Home Youth Leaders Culture & Trends Revisiting How We Learn

Revisiting How We Learn

With most of your students back in school by now, you might be interested by this new brain research (and some not-so-new, but mostly unnoticed) that points a finger at our common study advice and cries foul.

As reported in the New York Times article “Forget What You Know about Good Study Habits”, it turns out that cognitive science disproves some of what we think we know about learning.  Among the many well-believed myths are the importance of learning styles and teaching styles (really?), the importance of studying in the same place over and over, and the importance of studying just one thing at a time. Oh, and tests aren’t all bad.  Forward this one to college students and see what they say.

Probably the most helpful takeaway for those of us who consider teaching part of our calling and/or job is the insight that the brain thrives on making different connections with the same content.  From the article: “Forcing the brain to make multiple associations with the same material may, in effect, give that information more neural scaffolding.” And “The harder it is to remember something, the harder it is to later forget.”  So when we really work to nail something in our memory over time (not just quick-pack it in the hour before the test), it sticks around.

Beyond what’s happening in the classroom at school, what implications do these findings have for how we teach in youth ministry?  What do you think?

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Brad Griffin is the Associate Director of the Fuller Youth Institute, where he gets to develop research-based training for youth workers. A native Kentuckian, Brad now lives in Pasadena with his wife Missy and their three children. After 15 years in youth ministry, he now volunteers in student and worship ministries at NewSong Church. In addition to coauthoring Deep Justice Journeys, Brad has authored or coauthored a number of youth ministry book chapters and journal articles.