A new study has shown that monkeys learn in the same way as humans. What way is that? Through active learning, through doing it for themselves.

“Many people incorrectly assume the better you do as you’re studying, the more you’re learning,” said Kornell, who works in the laboratory of Robert A. Bjork, professor and chair of psychology at UCLA. “If students don’t test themselves when they read a chapter, they can easily think they know the material when they don’t. When you test yourself as you study, you may feel like you’re making it harder on yourself, but on the test, you will do much better. Robert Bjork calls this ‘desirable difficulty.’ If you want to learn something well, when you’re reading, stop and think about what you’ve read, and test yourself; you learn by testing yourself. If you make it more difficult for yourself while you study, you feel like you’re doing worse, but you’re learning more.

“Active learning is important in humans and — this study demonstrates — in monkeys as well,” he added.

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There’s a lot of value in learning by yourself. Even monkeys learn better by doing it. That’s where a lot of schools (especially here in Singapore) fail, in my opinion. There’s no opportunity to learn by yourself and explore. As such, the students study better (and sometimes do get better grades), but they don’t really learn as much. And that should be the whole point of school, shouldn’t it? It should be for learning.

Another thing of note about the study.

“Both monkeys did much better if they had studied without a hint than if they had studied with a hint,” Kornell said. “The monkeys did much better on the first three days when they had the help than when they didn’t, but on the test day, it completely reversed. When they studied with the hint, there is no evidence they learned anything about the list. They learned the lists when they didn’t get the help.” The findings are closely related to findings in humans that recalling answers from memory enhances long-term learning.

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The monkeys that did better on the first 3 days did worse on the final test day. Those who did poorer on the first 3 days did better when the final test day came. Sometimes you have to fail to succeed in the end. As I’ve posted before, that’s one of the failings of the continual assessment system – that it doesn’t allow any form of failure, even in the learning process.

Even monkeys learn better when they are allowed to actively learn by themselves and when they are allowed to fail in the short term. I have to believe that the same holds true (maybe even more so) for humans. So to all the educators out there: Are you allowing your students to learn the best that they can?

Via: Slashdot – Monkeys and Humans Learn the Same Way