From the early days of schooling, we used to think that some people learn faster than others, but according to a new study, it turns out that we actually learn at the same speed for the same opportunities.
The researchers studied 1.3 million “student interactions” using a variety of learning software tools used by 6,946 students ranging from elementary school students to college students. The data collected covered a wide variety of topics and formats, including online courses and educational games.
The new analysis found that students’ starting point and their ability to practice what they learned had the biggest impact on their academic performance, rather than their speed of learning.
“The data has shown that achievement gaps arise from differences in learning opportunities and that greater access to such opportunities can help close these gaps,” says Ken Koediger, a cognitive psychologist at Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania. that these educational technologies can provide a supportive educational environment that facilitates the learning of something new, such as a second language, scientific or mathematical concepts.
The researchers wanted answers to three questions: How much practice does it take to learn something? How do students’ initial results differ? How different are the learning rates of students?
On average, students needed seven opportunities to learn something, although this varied from person to person. A new study shows that this difference has to do with where students started, not their ability to learn faster.
The researchers say the ability to actively participate in learning was also important. The educational tools included in the study facilitated interaction and could provide immediate feedback to students, which also helped.
“We’ve all seen cases where someone gets a learning outcome before their classmate — one student gets an A in algebra, another gets a C,” says Köger, “but usually we don’t keep track of where they started.” . Our results are consistent with the fact that people end up in different places, but calculating where students start can tell us a lot about where they end up.”
The team hypothesized that our brains can choose different “mental paths” to learn something, meaning that our learning rates aren’t that much different – we can all get to the same point in a way which corresponds to our experience and knowledge.
This is supported by the study: where there were differences in learning speed, these differences were more pronounced in languages that require a lot of rote memorization. Previous research has also tracked different types of mental activity while learning the same information, suggesting an individualized approach.
All this helps to find the best ways to transfer knowledge and prepare educational courses. There are many factors involved when it comes to learning, including how we adapt to our mistakes, but the researchers behind the latest study want to emphasize that we are all capable of learning.
The study is published in PNAS.
Source: Science Alert