Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Using Challenging Concepts To Learn Promotes Understanding Of New Material

Date:
December 1, 2008
Source:
Association for Psychological Science
Summary:
Although conventional wisdom suggests that the best way to learn a difficult skill is to progress from easier problems to more difficult ones, research examining this issue has resulted in mixed outcomes. Psychologists wanted to pinpoint the best strategies for learning new information and found that the effects of the different training methods depended on the type of categories that the participants were learning.

t’s a question that confronts parents and teachers everywhere- what is the best method of teaching kids new skills? Is it better for children to learn gradually, starting with easy examples and slowly progressing to more challenging problems?

Or is it more effective to just dive-in head first with difficult problems, and then move on to easier examples? Although conventional wisdom suggests that the best way to learn a difficult skill is to progress from easier problems to more difficult ones, research examining this issue has resulted in mixed outcomes.

University of California, Santa Barbara psychologists Brain J. Spiering and F. Gregory Ashby wanted to pinpoint the best strategies for learning new information. In their study, a group of volunteers were taught a new task in which they had to categorize items. The volunteers were trained to complete the task by one of three methods—starting with easy problems, starting with harder problems then moving on to easier examples or being shown examples in random order.

The results, published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, showed that the effects of the different training methods depended on the type of categories that the participants were learning. When the categories could be easily described (i.e. was the line horizontal or vertical?), all three of the training procedures were equally effective. However, when the categories could not be described easily, starting with the harder problems then moving to easier ones produced the best results.

The volunteers in the easy-to-hard group were able to come up with simple rules and category descriptions which worked for the easy problems, but were not applicable to more complicated problems. As a result, these participants ended up doing poorly on the task because they were unable to think abstractly to solve the problem. On the other hand, the participants who began with harder problems very quickly stopped trying to come up ways to describe the categories and thought about the problems in a more abstract way; this strategy helped them to perform well throughout the task.

These findings have important implications for teachers and educators and suggest that materials should be presented to students in a specific order, depending on what is being taught.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Association for Psychological Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Association for Psychological Science. "Using Challenging Concepts To Learn Promotes Understanding Of New Material." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 December 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081201105702.htm>.
Association for Psychological Science. (2008, December 1). Using Challenging Concepts To Learn Promotes Understanding Of New Material. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081201105702.htm
Association for Psychological Science. "Using Challenging Concepts To Learn Promotes Understanding Of New Material." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081201105702.htm (accessed July 23, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Idaho Boy Helps Brother With Disabilities Complete Triathlon

Idaho Boy Helps Brother With Disabilities Complete Triathlon

Newsy (July 23, 2014) An 8-year-old boy helped his younger brother, who has a rare genetic condition that's confined him to a wheelchair, finish a triathlon. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Huge Schizophrenia Study Finds Dozens Of New Genetic Causes

Huge Schizophrenia Study Finds Dozens Of New Genetic Causes

Newsy (July 22, 2014) The 83 new genetic markers could open dozens of new avenues for schizophrenia treatment research. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Why Do People Believe We Only Use 10 Percent Of Our Brains?

Why Do People Believe We Only Use 10 Percent Of Our Brains?

Newsy (July 22, 2014) The new sci-fi thriller "Lucy" is making people question whether we really use all our brainpower. But, as scientists have insisted for years, we do. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Do Obese Women Have 'Food Learning Impairment'?

Do Obese Women Have 'Food Learning Impairment'?

Newsy (July 18, 2014) Yale researchers tested 135 men and women, and it was only obese women who were deemed to have "impaired associative learning." Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins