Three groups of students were tested on some information they had just studied.
The first group was allowed to review the study material before they could take the test. The second group was instructed to revise what they studied by freely recalling the information from memory – they were not permitted to access the study material. The third group was asked to refer to the material and make a mind-map of the concept they had learnt.
We have all used each of these three methods at some point. Before you read further, can you guess which of these study techniques proved to be most effective?
The students in the study thought that the first method – reviewing the study material – would be the most effective, and that free recall from memory would be the least effective. However, a test revealed the opposite to be true – free recall was, by far, the most effective study method.
The main reason we shy away from free recall is because it is difficult and feel uncomfortable. We often feel that we aren’t ready for it. However, research now shows that putting ourselves on the hook is the most effective means to learn something new. That discomfort we feel in our head comes from the new connections being forged in our brain.
We often confuse ease with effectiveness and difficulty with futility.