Friday, August 17, 2018
Most Important Legal Education Article of the Year: I know; it's only August and this article isn't directly on legal education, but it is the most important article I've read on classroom learning in a long time. Inside Higher Ed, In-Class Cellphone And Laptop Use Lowers Exam Scores. The title says it all. Here is the key sentence from the underlying study: "Consequently, any distraction that reduces mnemonic activities reduces long-term retention." In other words, surfing the internet, texting, and playing property bingo hurt learning, and this is reflected in exam grades to a significant degree. Since students worry about grades more than anything else, professors should tell them about this study.
I've known about this problem coming from a different direction for a long time. From a book on legal education, I am currently writing, (citations omitted)
"Working memory is devoted to a task when slots are available for input and attention or processing is directed to the slot. Attention directs sensory input, and it prevents a temporary memory from being erased. Because the number of slots is limited, humans must devote their attention to the task. 'Any distraction that reduces mnemonic activities reduces long-term retention.' (In other words, effective multitasking is a myth.) Humans can focus attention, and this mainly depends on concentration." The above study confirms this.
Again, professors need to know about how the mind works and learning works to be the most effective teachers. There are no shortcuts.