Cram sessions have been part of the college experience for decades. However, new research suggests that for real learning to occur, students should take breaks instead of working for long blocks of time.
The reason is that the brain can only take in so much information at once. Working memory—a temporary holding place for new information—can absorb just a few items at once, according to Prof. John Sweller, who studies learning science. According to Sweller, humans cannot hold onto new memories for more than 20 seconds without repeating those memories to themselves. Cramming one fact after another just doesn’t work.
Sweller’s research has led him to believe that if students are having trouble understanding a concept or idea when learning, they are likely overloading their working memories. He also found that continually overloading working memory leads to memory lag, or slow processing of new information. Similarly, concentrating on a task for a prolonged period of time does not yield more learning, Sweller’s research suggests, because working memory declines after periods of focused learning.
The good news is that Sweller’s research also found that working memory recovers quickly after students take a break from a mentally taxing task. That’s why it makes sense to take frequent breaks from concentrated effort.
This should be good news for students. Learning how to learn is an essential takeaway from college, and knowing that cramming is an ineffective way to process information can lead to better study strategies.
- Think back to a prolonged study session in which you tried to cram a lot of information over a relatively short period of time. How did that work?
- What implications do Sweller’s findings have for the way students complete assignments and study?
- What changes to your own study strategies can you adopt to improve your learning?
The pandemic and working from home have created a new wardrobe reality. Robes and slippers have become best-selling items touted by celebrities. Wearing pajamas all day or slipping into yesterday’s (or last week’s) sweats is commonplace when there’s no one to dress for. But experts say dressing down while working from home can impact performance.
Choice of clothing has long been known to affect mood. It’s no secret that “power suits” help a person go into an important meeting with more confidence or that putting on a special outfit to attend a wedding or prom makes the event more exciting. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that dressing down can similarly affect people’s psychological state.
The reason is that we associate relaxed clothing with, well, relaxing, and working and relaxing are distinct activities. Wearing garb we typically relax in while we work can impact motivation and productivity because we associate those items with sleep or relaxation. Conversely, wearing clothes that carry symbolic meaning—a jacket instead of a hoodie, for example—can subtly help us perform better.
Dressing in work-friendly attire can also increase self-esteem, experts say. Putting some thought into sartorial choices affects how we carry and feel about ourselves, according to research from England. Donning a button-down shirt instead of a worn concert tee triggers the brain’s productivity mode. Similarly, changing from work clothes into comfortable attire at the end of the work day can help create a marker between private and work time.
Interestingly, research has found that people feel more authoritative and competent when they dress for success. It’s a short jump to see that if productivity dwindles while wearing casual clothes, changing that attire may help.
Nevertheless, the occasional PJ day can be a great way to take a needed break from work, as long as it’s not done too frequently—that can lead to sluggishness. The bottom line is to fight the urge to get too cozy all the time as long as working from home remains the norm.
- Have you had experiences in which dressing up has changed your attitude?
- What’s behind the idea of wearing “power suits”?
- What do you think about the notion of clothing having symbolic meaning? What are some examples of symbolic clothing?
While it’s clear that misconduct at work—theft, insubordination, or discrimination toward a co-worker—is cause for termination, the prevalence of videos recording bad behavior outside of work is now leading to the same result. And it’s legal.
The reason? The government must protect free speech, but private employers are not under the same obligation, giving non-governmental organizations broad reach for lawful termination. Consequently, an employee working at a bank, tech company, or law firm cannot be arrested for saying or doing hateful or distasteful things, but that person canbe fired.
It plays out like this. Someone takes a video of another’s objectionable behavior and posts it on social media. Through re-posting, the individual saying or doing the distasteful act is identified. The person’s employer sees it. The offender is fired.
The media widely reported a recent incident of that exact scenario. The event occurred in New York when a white woman in Central Park called police after a Black man, who was bird-watching, asked the woman to leash her dog as required by the park’s rules. The woman untruthfully claimed the man was threatening her and her dog to the police. However, as she made the call, the man documented it on video as he stood calmly nearby. Later the woman was charged with filing a false police report and was subsequently fired by her employer after the incident went viral. Similar situations have also resulted in terminations.
Private employers in the United States can generally fire their workers under the employment-at-will doctrine as long as the reason for the termination is not due to race, religion, age, or disability. After all, employees’ actions reflect upon their employers whether those actions occur at the workplace or outside of it.
- How does the employment-at-will doctrine affect employees?
- Why does the First Amendment right to free speech not protect some workers from being fired?
- Why does employee conduct outside of the office reflect on employers?
From The Wall Street Journal