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Overlearning, The Hidden Power of Subject Extra Expertise

Learning is an essential part of our lives. We learn since our childhood; how to walk, how to speak and write. We spend many years at school, then several more at a college or university in order to learn something new. Even in the Stone Age, learning was as important as it is now.

         How learning actually works, though? At first we are taught something new; facts, dates or grammar rules. Then, we spend some time memorising it or learning by heart in order to repeat or recreate it later. It is called practise – the process of repeating a learned skill to get the hang of it. Usually, people cease to practise more when they feel that a certain “high level” has been reached. That is the point when even more practise is needed. Such a technique is called overlearning. This controversial name has nothing to do with cramming up lots of information like Hermione, vice versa, it is the repeating of the learned skill on the same level of difficulty for some additional time. The way it works is pretty straightforward – one spends additional time repeating exercises which helps stabilize the learned skill. In a recent study, scientists discovered that overlearning significantly helped in strengthening the skills (in this case, it was the detection of a stripe pattern). After spending twenty minutes learning participants had a short pause and then another twenty minutes of the similar tasks. Later, they were asked to complete another “competing” task (a similar one, but the stripe pattern was at a new angle). The next day, participants were asked to complete both tasks. Surprisingly, those who had an overlearning portion did better with the first task.

         What does it actually mean? It means that even if one switched between tasks and steamed into another type of work, the desired skill was not forgotten. Can it be useful? Of course, it can. There are many situations when learners need to memorise and be better at one task, while another one can be given less attention. Overlearning, in this case, may be used to avoid “rewriting”, the process of replacing one skill or a piece of information with another one. It can be also applied to a short term, quick motor senses such as in sports. It should be mentioned, though, that long term memory (one that is used in learning languages, for example) has not been sufficiently tasted.

         Such a technique will definitely help in becoming proficient and even better at what you already know. It can be applied to a number of various tasks and exercises as while overlearning, you conduct some extra expertise of the learned subject, you notice more and more details, patterns and peculiarities. Learn to spend several more hours while your memory is in the “hot” period. Repetition is the mother of learning.


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