Repetition of information is an effective learning strategy.
From a very early age, human beings are introduced to a wide variety of concepts that are meant to improve our ability to learn new information and retain it for future use. As a person grows older, he or she may have doubts about their brain’s ability to take those same concepts and utilize them in an equally productive way. As men and women of all ages find themselves expanding their educations to either enter the workforce for the first time or begin a new career, adult learning principles eventually come into play.
As simple as it may sound, repetition of information is a highly effective method of teaching new concepts and re-exploring old ones. It’s perhaps the most useful of all adult learning principles. Today, we’re going to explore some aspects of repetition to show why this simple concept will always succeed in expanding your knowledge.
Conscious to the Subconscious
Adult learning principles like repetition often have a primary goal in mind – to move what you learn from the conscious to the subconscious. When something is lingering in your conscious mind, you know it at the time, but it hasn’t been truly learned. As soon as your mind goes elsewhere, the piece of information that you just learned will start fleeting and then, eventually, be gone completely or simply become much harder to recollect. By repeating information over and over again, a learned fact, formula, technique, etc. will naturally find its way to your subconscious so that it becomes much easier to recall it whenever you require it.
Deconstructing a Common Misconception
When someone begins talking about repetition as one of the most useful and effective adult learning strategies that are available to students, a misconception will often spring to mind. This misconception most likely comes from a person’s childhood, a “fact” they were told by a teacher or peer at some point in their lives, and it goes something like this – “If you repeat something 23 times (or 30… or 50), it will be etched in your memory forever.” While this certainly sounds good, you cannot simply repeat a piece of information over and over in quick succession and expect it to stick. Rather, you often must rely on what’s called spaced repetition.
Effectiveness of Spaced Repetition
The funny thing about spaced repetition is that even if you’ve never heard of the specific concept, you’ve utilized it many times throughout your life. Spaced repetition is exactly what it sounds like – a fact, technique, strategy, concept, or similar piece of information is repeated over and over, but this repetition is spaced out over time. For example, when a child is learning to tie his or her shoes, repeating the action several times in a matter of several minutes, they may learn how to do it at that moment, but it has not yet reached their subconscious mind. But, once they tie their shoes the next morning… and the next… and the next… then it will eventually become second-nature as if they had known how to do it all along.
The Link to Muscle Memory
Learning by repetition is one of the leading adult learning principles and inextricably linked to muscle memory. There is an endless number of examples for this. Once we’ve learned to type on a keyboard, play a video game, drive a car, and do a million other things, our muscles are automatically working through the patterns that our brain has created for the task. Although someone may say, “I do those things without thinking,” the truth is that your brain is very much thinking of how to do those things, but the processes have moved from the conscious mind to the subconscious mind and instruct your muscles to perform with little to no delay. This repetition works the same way on the muscle that is your brain, allowing you to recall information immediately “without thinking about it.”
Recollection – Just Like Riding a Bike
The real beauty of repetition is that what you learn will typically stick with you for your entire life, even if you stop utilizing that specific piece of information on a regular basis. This is why you can go for a decade without listening to a song and still recall most of the words. While you may be a bit “rusty” at performing a task once it’s been a while, you will be able to more quickly pick up the skill again – just like riding a bike – because the information is stored in a more easily accessed location of your brain. This is all thanks to, you guessed it – repetition.
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