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Surprising Science

Sleeping on a Lesson Helps Students Absorb New Information

Students may need to sleep on a lesson before they are able to fully comprehend and apply the new information they’ve learned.

Sleep is important. Numerous studies have come across our desks talking about the importance of getting a quality amount of rest every night. It’s the building block of our day, and another study, headed up by Kathy Rastle, professor of Cognitive Psychology at Royal Holloway, is about to tell us how important it is to learning. Rastle and her team of researchers found that sleeping on new material can help benefit long-term learning in the classroom.

Rastle reports this information is nothing new to educators. But in their experiment, where researchers used a fictional language to test a group of participants, Rastle says the volunteers “were able to identify the hidden rule shortly after learning [a few words]. However, it was not until they were tested a week after training that participants were able to use that rule to understand a totally new word from the fictional language when it was presented in a sentence.”

She suggests that these results indicate how students may need a buffer of time to digest new information before shifting into the next part. Sleep may be the bridge that allows the brain to process it all and integrate it into the system. Indeed, the research also found that after learning the rule-based words, the students needed time to consolidate this knowledge before learning new words that didn’t follow the rule. Researchers found that when they introduced another group of participants to the exception during the same session, they were unable to understand the general rule.

This research not only helps underline the importance of sleep, but also how language teachers should choose to plan their lessons. It shows educators may want to wait to introduce “tricky words” into the same lesson when students are still trying to grasp a general rule. For example, teaching kids the general rule of pronouncing CH words, such as church and chess, does not apply to words, like chef and chorus.

Rastle explained in a press release:

“Our research suggests that including such exceptions at the time of initial learning could block the formation of general knowledge about the rule being taught. If we want learners to extract general principles from a set of examples, we need to think carefully about the structure of that set of examples.”

Getting enough rest, and taking care of yourself generally, is an important lesson for anyone who has high expectations for themselves. Arianna Huffington explains that, after she suffered a collapse while working hard to build The Huffington Post, she realized that our era of modern convenience is actually well suited to thriving personally while succeeding professionally.

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Read more at Science Daily.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock


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