What do you include in a Spaced Repetition System
I’m guilty of taking Speed Reading courses while on med school, I wanted to learn faster to have an edge, did it work? I don’t think so, I forgot as fast as anybody else after going through many pages while rubbing my index on them, but it also contributed that I didn’t have an organized system for reviewing my notes after a year or so. Reading faster wasn’t the answer to my learning deficits, even though I was reading faster as was not retaining as much. After a couple of years of frustration I decided I was going to read how to read – a very circular concept, I know.
Here is briefly, the most valuable methods on how to read and two easy suggestions to filter what to include in the review phase of your learning system.
With SQ3R you have a nice mnemonic summarizing how read any type of text, but especially non-fiction. This technique implies that you Survey, Question, Read, Recite, Review and was first proposed on Effective Study by Francis Pleasant Robinson (1970). Perhaps, by current accelerated life standards you might considered this approach to old, specially it a twitter informative style of many data out there, but it still has enormous effectiveness to help us acquire information for the long term.
In a similar fashion “How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading (Simon and Schuster, 1972)” gives a set of rules to be a able to critically read a book. While many consider a “How to read two books” should have been a follow up, a how to read many books would have been even better, and with many e-reader on the market, even “How to read many texts” sound like a much precise contribution on learning how to read.
There is plenty of more information of ways to read, including the Skim and Dump technique, and non of this address the greatest obstacle to learning while reading, or as Paul Edwards puts it how to:
The purpose of reading non-fiction is to gain, and retain, information as quickly as possible. [emphasis mine]
When reading non-fiction you can, for sure, also adapt this same idea. If you love fiction why would like to read only a couple of books on the subjects you love, you’ll probably want to read them all, albeit something impossible even for Kim Peek.
In order to retain information you have to choose it first, you have to know what you really need, then you have a to use a system to review it. Systems make you behave almost automatically and frees you cognitive energy better served to understanding what you are reading.
You’re system might be some note-cards, note papers or any Spaced Repetition System (SRS’s or technically called adaptive learning systems). If you are very compulsive about wanting to remember everything you find interesting you’ll end up with so much information you won’t be able to deal with it at your daily studying sessions – doing the repetitions.
A simple way to choose what to put into SuperMemo or any SRS’s is to determine if you have any chance you’ll need that piece of information in the next two months while not having the opportunity to see it again even once over that same period. The other requisite would be that failing to remember that information would cost you a life threatening experience (such as not remembering to do CPR (cardio-pulmonary resurrection) if you are a medical doctor, or even the food your girlfriend dislikes most.
Include in a SRS if:
Need to remember it in two months with no chance of seeing it again in this period of time
Avoiding Life threatening forgetting episodes .
For everything else, don’t include it in your SRS’s, there is no need to, you can always find it later or fast enough, you’ll remember it anyway, or you wont’ die if you do forget or you’re unable to recall it at the appropriate time .
By following this principles you’ll have a much pleasant experience with any adaptive learning system and you’ll stick to the repetitions more often, enabling your effort to deliver the desired results on learning a book or anything else.
If you are thinking about using a SRS to learn for an upcoming exam then a different approach is needed, enter the four quadrants of SRS’s, that should make another post soon enough.