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Trickle is a community of lifelong learners where you can discover curated insights and share your own knowledge

Trickle is a community of lifelong learners to discover and share knowledge

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Trickle is a community of lifelong learners where you can discover curated insights and share your own knowledge.


Generate an answer yourself and you're likely to remember it

Chapter 5 Effective cognitive learning strategies


Learners are more likely to remember information if they have effortfully generated it rather than having read or heard it. Learning scientists refer to this phenomenon as the generation effect . Research has demonstrated this finding, for example, by either asking them to generate a word pair from an incomplete version such as wet-___ or night-____. A control group was provided the complete pair, such as wet-dry or night-day. The person who has to effortfully produce the complete word pair more frequently remembered the pair during a later test. Researchers have tested this finding with different types of problems of varying difficulty and found it to be robust.

Researchers are not yet sure how to fully account for the benefits of the generation effect. One intuitive explanation is that generation requires more effort than being presented with an answer and that this increased effort strengthens memory. Some researchers suggest that effort by itself is an insufficient explanation for the generation effect. The mental processing required to generate an answer may be more similar to the type of processing needed in a testing scenario, which could facilitate later recall. Another possibility is that generation stimulates curiosity by highlighting a knowledge gap.

The generation effect can be translated into a learning strategy that learners can use to achieve deeper engagement with a topic and improve retention of knowledge — #generation. When learners need to work through a problem, they are more likely to retain the information. It’s better to solve a problem than to memorize an answer.

There are several possible forms of generation, for example:

  • Generating an answer to a question before the initial learning activity (e.g. pre-testing )
  • Finding an example
  • Formulating a question

Discovery learning and inquiry-based learning are related approaches based on constructivist learning theory that makes use of generation. Learners are put into problem-solving situations and must generate solutions on their own. Learners take an active role through, for example, questioning, observing, researching, and reasoning. They receive guidance from a facilitator rather than being presented content by a teacher.

Generation frequently leads to mistakes . Educators and researchers had concerns that such errorful generation could lead to more mistakes in a testing situation. Under certain circumstances, a negative effect on memory can be expected. However, research has found that corrective feedback could reinforce positive generation effects.

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