Learning Something New? Rest First.

Allowing your brain to rest and reflect on the things you have just learned may help boost future learning, a new study shows.

The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, expand upon previous research that has shown that allowing your mind to rest can strengthen memories and help with information retention. In this study, the researchers reveal that “with the right kind of mental rest” individuals can help foster learning.

Rest & Reflect

Participants were given two learning tasks in which they had to memorize different series of photo pairs as the researchers scanned their brains. In between the tasks, the participants were instructed to rest their minds and think about anything they wanted.

The results showed that the participants who chose to reflect on the learning tasks during the downtime did better on the learning tasks later in the day. The participants seemed to make better connections to what they had learned when they allowed their brains to further absorb the information, rather than just daydreaming after learning.

The researchers believe that replaying the memories of learned information helps to make those memories even stronger, and impacts future memories as well.

According to researchers, “Nothing happens in isolation. When you are learning something new, you bring to mind all of things you know that are related to that new information. In doing so, you embed the new information into your existing knowledge."

It is commonly believed that previously learned information interferes with new learning, instead researchers have shown that prior knowledge is serving as a strong foundation upon which new learning is understood and remembered.

StepUp Summary: 

These findings suggest that teachers may be able to help children more efficiently by asking them to recall learned information before introducing the new information. The reactivation of old knowledge, plus the introduction of new information may make the material more digestible for children. 

Similarly, StepUp programs use 8 levels of exercises of increasing difficulty, each building on prior skills and knowledge. By combining rhythmic exercise with academic drills, students achieve greater fluency, or automaticity, in essential reading, writing, math skills.

Watch this video to see StepUp to Learn in action!



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