Friday, March 27, 2015

Ten smart study tactics that support how the brain actually works

In the human being the brain performs actions on the body and makes mental representations of the environment. Learning occurs when the brain responds to certain stimuli from the environment or when a new mental representation is made. In animals learning occurs by habituation or associatively. If an animal is introduced in a cage where lives another animal the latter can have a certain reaction to its guest but over time can react differently. The new response from the animal that previously lives alone is considered as a modification of the behavior of the animal. This modification is considered as learning and this learning is non-associative and occurs over time. A dog salivates when they present it some kind of meat. The sound of a bell is associated to the presentation of the food and the association is repeated several times. Later the food isn't presented and the bell rings. The dog salivates when it hears the bell. The animal produces a response to a new stimulus in the environment which is the bell. This new response is a modification of its normal behavior and is considered as learning. This learning occurs from the association food-bell. For this reason it is called associative learning. This learning occurs as a result of the conditioning of the dog and this this type of conditioning is called classical conditioning. In operant conditioning learning occurs by rewarding or punishing a type of behavior. Now let's define learning.

Learning can be defined as:
1. The acquisition of knowledge or skills through experience, study or being taught
2. The cognitive process of acquiring skill or knowledge
3. The modification of behavior through practice, training or experience.

If learning is a process of acquiring knowledge there are some strategies that should be involved to acquire that knowledge, skills or behaviors. Here are the ten strategies based on experience and scientific study:

1. Test yourself before you study. According to Elizabeth Bjork, a psychologist, taking a test adjusts your thinking to what you need to know. This strategy may help to focus.
2. Space out your study session over time. Experiments done in mice showed that they remember better over multiple repeated sessions of training than in a single prolonged session according to  Christine Gall and Gary Lynch from the University of California.
3. Change up your study environment. Changing your environment forces the brain to retrieve the information in different places and will therefore view that information more useful. The brain wants variations. It wants to move and periodic breaks Finding some new scenery will create new association in the brain and will make it easier to retrieve the information later.
4. Take regular naps. In 2013 sleep researchers at UMASS (University of Massachusetts), Amherst found that daytime naps support learning in preschool children by strengthening their memory.
5. Quiz yourself instead of re-reading. When you reinforce your memories by testing them, they get stronger than if you review the materials.
6. Check-in with yourself periodically. Make a list of everything you remember and go back and see what concepts you've missed. This strategy can be done for a chapter or an entire course.
7. Separate process from progress. Learning is a process that never ends. At different times you make progress on it.
8. Look forward to forgetting. Forgetting is part of the learning process. It strengthens the memory.
9. Imagine you'll be teaching someone else. When students expect to teach new materials to others, they remember more of  the material and organize their recall more effectively, says John Nestojki, a postdoctoral researcher in psychology at Washington University in Saint Louis.
10. Study to learn not to know. Study to remember something for a lifetime is better than study for a test.
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Friday, March 13, 2015

The ten study habits of most successfull students

Teaching is a guiding and temporary event while learning is more lasting and bears on the learner's responsibility. All learning isn't structured and doesn't imply the presence of a guide or teacher. Learning is informal and informal and happens during the whole lifetime. Teaching is worthless if the learner doesn't take the responsibility for his/her learning. If the teacher has to learn the best tools to teach, similarly the learner has to equip himself or herself with the appropriate tools for the most performant learning. It appears that more resources have been devoted to teaching than learning. More human, financial and physical resources have been allocated to teaching than learning. The proverb says: "it's better to learn someone how to fish instead of giving the fish". Teaching has long tried to impute the materials on the learner instead of teaching how to learn. Study requires a certain amount of effort from the learner, some skills and good habits. Here are the ten study habits of the most successful students.

1.  Try not to do too much studying at one time. Doing too much study over one single period of time can make someone tired. Instead spread the study over shorter periods of time by taking breaks that restore the mental energy.
2. Plan specific times for studying. Study according to a schedule by assigning a specific time for the material studied or an assignment, a project, etc.
3. Try to study at the same times each day. Things that we do very often and at the same time create habits and become a routine. Studying at the same times becomes then a habit and requires less effort than if it was done at irregular times.
4. Set specific goals for the study times.  Setting goals allow to stay focused. Learners establish goals for their study by stating the amount of material that they want to cover for example or what they want to accomplish at the end of their study time.
5.  Start studying when planned. Not studying when planned leads to procrastination. It becomes hard to cover all the materials at once after putting time off to study. The best is to study at the time scheduled.
6. Start with the most difficult assignment. The most difficult assignment requires most energy. By tackling it first you you have the pool of energy not already used that serves to accomplish fully the difficult assignment.
7.  Review  notes before beginning an assignment. This can help to facilitate the execution of an assignment. Notes also can have instructions for doing the assignments.
8.  Avoid talking over the phone during study times. Talking to friends during study times has two effects: loss of concentration and distraction. A loss of concentration makes it difficult to go back to study while distraction makes you lose focus. However talking over the phone can be beneficial if it is done as a break time.
9. Call someone or a friend for help. Sometimes it happens to have difficulties in learning some parts of the materials. Asking for help can overcome the learning difficulties.
10. Review schoolwork over the weekend. While weekends are generally spared for fun it may be worth to to take some time during this period to review the materials learned during the week. This will make it easier to learn the next week materials.
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