Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The Personal Learner

This study is a good reminder that when we really personalize information (general knowledge vs. knowledge that we relate to ourselves), we change how the information is filed, and increase the likelihood that it will be remembered and used later.

The figure below shows the brain activity differences in subjects either reading a list of personality traits or reading and reflecting whether the traits applied to them (e.g. good, kind vs. Am I good? Am I kind?).

Self-referential information is remembered best.

Two reflections for teaching - first, it's worthwhile to know that personal learning is not only more motivating, but it is also more memorable. For some teachers, this may mean they have to work hard to connect new information with what students already know. Connections might be intersections personal events, histories, or interests, analogical situations or themes from current events, or parallels concepts in different disciplines.

Second, there are some students with such a strong preference for personal learning that it seems it is the only way they learn. Be on the look out for these kids. These students may have erratic performances in different subjects (might depend on the teacher or how the subject is taught), and yet clearly be very knowledgeable. Strong personal learners may be gregarious people who are natural story-tellers...because it's who they are as stories are very personal.

As strong personal learners grow older, many may recognize this trait more. More will be able to consciously choose the situations in which they can thrive.

Reflecting Upon Feelings fMRI
Eide Neurolearning Blog: Personal Memory - More Than Facts
Knowledge-at-work: Personal learning
Eide Neurolearning Blog: Reasoning and Real-Life Decision Making
Emotional Memory
Self-Referential Memory Best

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