Super Learning: Fail Productively

This week, I would like to share an article by Bjork and Bjork (2011) entitled, Creating Desirable Difficulties to Enhance Learning. In this and an associated summary entitled, "Fail Productively… How to Turn Yourself into a Super-Learner" by Robson (2020), the authors connect many of the areas of teaching and learning. For deep learning to occur, they suggest a central aim of "deliberately creating a slight feeling of frustration as you learn, which leads the brain to process the material more deeply, creating longer-lasting memories."

However, Kuepper-Tetzel (2014) found that "our judgment about our learning is often biased towards strategies that feel easy and effortless.” She suggest the following strategies to help:

  1. Fail productively (struggle)

  2. Teach to someone else (retrieval practice); and the Process of Question Generation (Ebersbach et al., 2020)

  3. Mix it up (Interleaving, Pan et al., 2019)

  4. Get moving (best learners are physically active)

  5. Change your environment (switching rooms)

  6. Do nothing (Boost Long-Term Memory via Wakeful Rest)

All of this research reminds us of the power of Information Processing (working to long term memory) and how we can be more intentional when designing our learning experience. Bjork and Bjork suggests that we "spend less time on the input side and more time on the output, such as summarizing and getting together with friends to ask questions."

Bjork, E. L., & Bjork, R. A. (2011). Making things hard on yourself, but in a good way: Creating desirable difficulties to enhance learning. In M. A. Gernsbacher, R. W. Pew, L. M. Hough, J. R. Pomerantz (Eds.) (p. 56–64). Worth Publishers.

Ebersbach, M., Feierabend, M., & Barzagar, M. (2020). Comparing the effects of generating questions, testing, and restudying on students' long‐term recall in university learning. Applied Cognitive Psychology.

Küpper-Tetzel, C. E. (2014). Strong effects on weak theoretical grounds: Understanding the distributed practice effect. Zeitschrift für Psychologie [Journal of Psychology], 222, 71–81.–2604/a000168

Pan, S. C., Tajran, J., Lovelett, J., Osuna, J., & Rickard, T. C. (2019). Does interleaved practice enhance foreign language learning? The effects of training schedule on Spanish verb conjugation skills. Journal of Educational Psychology, 111(7), 1172–1188.

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