Promising Practices Promising PracticesPromising Practices
A forum for government's best ideas and most innovative leaders.

Study: You Really Can 'Work Smarter, Not Harder'

ARCHIVES
Mopic/Shutterstock.com

Two weeks ago, my oldest son taught my youngest son how to perform a corner kick during half time of my middle son’s soccer game. He demonstrated the correct way to swing the leg, angle the foot, and launch the ball toward the goal. When the referee blew his whistle, resuming the game, we moved to a spot of grass nearby. There, my little boy began to explain how to do the corner kick, recounting every detail absorbed during his older brother’s half-time tutorial.  I nudged him to practice what he had learned, rather than talking about it—after all, he was at a soccer field, with a mother willing to fetch errant balls. But he preferred to articulate each key point he had just learned and teach me how to do it. I thought we were wasting time, but new research says his approach beats mine.  

Learning is more effective if a lesson or experience is deliberately coupled with time spent thinking about what was just presented, a new study shows. In “Learning by Thinking: How Reflection Aids Performance,” a team of researchers from HEC Paris, Harvard Business School, and the University of North Carolina describe what they call the first empirical test of the effect of reflection on learning. By “reflection,” they mean taking time after a lesson to synthesize, abstract, or articulate the important points.

In the lab portion of the study, participants completed a math brain teaser under time pressure and wrote about what strategy they used or might use in the future to solve the problem. This group did 18 percent better in a second-round test than their control-group counterparts, who were not given time to reflect. In the field study, groups of newly-hired customer-service agents undergoing job training were compared. Some were given 15 minutes at the end of each training day to reflect on the main things they had learned and write about at least two lessons. Those given time to think and reflect scored 23 percent better on their end-of-training assessment than those who were not. And these improvements weren’t temporary—they lasted over time, researchers found.

The study also tested the adage that the best way to learn something is to teach it. The research team expected that the process of sharing or teaching newly acquired skills or subject matter would deepen understanding and produce better task performance. But the experiments revealed no significant difference between reflecting upon new knowledge alone and teaching or sharing it with someone else—both boosted performance.  

For younger students, teaching someone else is a good way to practice synthesizing content after a lesson. For older students, other methods suffice: writing themes in journals, summarizing main ideas on note cards, or dictating takeaways into a phone. The authors emphasize that reflection is what matters for learning, whether it’s about management skills, school subjects, or sports trivia. It truly is possible, they conclude, to learn “smarter, not harder”—teachers, trainers, and tutors just have to add a little reflection to their lessons.

(Image via Mopic/Shutterstock.com)

FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download
  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.