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Thread: Highlighting Is a Waste of Time: The Best and Worst Learning Techniques (Time)

  1. #41


    Here is the HTML version of the scholarly article mentioned in Time (they stated both HTML and PDF were free, so hopefully you can access them):

    I too thought that I didn't use any study techniques (just paid attention). But when I looked at the actual scholarly article I found I did a couple of things not mentioned in the OP, but was mentioned in the APS article (and in passing in the Time article).

    Namely, I did the following instinctively (though I did not know these were "study techniques"):
    1. Elaborative interrogation Generating an explanation for why an explicitly stated fact or concept is true
    2. Self-explanation Explaining how new information is related to known information, or explaining steps taken
    during problem solving

    What minimal "Studying" I did do, fell into the following:
    8. Practice testing Self-testing or taking practice tests over to-be-learned material
    9. Distributed practice Implementing a schedule of practice that spreads out study activities over time
    10. Interleaved practice Implementing a schedule of practice that mixes different kinds of problems, or a schedule of
    study that mixes different kinds of material, within a single study session

    The numbering used is the order that they listed in scholarly article, not my own preference.

    But I only used any of the above three techniques out of desperation (IOW, when feeling like I wasn't actually learning anything but still wanted to pass some tests).

    Considering the article mainly reviewed studies that judged the effectiveness of techniques with tests, I don't think it should come as much of a surprise that the practice-test based preparation was better preparation for the tests themselves.

    If we judged effectiveness of learning by probing the students 10 years later, I think we would see very different results.

    A few of the "study techniques" that I am very disappointed to not see are:
    1) Making use of what I learned to process the world around me on a continuous basis.
    2) Thinking of projects I can create or products I can invent based on what I have learned.
    3) Discussing and debating things with colleagues, friends, strangers, or whoever is willing based on what I've learned.

    These are pretty high on my list for what I naturally do when I "study".

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  2. #42
    pathwise dependent Array FDG's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2007


    ygolo, very nice post. Resonates with what I also think should be the way to learn something you enjoy learning. I guess, however, some people really have to force themselves to do any kind of learning?
    ENTj 7-3-8 sx/sp

  3. #43


    The more I can distance myself from the concept of highlighting, the better. I have always viewed it as a totally useless learning technique. If I buy a used book which has been highlighted, it really does bother me. I do the best I can to ignore it.

  4. #44
    Emperor/Dictator Array kyuuei's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2008


    I wouldn't say summarizing, but putting things into your own words is a technique that really helped me out a ton. "Define this yourself. NOW read the actual dictionary definition." If you were spot-on-enough, you could keep your own definition in your head and BAM! There it is all the time.

    Everything has merits. Highlighting things that confused you means you can go back and focus on them later (like, say, when you don't have 3 chapters to read by tomorrow morning) but I don't think highlighting helps a ton on tests themselves.

    What works for me:
    - Practice problems
    - Practice tests (if there are any available)
    - Having to explain the concept to others/teaching the concepts to others
    - Putting things in my own words
    - Re-reading the material. When I do this, though, I quiz myself.. I try to say what is going to be said before the book does, and see what details I missed.
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  5. #45


    I stopped using highlighters because they distracted me too much. All the colours and pretty pictures you can create
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