Elizabeth and Robert Bjork provide some valuable advice for students in their TED speech “How to study to maximize performance” of 2018. However, the lesson of how to learn successfully could be useful for people of different backgrounds, professions, and ages. The main insight is that learning and our performance are not the same things: if we perform well, it does not mean we are good at learning. In addition, there could be conditions that at first are seen as obstacles to learning but finally appear useful – the Bjorks (2018) call them “desirable difficulties”. These “desirable difficulties”, as the speakers note, create the base for performance maximization. They are as follows: variability, time-spaced repetitions, retrieving and interleaving. Variability relates to the processes of our memory and trains brain flexibility. Time-spaced repetitions strengthen brain connections. Retrieving, the effective important logical connections exercise, could be accomplished by testing yourself with the help of quizzes or questions. Interleaving, the practice of a mixture of the several things that we are trying to learn, impacts our ability to think more resourcefully. Elizabeth and Robert Bjork (2018) report that all these techniques were proved effective according to the existing scientific studies. If the sense of difficulty does not overcome determination to learn, the results of such “desirable difficulties” application could be life-changing.
Effective learning is relevant for everyone who wants to spend the years in the university not in vain, and the Bjorks discussion opened my eyes to the reasons for my study issues. Earlier, I used to think that my well-structured approach is the best for me, and the problems in studying result from my limited ability to memorize things. For example, I often wondered why cramming for my final tests often helped me perform well, but my memory was clear of any useful information immediately after the examinations. However, that poor result is not connected with my memory flows. It shows that our brain chooses which information is important according to the number of events we refer to it. Second, the easiest approach seems to be the most time-consuming. For instance, from the range of useful techniques, I unconsciously used retrieving by answering relevant questions and accomplishing quizzes. However, I usually put away that kind of exercise if there were no already made-up questions and never tried to ask my own because I wanted to save my time. Still, finally, I had to put more effort into relearning that information. The speech made by the Bjorks had a great impact on my understanding of my mind.
I want to change my usual learning pattern to maximize my effectiveness by applying new studying tools proposed by the researchers. Therefore, I am going to apply the “desirable difficulties” in my practice. To use the power of variability, I will find more places for learning. Persuaded by the University of Michigan study results, I believe that my brain will increase its performance. In addition, I will try an application for time-spaced repetition and retrieving, for example, Quizlet. Using it, I will have to create my quizzes and questions and utilize the advantageous effect of brain exercises performed in the intervals. As for interleaving, I will apply the technique of randomized repetition. The majority of books are organized in blocks, so randomizing could be helpful to prevent the negative aspects of monotony. I recognize that the ability to study is one of the crucial skills that every manager seeks in their employees, so I believe that “desirable difficulties” use could be the key to success in the future. However, the new studying tools should be applied not only by separate individuals. The whole educational system should be re-established according to state-of-the-art investigations. The old block studying should become the thing of the past as teachers need to focus on variability, flexibility, and repetitions. I believe the whole system evolution will inevitably lead to new advancements in every field of our life.
Bjork, E. & Bjork, R. (2018). How to study to maximize performance [Video]. TED Conferences.