How can we better educate our children and ourselves?

Is it better to practice constantly hitting the service ball from a specific point on the tennis court? Or is it better to practice throwing it from all points?

Absolutely, it’s easier to learn to hit the ball with a one-point skill; Continuous training from the same point will make you easily master the service, but will not make you a professional player; What’s best – though difficult at first – is to learn to shoot from all points, as training in a variety of conditions will be slower to learn but better in the long run.

This is the result of a study published in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences and conducted by an international research team led by Lemor Raviv – a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Psychology – with the participation of other researchers from Scottish Universities of Glasgout and Friege in Belgium Madison, Wisconsin, USA.

In this massive review paper, researchers compiled more than 150 studies looking at how contrast learning affects the sustainability of the educational process in many different fields, including computer science, linguistics, biology, kinesthetic learning, visual perception, and education. formal.

Raviv said in statements to Al-Alam: Variation is the basis for a successful learning process. Learning from less diverse inputs is often fast, but can fail to gain the ability to generalize. In contrast, learning with more diverse inputs is slower at first, but usually leads to a better generalization, we find the same conclusion in all the areas we have studied.

What does generalization mean?

Imagine you are learning about birds, if the learning process is limited to a bird of paradise, for example, your teacher will tell you that the bird of paradise flies using two wings and that the bird of paradise lays eggs, and the bird of paradise covers the body with feathers, and so on … and you learned no information about birds The rest of the birds.

In that case, it will be easy for you to keep all the information about the bird of paradise, but when a picture of an eagle, a hawk or other birds appears to you, you will not be able to generalize what you have learned about the bird of paradise and jump on the eagle, for example, you will not be able to know the eagle flies even if you look at its wings and you will not be able to conclude that the eagle lays eggs even if you look at its eggs. .

And the opposite will happen if you learn more about bird species, for example if your teacher told you that the eagle flies and that the bird of paradise lays eggs and that the hawk is able to fly at amazing distances, and that the ostrich does not flies even though it is a bird, and that the penguin does not have the same kind of feathers that I have. process better.

“Change is important for strong learning and enhances our ability to generalize the knowledge or skills we have learned,” says Raviv. What seems interesting to us is that this basic principle has been constantly rediscovered and renamed in many areas. There are, in fact, more than 10 different names for the same idea, but these searches do not speak to each other and there is a great overlap in their results even though all the fields share very clear similarities in their results theoretical and empirical.

However, the knowledge of the scientists in that research was not unified in one theory, which made this concept isolated from the wider view and prevented the discovery of the basic principles underlying the effects of variance in general, and by establishing studies of different on the variance side. Together, the researchers were able to identify patterns What are the main types and types of variance that are relevant to learning, why are they important, and when are they most important in learning?

broader generalizations

But why does variance affect learning and generalization? One theory says that more diverse inputs can highlight which aspects of learning are relevant and which are not. Another theory says that greater variance leads to broader generalizations because variance will better represent the real world. , including atypical examples.

The third reason has to do with how memory works; When training is variable and contains many different and sometimes conflicting examples, students are forced to actively reconstruct their memories.

Raviv says: We were surprised to find that the term “contrast” was used to refer to at least four different types of variance, each of which comes from a different source. Variance refers to heterogeneity, so the examples of learning are somewhat different despite the same number As for the variance of the situation, it is learning from the examples themselves exactly, but in more or less different environmental conditions that are not related to examples themselves, and the fourth type is called planning change, which is learning from examples. Exactly, but according to quite different practical plans, viz. different in the order in which the examples are given or the interval between them.

Surprisingly, Raviv adds, these four sources have not been explicitly identified and no single study, to our knowledge, has compared them directly using the same objective behavior. Instead, different studies usually try to address a single source of variation, which limits the understanding of which types of asymmetry are most effective and whether the experience with more asymmetry is essentially the same regardless of its source.

heavy process

It is important to note during the introduction of variance in general that it is very beneficial for learning, but if you take too much variance at the beginning, the learning process can become very stressful and the person may not be able to learn at all, says Anna. Elborg, a researcher in Social Sciences at the Danish University “Aarhus” and does not participate in the study.

Although Elborg fully agrees with the importance of contrast and learning with differences, she says it is like a “thin red thread” between “the benefits of contrast learning” and “distraction”.

Elborg added in a statement to Al-Alam: “A lot of information that can be told to children at a certain age can contribute to them learning nothing, so the coach should keep in mind the level of the person during training.

Raviv fully agrees with Elborg, adding, for example, that beginners and children accustomed to just one motor skill (such as tennis service) will benefit more from fewer changes to their first workouts, as it is also important what kind of variation they got it; In the first steps of learning it is useless to vary the strength and length of service from certain points on the court, however, here it is important to learn more different things like the color of the tennis court or position. where you stay on the field, which will be useful early on.

Three reasons

Overall, the study suggests that there are three reasons, not mutually exclusive, that explain the effect of variance on learning and generalization. First, exposure to the most diverse inputs can highlight which aspects of the task / category are relevant and which are not. playing tennis under changing conditions would highlight the common principles of this physical action (e.g., muscles used), but would help students understand that strength, speed, and position can vary within range. , and similarly, children exposed to different specimens From a new class of animals (for example, dogs of different species such as Chihuahuas, Goldens, Bullddogs and German Shepherds) they can learn that this species has a form common, but its size differs from that of another species, and also varies in color, and a large difference in a particular feature (e.g., dog size) between different dogs indicates that the size is not directly important for identifying a dog class and can therefore be completely ignored, at the same time.

second, greater variance leads to better coverage of possible examples that exist, including those that are less repetitive and atypical. Less different inputs may be less representative of the real world; For example, when identifying mammals, it would be preferable to expose ourselves not only to gorillas and lions (which are typical mammals) but also to bats and whales (which are less common but still mammals); This would result in better coverage of the “mammal” category than simply exposure to gorillas, lions, cats and chimpanzees.

Third, contrast aids the memory retrieval process, if the same motor action or stimulus is repeated unchanged, its previous representation may still be available in short-term memory and therefore there will be no need to reconstruct it, but when training is variable, students are forced to perform Some sort of active refactoring, although this is a little more effort, it can also boost memory encryption and improve recovery.

Useful strategy

It seems that learning on the contrary is a very useful process in all behaviors without exception, in sports, language learning, recognition of different races and others; “Exposure to more variety is good for learning and generalizing, so this strategy can be used to teach children new skills,” says Raviv, but keep in mind that too many changes at first can also be detrimental. .

The researchers worked on that study for about two years, and Raviv says: The most shocking thing about the team is that over the last 80 years this fundamental relationship between variance and learning has been rediscovered and renamed repeatedly in different areas of learning. interacts with language learning scholars ”, each field studies variations in isolation, but does not seek to reveal that the same has been found in other fields,“ which means that this principle is already a very fundamental and crucial phenomenon, and maybe not just for people. “

In fact, Raviv adds, this principle of variance can be so fundamental that it can transcend the brain or even the nervous system down to the cellular level. For example, children who were exposed to a variety of microbes living in a rural versus an urban village. the city was shown to be reduced With the risk of developing allergies and asthma, their immune systems are probably better able to circulate their environment.

She continues: The most important message for everyone is that contrast is not only important for learning a new skill, but contrast is also important for our daily lives and social contacts, and exposure to people from different backgrounds. different can help us become more tolerant. of others and less likely to use images.Hand harmful stereotypes and then we will have the ability to stop polarization on social media.

Leave a Comment