning, re-reading, practice testing, distributed practice and inter-leaved practice. All these techniques require minimal training and the learners have to be given brief instructions for practising to get better scores.

Man is an inquisitive creature by nature trying to seek explanation for statements, actions and events around him. We know very well that most frequent questions of young children are “Why?”  Elaborative interrogation generates an explanation whether an explicitly stated fact or concept is true. The power of explanatory questions can be harnessed to promote learning. Prompting the students to answer the questions “Why?” facilitates learning. It enhances learning by supporting the integration of new information with existing prior knowledge and give proper guidance to the students. The teacher’s role is to give proper guidance to students to inquire and learn by themselves.

Self-explanation involves student’s explanation by processing some aspect during their learning. It is to explain how new information is related to the known information and to explain the steps taken to solve the problem that arise during their learning process. Students can be benefitted from self-explanation with minimal training given by the teachers.

Generally, students learn a large amount of information. They couldn’t identify what is important and how these different ideas connect one another. Writing summaries of the learned texts help them to identify the main points of the text and to capture the gist of it. Summarization involves writing summaries of to be learned texts. It boosts learning and retention since it involves extracting meaning and gist of the material. The focus on training students to summarise reflects the quality of the summary. Students should be trained to emphasise on the main points of the text, to omit the unimportant description and to logically outline their summaries. The training should include direct instruction from the teacher, meaning of the text the student understand by himself, writing the summary in a proper model. Students must be taught to receive feedback, monitor and check their work by themselves.

Highlighting or underlining is marking potentially important portions of to-be learned materials while reading. This technique is simple to use, do not require training and do not require extra time beyond what is required for reading the material. Students are familiar with this technique of highlighting and hence they would spontaneously adopt to it. Students should be given the   knowledge needed to highlight effectively.

Using key words and mental imagery to associate verbal materials is the technique of key word mnemonic. It develops a mental image of the concept by visualising in the mind. Keyword mnemonic is useful in learning a foreign language vocabulary and the use of mental imagery is for comprehending and learning text materials. It boosts the memory for many kinds of materials. In the same way imagery is mentally imagining the content of each paragraph using simple and clear images. It is an attempt to form mental images of text materials while reading or listening. It is a kind of drawing pictures in the mind. Developing images enhances one’s mental organisation and integration of information in the text.

Re-reading is studying the text material again after the first reading. This is most frequently used by students during regulated study. This is the familiar technique because most of the students heavily rely on this technique. It is advised that re-reading need not be done at frequent intervals and must be followed after a gap of few days. Practice testing after re-reading helps the learner to improve his understanding better. Practice testing is self-testing or taking practice test over to be learned materials. It is the distinguished testing outside the class room in which students try to recall the target information with their self-evaluation techniques. With the minimal training from the teachers, students can engage in recall based self-testing in a relatively straight forward fashion.

Distributed practice is implementing a schedule of practice that spreads out study activities over a period of time. Spaced and continual practice for many days is better than massed practice over a single day. Distributed practice helps better learning, when learning episodes are spread out in time than they occur in close succession. This involves re-studying materials, retrieving information from memory and practising skills.

On the contrary, interleaved practice is implementing a schedule of practice that mixes different kinds of problems and that mixes different kinds of material within a single study session. It is like studying different divisions of the nervous system or learning various formulas for computing properties such as surface area or volume. The amount of instruction and practice that the students receive enhances by interleaving practice. It has relatively dramatic effect on students in learning and retention of mathematical skills. Teachers and students should consider adopting it in the appropriate contexts.

The relative utility of the techniques generalise across four variables. The first one is the learning condition and learning environment in which the technique is implemented. Secondly the student’s characteristics such as age, ability and the level of prior knowledge. The next is the quality of the study material which varies from simple concepts to much complicated texts. Lastly it is the criterion task or the standard text by which students are compared.

The outcome measures are relevant to student achievement, such as tapping memory, problem solving and comprehension. Our goal is to provide help to students to improve their learning capability, to improve their senses by using one or more techniques mentioned here. We see students don’t use any technique effectively and consistently. It is because they were not instructed properly about these learning techniques and how to use them effectively during formal schooling. May be that teachers themselves were not told about the effect of these techniques. Our idea is that teachers should learn about them and with little guidance on its use, they should instruct and train their students to use them effectively.


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