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Driven by Review

Japanese Chinese

Some readers may think the title is a mistake. Instead of "driven by review," shouldn't this be something like "driven by revenge," which would be more natural although they both sound the same in Japanese (fukushu)? As a matter of fact, "driven by review" is how I characterized my own way of studying at a recent symposium that I attended at my old high school with a number of former classmates when asked to offer advice to current students. It means that thorough review is more effective than preparation. By telling students to be "driven by review," I meant to emphasize the importance of reviewing not once, but five or even ten times. From junior high and senior high school, I rarely prepared for a class, except for English reading comprehension. Instead, I reviewed the material many times.

Effective studying methods differ individually, so I can't say that mine will work for everyone. Nevertheless, there are a number of reasons for the efficacy of repeated review as a method of studying, which are grounded in psychology and brain science.

First, research in psychology has established that firm memorization results from repeated reading, writing, and vocal output. Reviewing material two or three times leads to better and more accurate memorization, a fact whose scientific validity is undisputed.

Second, this method of repeated review makes review the chief component of learning and also implies that preparation is not so necessary. Not only do I cite my own experience, but the following reasons also corroborate this.

Preparation entails understanding new material on one's own. Textbooks and reference books may be equipped with various features to aid understanding, but we learn more effectively when it is supplemented by the explanation of someone proficient in the subject like a teacher. Teachers are specialists in this sort of technique and knowledge. If a student does not prepare, he or she will have to listen carefully to the teacher's explanation in order to understand the content. In this way, the method of repeated review has a secondary effect of making it necessary to listen carefully to the teacher in class.

If a student prepares thoroughly in advance and already knows much of what the teacher explains in class, he or she is likely to be less motivated to listen intently. According to research, children in the lower grades of elementary school who had learned how to read and write in kindergarten showed less development in language ability than children who had not.*1

I have cited my own experience here because of doubts regarding the recent interest in flipped learning or reverse instruction. In flipped learning, the student prepares at home and then applies the knowledge in school or is instructed in areas that are not fully understood. Studies of schools that have experimented with flipped learning claim that study time at home increases due to preparation, but that is not surprising. It becomes necessary because without at-home preparation, the student wouldn't learn anything at all. We also await the findings of future research that examines the quality of learning (understanding).

Of course, in university and graduate school, flipped learning is the common method of learning. Harvard Medical School no longer relies on conventional lecturing, but has implemented instead a program called New Pathway. Students form small groups where they practice self-directed learning in the presence of a faculty tutor who gives advice only when students ask questions. I suspect, however, that what makes this method possible in the first place is the excellence of the Harvard University students.

In any case, should flipped learning be implemented in the years of compulsory education? This is a question that will require careful study from the perspectives of education, psychology and neuroscience.


*1: Nobuko Uchida, Ki Sook Lee, Nianli Zhou, Jiaxiong Zhu, Takashi Hamano, Noriko Goto, "Do Differences in Scholastic Aptitude Begin in Early Childhood? Can Disciplinary Style Overcome Economic Disparity? A Follow-up Survey on Childhood in Japan (Tokyo), South Korea (Seoul), and China (Shanghai): A Comparative Databook," Joint Research Report by Ochanomizu University and Benesse Corporation No. II.
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Sakakihara_Yoichi.bmp Yoichi Sakakihara
M.D., Ph.D., Professor, Graduate School of Humanities and Sciences, Ochanomizu University; Director of Child Research Net, President of Japanese Society of Child Science. Specializes in pediatric neurology, developmental neurology, in particular, treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Asperger's syndrome and other developmental disorders, and neuroscience. Born in 1951. Graduated from the Faculty of Medicine, the University of Tokyo in 1976 and taught as an instructor in the Department of the Pediatrics before assuming current post.
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