Monday, January 24, 2011

Monday Miscellany

A new study in the journal Science supports a learning strategy we have long recommended to the students with whom we work: using testing as way of learning material. We often suggest that students prepare for tests by thinking about what material might be on a test, and preparing test questions (ideally in a group) and then actually taking the test they have created a day or two later. The study notes that this method works particularly well when students need to demonstrate comprehension and draw inferences and that it is more effective than intensive studying or even concept mapping.


Another area we stress in looking at how individual students learn is the importance of understanding concepts, the unifying ideas that allow us to think about objects as part of a category. If you understand the concept behind something, you don't need to tax your memory with every example of such an item; you simply need to look at an item and see if it fits within the concept. A recent study in the journal Psychological Science looks at how young children learn concepts and finds that exposure to a diversity of objects best supports learning concepts. For example, young children who are exposed to three very different kinds of cups will have a better sense of the concept of a cup than children who are also exposed to three cups, but where the cups are essentially the same. The study left open several questions about how and why this exposure to a diversity of objects leads to concept learning, but it is a fascinating beginning to an area of inquiry.

We have written several times about Life After High School: A Guide for Students with Disabilities and Their Families, co-written by Susan Yellin, Esq. Another good resource for families dealing with college admissions and financial aid issues is the The Choice blog, written by Jacques Steinberg, who also wrote The Gatekeepers: Inside the Admissions Process of a Premier College

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