As you may have already realized throughout a lifetime of studying, flashcards can be one of the most effective tools to help you internalize a large amount of knowledge. Brainscape takes it to the next level by applying some scientifically proven learning techniques to the study process.
Why traditional flashcards are already great
Paper flashcards have been a popular study tool for hundreds of years, thanks to two important learning principles that make them so effective:
- Active Recall -- This is the process of "actively" retrieving a correct answer in your mind, as opposed to simply "recognizing" the correct answer from among multiple choices or in a full page of written text. According to the U.S. Department of Education’s practice guide (Pashler et al., 2007), "quizzes or tests that require students to actively recall specific information directly promote learning and help students remember things longer."
- Repetition -- It’s common sense that the more times you review a concept, the stronger will be your memory of it. Indeed, as the ancient Romans said, Repetitio mater studiorum est, or "Repetition is the mother of all learning." Flashcards help you maximize the number of times you review each concept in a given amount of time, by breaking knowledge down into its smallest building blocks for easy repetition.
Re-exposure to a piece of information results in a new memory curve (M2) with a stronger initial trace. Note that the slope is the same for both curves despite the differing strengths of initial encoding. (Slamecka & McElree, 1983)
How Brainscape puts flashcards on steroids
Brainscape's web & mobile study technology makes traditional flashcards more interactive, while applying adaptive learning patterns to help you learn faster and remember longer. We call our technique Confidence-Based Repetition (CBR). It is a combination of the traditional benefits of flashcards plus two other cognitive science techniques:
- Metacognition -- Brainscape forces you to reflect upon your own knowledge when, upon displaying each answer, Brainscape asks you (on a 1-5 scale) “How well did you know this?” Sadler (2006) shows that the act of assessing one’s own judgment of learning is one of the most effective ways to deepen a memory trace; while other researchers show that our accuracy of assessing how well we know a topic can even improve over time as a result of practice (Moreno & Saldaña 2004, Kerly & Bull 2008, and Berthold, Nückles, & Renkl 2007).
- Spaced Repetition -- Brainscape uses your self-reported confidence in each flashcard to determine how frequently to repeat it (with 1s coming up most frequently and 5s hardly ever). This optimizes the interval between each flashcard's repetition, thus maximizing the amount of knowledge that you can learn (or solidify) given a fixed amount of study time.
Bahrick & Phelps (1987) show that the optimal interval of spaced repetition is the longest amount of time before you would have otherwise forgotten the concept. Brainscape essentially ensures that your pattern of repetition will be as close to this interval as possible. We are advancing the practice of spaced repetition that educators have been recommending for decades.
For more information on the cognitive science behind Brainscape, you can check out our complete Why It Works page all about spaced repetition.
Sources Cited Above:
Bahrick, H. P., & Phelps, E. (1987). Retention of Spanish vocabulary over 8 years. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 13, 344–349.
Berthold, K., Nückles, M., and Renkl, A. (2007). Do learning protocols support learning strategies and outcomes? The role of cognitive and metacognitive prompts. Learning and Instruction, 17, 564-577.
Karpicke, J., & Roediger, H. (2006). Repeated retrieval during learning is the key to long-term retention. Journal of Memory and Language. Vol. 57, No. 2, 151-162.
Kerly, A., and Bull, S. (2008). Children’s Interactions with Inspectable and Negotiated Learner Models. In Woolf, B., et al. (Eds.), Lecture Notes in Computer Science (pp. 132-141).
Springer-Verlag, Berlin Heidelberg. Kornell, N., & Metcalfe, J. (2006). Study efficacy and the region of proximal learning framework. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition. Vol. 32, No. 3, 609-622.
Moreno, J., and Saldaña, D. (2004). Use of a computer-assisted program to improve metacognition in persons with severe intellectual disabilities. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 26(4), 341-357.
Nelson, T.O., & Dunlosky, J. (1991). When people’s judgments of learning (JOL) are extremely accurate at predicting subsequent recall: The delayed-JOL effect. Psychological Science, 2, 267-270.
Pashler, H., Bain, P., Bottge, B., Graesser, A., Koedinger, K., McDaniel, M., & Metcalfe, J. (2007). Organizing instruction and study to improve student learning. Institute for Educational Sciences practice guide, U.S. Department of Education.
Sadler, P. (2006). The Impact of Self- and Peer-grading on Student Learning. Educational Assessment. Vol. 11, No. 1, 1-31.
Son, L. K. & Metcalfe, J. (2000). Metacognitive and control strategies in study-time allocation. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 26, 204-221.
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