Monday, September 12, 2011

The Importance of Private Speech to Reinforce Learning Concepts

When I first learned to read, I learned by reading out loud to myself and to others and later, as a student, after I outlined a chapter or study guide, I would talk aloud about the concepts either in a study group or to myself. I always felt like if I could paraphrase the topic aloud, that demonstrated a solid understanding of what I was learning and therefore, I would be optimally prepared for exams. This was something I felt I needed to do to ensure that I would be successful on assignments and tests. However, when living in a dorm or observing people studying outside, reading silently and notetaking seemed more the norm. Obviously, it might seem unusual for someone to be reading aloud and appearing as though they were talking to themselves, but given that the walls in my dorm were quite thin, I still never heard my neighbors talking about academic concepts alone; only if they were sitting in the hallway or in the lounge with a study group.

As we prepare our study environment, we know we need quiet and few distractions. However, if you are a social learner or even if you need something extra to boost your retention of information, reading aloud and talking or mouthing the concepts to yourself is not obsolete as a potent means to reinforce what you have learned. In fact, the need to talk about concepts (either alone or with others in a collaborative manner) as a tool for reinforcing learning represents a learning style unto itself. The quote below further emphasizes this point:

"Adults who are not smooth readers also read out loud, but they have learned to muffle it for social purposes - they subvocalize, or just move their lips when they read, because they know that other people will think less of them if they read out loud. However, it is the easiest and most natural way to absorb concepts."
Wenger, Susan, Image-Streaming, 10/25/00.

Some examples of using private speech to reinforce concepts include the following:
  • memorizing concepts by saying the words
  • appreciating poetry by using emotional emphasis
  • reading text aloud as you correct and revise papers to see if it makes sense
  • In math problems, talking through the problem-solving process to ensure the correct solution.
Research has shown that turning to private speech can sometimes be a last resort as you attempt to fully understand what you are learning. If you are an auditory learner, talking aloud about concepts can be extremely helpful. However, even if your learning style falls into another category, this primitive learning reinforcer is one worth recognizing and getting reacquainted with!

For more information on this topic, visit the following link.

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