School is back in session, so now is the perfect time to review and practice active learning strategies.  Simply reading or re-reading material is a passive pursuit and therefore ineffective for learning. The key components of active learning engage the learner, whether in the physical act of writing, or in testing for memory retrieval.  “Students need to know how to test themselves and how to space out their studying.”

That entails distributing exam preparation over multiple sessions. For example, preparing for an exam should begin several weeks prior to the test date.  “Devote an hour or two (such as every other day, every Monday and Friday, or some other fixed interval) to exam preparation.” 

One study strategy that promotes student engagement  is the KWL(Know-Want to Know-Learn) method. Similar to the SQ3R method, it  is easy; the reader needs only the text and a pencil and paper. It is based on the belief that “people learn more when they’re actively engaged in a meaningful process of constructing knowledge rather than just passively receiving information.” Taking notes on the W (Want to Know) part of this strategy helps the learner to engage trying to find the answers.  

Furthermore, review is essential for long-term memory. In fact, continuing to review and practice the material already learned  results in “over-learning.”  Although over-learning has been a common practice in elite athletic training for years, studies now show that it “produces a significant effect on retention.” Repeatedly reviewing material is the key to over-learning and eventual automatic recall.

Train your mind the way athletes train their bodies: Over-learn to enhance long term memory. 


Laura Maniglia