Hi, I’m Dr. Stephen Chew. I’m a professor of psychology here at Samford
University in Birmingham, Alabama. This is the second in a series of five videos
on how to study effectively in college. In the first video we examined some basic
beliefs that can undermine your learning. In this video, I’ll explain some basic principles
of how people learn and how you can use those principles to improve the effectiveness of
your study. Let’s start by examining how accurate your
understanding is of how people learn. Take a look at the following statements. Pick the one that represents the most important
factor in successful learning. Only one is correct. In order to find out the correct one, I want
you to imagine you are in a classic psychology experiment by Thomas Hyde and James Jenkins
from 1969 and see if you can guess the results. The basic design of their study is shown here,
with 5 different groups of participants. Each group of participants was presented with
a list of 24 words. The instructions the participants were given
about what to do with the words varied from group to group. Once all the words were presented, everyone
had to try to recall them from memory. Hyde and Jenkins looked at the impact of two
variables on learning. The first one, on the left, is whether or
not you knew you are going have to recall the words after all of them were presented. If you were in one of the two groups in the
Intentional condition, you were forewarned that you would have to recall the words after
they were all presented. If you were in one of the two groups in the
Incidental condition, you weren’t forewarned about the recall test. It’s like taking a surprise pop quiz. Any learning that occurred was incidental. The other variable Hyde and Jenkins looked
at was how participants rehearsed or encoded words, what became known later as “levels
of processing.” Two groups had to listen to the words and
check whether or not it had the letter “e” in the spelling. The other two groups had to rate whether or
not they found the word pleasant. Now, why would this make a difference? If you are checking for “E”s, then you
are focusing on the spelling of the word, which is called shallow level of processing. If you are rating its pleasantness, you are
thinking about the meaning of the words related to your own experience. That is called deep level processing. So, say the word in the list is “dance”. If you were in the Intentional condition,
you knew you will be asked later to recall [that word]. If you were in the Incidental condition, you
haven’t a clue about the recall test. In the other variable, if you are in the “E”
checking group, you think about the spelling and mark down “yes”. If you are in the pleasantness group, you
think about dance and check “yes” if you like dance and “no” if you don’t. The two variables combine to give you four
different groups. There was a fifth group just told to memorize
the words as best they could. The list of 24 words was presented one word
at a time, and each group carried out its instructions. Afterward, all the participants were asked
to recall as many of the 24 words as they could. Who do you think recalled the most words? Let’s look at the results and see what happened
and see what it says about learning. The average percent recall is shown on the
y-axis. First, did the intent to learn matter? If it did, then the Intentional learning groups
should do better than the Incidental Learning groups. But they did not. Intent to learn had no effect at all. Now, look at level of processing. If level of processing matters, then deep
processing, rating pleasantness, should recall more than shallow processing, checking for
E’s. You see the deep processing groups recalled
a lot more than the shallow processing groups regardless of whether they were intending
to learn or not. Now there are two key points here. First, people who use deep processing learned
the material whether they intended to or not. On the other hand, the people who used shallow
strategy, even if they wanted to learn, they did not learn. Second, people who processed words at a deep
level, even if they weren’t trying to learn, remembered them just as well as that control
group who were doing their best to learn. So, the depth of processing matters and the
intention to learn doesn’t. You can have every intention to learn, but
if you use a shallow strategy, you won’t learn. Let me say a little bit more about the Levels
of Processing because it is a powerful idea for student learning. Levels of processing says that memory is composed
of a continuum of levels from shallow to deep. Shallow levels involve studying meaningless,
superficial properties of what you are trying to learn, like mindless re-reading or memorization. The deepest levels of processing involve thinking
about material meaningfully, interpreting the information and relating it to your prior
knowledge or experience, or creating a mental image of the information. Deeper processing leads to better recall. You also have to understand the idea of orienting
tasks. Orienting tasks make people process information
at a certain level of processing. Orienting tasks make people process information
at a certain depth. In this case, checking for E’s is a shallow
orienting task, making people process words at a shallow level. Rating a word’s pleasantness is a deep orienting
task, causing people to think about the meaning of the words, process them deeply, and thus
learn the words. Now let’s return to the question of the
single most important factor in learning. We can rule out number 1 because we just saw
that intention and desire to learn are not important. Number 2 is also not correct. In the study, both groups paid close attention
to the words to do their orienting task. Attention is not enough to guarantee learning. What about Number 3? You hear a lot about learning styles. Some people are visual learners; others are
auditory or kinesthetic learners. There is simply no good research evidence
that supports the validity of learning styles, so forget about them. Besides, if you plan to be successful, you
should become good at learning in multiple ways. What about number 4? I did make a big deal about committing enough
time to be successful. But time alone is not sufficient for successful
learning. That leaves number 5, which is correct. It relates to depth of processing. If you read a text without comprehension,
or if you memorize definitions without really understanding them, you are using shallow
processing and you will not learn. If you think about meaningful connections,
you are using deep processing, and you will learn whether you intend to or not. If you picked incorrectly, don’t feel bad. Most people get this wrong. If you picked correctly, congratulations. You are on the right path to successful study. So, let’s summarize what we have learned
in the first two videos. Here are the factors which don’t help or
even hurt your learning. Now I’m not saying that desire to learn,
attention or engagement are bad things, but deep processing is the crucial element. A lot of students want to learn, but they
use shallow strategies, and they don’t learn. Now here are the factors, which do contribute
to your academic success. So how do we go about processing information
deeply and developing a connected understanding of material? That is the focus of the next two videos.