Learning October 12, 2023

The Science of Learning & How to Ace It?

Writen by Editorial Team

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The Science of Learning

Do you want to learn smart?

Well, the first step to hacking the learning process is understanding it – so how do we learn?

How does the brain know to remember certain things?

How can we train the brain to learn and remember on command?

If you’re curious about any of these things, we suggest you read on because this blog is all about the science of learning!

Can We “Absorb” Learning Material?

You might think learning means reviewing study materials several times until you somehow “absorb” the information. Many students regularly use this technique to learn new concepts. But did you know that research doesn’t exactly support passive learning? Not to mention, it’s time-consuming and, quite frankly,  boring.

We know what you’re thinking: I’ve done this, and it’s always worked for me. And we’re not saying you’re wrong. Understanding this would mean considering your thought process as you review content. For example, when you review lecture notes, you’re not just reading through. You might be underlining concepts, adding arrows or notes, thinking about potential questions, and making new connections between ideas. This might even be involuntary for the most part, but it’s precisely what makes the reviewing helpful process. However, you can still mindlessly review learning materials without active mental processing. Nevertheless, this probably won’t help you retain the information, at least not in the long run.

Another way to enhance your retention can be to activate this mental processing by teaching someone else the material or discussing it with a friend. What this does is help you view the content from a different angle. Doing so lets you reset your knowledge into working memory, forming more profound connections. The easier way to do this is to study the same content from different materials because it helps you internalize different perspectives.

What Does the Brain Do with New Information?

Whether you realize it or not, your brain tends to sort things into categories. A glance can tell you if something is a cat or a mouse, a bird or a person, a hot dog, or just a dog – these are all categories. We can figure these things out without much effort because our brain has already assigned categories and associated meanings with these things. But how does the brain know to do this?

A psychologist named Freedman compared brain activity before, during, and after sorting things into categories. The team trained monkeys to play a game where they had to hold or let go of a lever when they saw movement in a specific direction on the screen. They then measured brain activity at different stages. The results showed two brain parts of the sorting process: the prefrontal cortex and the posterior parietal cortex. Surprisingly, the posterior parietal cortex was initially only part of observing new or unexpected patterns. However, once the monkeys had learned all the categories, this part of the brain became involved in all stages of the task, including storing this information in short-term memory.

How Does a Memory Move from Short-Term to Long-Term Memory?

Now, the big question is that once your brain has defined categories and stored them in short-term memory, what happens next?

Short-term memory only lasts around 30 seconds – so how do you tell your brain something is important enough to remember in the long term?

Well, that’s where additional learning materials come in. After learning something, you can use additional learning materials to build on previous knowledge and help the brain approach that same information from a possibly different angle. Doing this ensures that your brain understands that this is something that we’re trying to keep by revisiting the same concepts over and over. Consulting new materials also means that you can pick up on details that you might have missed earlier. So your brain can more easily connect concepts and make sense of them. Plus, when you go for additional learning materials, it signals to the brain that you must remember this.

How to Make Your Brain Notice Something?

Since our brain puts everything into categories, there’s technically always something around us for the brain to process.

But from all this information, how do we get the brain to notice something particular?

Well, anything new or different will automatically grab the brain’s attention because it needs to assign it to a category to make sense of it. The cool thing about this is how we can use it to learn new things and improve our memory.

So, a novelty center in the brain responds explicitly to new information. It is strongly connected to the parts involved in learning and memory. The brain scans all information against existing memories before deciding if something is worth attention. It might retrieve an already associated emotion for old memories, but it needs to work on new information. Some researchers found that new images activated the novelty center of the brain and released the feel-good hormone Dopamine. However, the associated response declined each time the image was repeated. This means that every time your brain “goes over” study materials or flashcards, it will stop actively responding. At this point, only new information stands out to the brain.

The important part is using all this information to improve learning and retention. When familiar information is combined with new information (as in additional study materials), it can boost the memory response by at least 19% percent during learning sessions. This is excellent news for students because it means you can get your brain to stop and think while studying, which can skyrocket your learning efficiency.

How Can Personalized Learning Help?

How Can Personalized Learning Help

Now that we know everything about learning and memory in the brain, how do we apply this to learn better? And how does personalized and adaptive learning help?

Personalized learning means customizing learning materials in ways that make more sense to you. This encourages active learning since you are actively engaged and interacting with your study materials. Plus, SimpliTaught’s AI recommends several different materials, which means you can use the new facts to boost your learning and retention. It’s a sure way to help your brain learn and remember things.

Hack Your Learning Process with SimpliTaught

SimpliTaught is an online learning platform for students. We use artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technologies. Our AI model looks for study materials on the internet relevant to your textbook’s concepts. As for our ML model, it studies how you interact with the content. For instance, are you more likely to watch videos or read blogs? Do you need help finding the content too difficult or tedious? Does it match your learning needs? Understanding all this helps our models work together to adjust the learning material according to your needs and preferences. Ultimately, this ensures you can learn better and be more prepared for your tests and exams.

Learn more about how SimpliTaught can help you study better here.

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