Active Recall

Active recall is reading with intention, asking yourself how the information connects to what you already know, and testing yourself on what you learn.

In short, active recall is about spending less time on the input side of learning (reading, listening, taking notes) and spending more time on the output side (testing yourself, producing work).

“When you read a book, you haven’t learned anything. You have a plan, that’s it. Only when you put in into practice do you know whether you’ve learned anything.”

Tiago Forte

“Remembering and idea is some combination of the number of connections you can draw (Elaboration) and Spaced Repetition.

— Simon Eskildsen

Desirable difficulties can be introduced in several ways:

  1. By learning under novel conditions: our ability to retrieve information is influenced by the environments in which we have practiced it. By varying study conditions, we maximize the chance that we will be able to recall the information in a novel environment.

    • For example, study in two different libraries.
  2. By applying Spaced Repetition.

  3. By interleaving your practice: Alternate between subjects, and when studying a particular subject, alternate between different methods of studying.

    • For example, when studying math, alternate between textbook questions and practice tests.

    • Interleaving forces us to repeatedly reload our mental representations of a topic. When be perform blocked practice, these mental representations are constantly in memory, and are not being strengthened.

  4. By generating solutions before they are presented to you: This comprises two tenets:

    1. Try to solve a problem of a particular type before being presented with the solution. When you do learn the steps to solving it, you brain will be primed to remember it.

    2. Never look up an answer when, given time, you could come up with it yourself.

      “Any time that you, as a learner, look up an answer of have somebody tell you or show you something that you could, drawing on current cues and your past knowledge, generate instead, you rob yourself of a powerful learning opportunity.”

      — cite:bjork


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