June 01, 2006

The power of repetition

AJ posts about the importance of repetition in language learning. Surprise, surprise: Bob Leamson has something to say about this, too! (Refer to my previous post for Leamson's definition of learning): First, it is the multiple connections between neurons that allow perception and thought, and not just the existence or the number of neurons. Second, it is experience and sensory interaction with the environment that promotes and stabilizes neural connections. There is good evidence that neurons bud, or send out new axons, continually. These new axons make connections with other neurons, but the connections, or synapses, are, initially, quite labile, meaning here that they easily regress if not used. New and weak synapses stabilize only if they have produced a useful path. Whether or not a synaptic sequence stabilizes is determined by the frequency with which that path is used....  One can imagine something like a rule that says, if a path is used repeatedly is must be important, so make it easy by increasing the probabibility that the signal will get through. Such a model is certainly consistent with common experience and the fact that both physical and mental activity get easier with practice. (p.13)...
The second philosophical conclusion we might come to after considerating student brains as having potential but limited synaptic structure, is the importance of repetition. The notion of repetition must be considered in conjunction with the fact that is it student neural networks that need conditioning. While it may be comforting and satisfying for a teacher to rehearse what she already knows, the only useful repetition from an educational point of view is that which goes on in the heads of students.

1 comment:

JH said...

Let me just clarify that by repetition you mean "repeated listening" not "repeated repeating".