I am so sick of forgetting stuff I had once learnt

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PerchloricAcid
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I am so sick of forgetting stuff I had once learnt

Postby PerchloricAcid » Thu Oct 11, 2012 2:08 pm UTC

The title says it all.

How do I protect my knowledge from being lost (forgotten)?

I have the impression that I can barely remember things I have learnt even less than a year ago and it's driving me crazy. There's so many things that I can't recall any more; I can just recall that I have learnt them in the past.

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AvatarIII
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Re: I am so sick of forgetting stuff I had once learnt

Postby AvatarIII » Thu Oct 11, 2012 2:33 pm UTC

if you make notes, make a habit of looking back over notes you have made regularly.
I'd say it's unlikely that the knowledge is completely gone, probably just "buried". The more you use knowledge, the more you will remember it, so constantly looking back on things you have learned will keep things "closer to the surface".

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Magnanimous
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Re: I am so sick of forgetting stuff I had once learnt

Postby Magnanimous » Thu Oct 11, 2012 2:37 pm UTC

Teach it to other people.

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eSOANEM
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Re: I am so sick of forgetting stuff I had once learnt

Postby eSOANEM » Thu Oct 11, 2012 2:59 pm UTC

I'm only just starting my degree so I have limited experience of this.

Anyway, the main thing I once learned which I then forgot (other than maths over the holidays) was Spanish. I haven't done Spanish in school for about 2 years but, when I last did it, I could speak it well enough to comfortably get by (occasionally having to grope for vocab a tiny bit) in Spain just using Spanish. Alas, those days are gone and now I can barely say a thing although I can still understand a reasonable bit (which is infuriating).

Anyway, what helped me was:

Using it. This may sound obvious, but with the case of a language, it's particularly relevant. I found a few people on various fora who spoke Spanish (and, on another smaller forum, as the only mod who spoke Spanish at all, I became the moderator of the Spanish board) and just speaking to these people really helped keep it to standard. Also, when I went on holiday in Spain after a year of not speaking Spanish at all and after a few months of minimal contact even online, it really came back. It may seem like what you once knew is gone, but I think AvatarIII hit the nail on the head when he said it's probably buried instead.

Talking about it. Even when I wasn't speaking Spanish to people, talking about it to people (from a lingustic point of view) helped me to remember various facts about Spanish and various special case (irregular verbs etc.).

Which leads to the last thing which helped me:

Magnanimous wrote:Teach it to other people.


This cannot be overstated. Teaching people something is (for me at least), the best way to improve on any amount of knowledge. Even if this isn't the case for you, trying to explain something to someone else will necessarily show you exactly how much you don't know which is clearly important if you wish to improve back to a previous standard.
my pronouns are they

Magnanimous wrote:(fuck the macrons)

PerchloricAcid
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Re: I am so sick of forgetting stuff I had once learnt

Postby PerchloricAcid » Thu Oct 11, 2012 3:00 pm UTC

Thanks guys.
Your advice is highly appreciated. :)

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LaserGuy
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Re: I am so sick of forgetting stuff I had once learnt

Postby LaserGuy » Thu Oct 11, 2012 8:02 pm UTC

PerchloricAcid wrote:The title says it all.

How do I protect my knowledge from being lost (forgotten)?

I have the impression that I can barely remember things I have learnt even less than a year ago and it's driving me crazy. There's so many things that I can't recall any more; I can just recall that I have learnt them in the past.


The short answer that I would give is that things that you practice often are the things that you will retain. Part of the problem with the way that universities in particular, and schools in general, have is that they often don't give enough time to any one topic for you to be able to commit it to long-term memory simply based on your covering it in one class. You might get bits and pieces into long term, but it's pretty scattershot, and when you study for your exams, you're basically just throwing the whole thing back into short term and hoping it will stick--but you'll forget most, if not all, of what you studied that you didn't know before the exam rather shortly afterward, because most of it never got properly transcribed into your longterm memory.

You can improve retention in a couple of ways. Probably the best is to learn it well the first time. After lecture, review your notes, cross-check with the textbook on the topic to get a second reading of it, visit your prof in office hours to go over things, even if it's just a "I want to check and make sure I got this right" type of visit. Just explaining it to someone else out loud will help a lot. Occasionally go back and review material that you've covered earlier in the course, and try to patch any holes that you notice have opened up. These types of things will help maximize your long-term retention at the onset. Getting proper amounts of sleep is apparently very important for memory retention as well. Obviously, if you're in university doing a full course load, you'll quickly recognize that doing these sorts of things will quickly run you out of usable hours in the day, which is part of the problem I mentioned earlier, but these are sort of best practices.

Ultimately, you're still going to have significant losses to topics that you don't use regularly, at least up to the point where you've achieved a pretty high level of mastery in it--if you're in a physics program like I was, for example, just about everything you learned in intro calculus you're probably going to retain simply because you end up using it in almost every course for your entire degree. That fourth year elective class in continuum mechanics though? Probably you're going to lose most of it unless you are going into that or a related field. If you have an inkling of what you've forgotten, you can always find the right book and relearn it if you need to know if for some specific application though.

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Re: I am so sick of forgetting stuff I had once learnt

Postby Vangor » Sun Oct 14, 2012 12:52 pm UTC

"Forgetting stuff" falls into to two important tasks: retention and retrieval. Both are highly supported by learning via several modalities including seeing, reading, writing, hearing, speaking, feeling, and doing and connecting this with emotion (does not have to be connected to the learning, such as doodling, just cannot be a distraction). Try to construct a conception of the learning rather than verbatim, summarize and synthesize into an image or brief response (we access concepts first such as "color" before coming to "yellow"). For retention, interact with the learning in some way, reviewing notes or learning related information or using a skill. For retrieval, try something related which you remember better (a test taking strategy where you ignore questions you do not immediately recognize, but usable outside of tests).

As an aside for note-taking, there is a difference between jotting down some hierarchical thinking map of main concepts and recording every word and slide, with the latter being a distraction which is not concerned with seeing, hearing, or reading (being able to copy the words is not reading) and avoids any grappling with the material. Amazes me to see students record in a frenzy and walk away with no understanding, the only questions being "Can you repeat that?" Record to support your memory, not to replace.

Tirian
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Re: I am so sick of forgetting stuff I had once learnt

Postby Tirian » Mon Oct 15, 2012 5:35 am UTC

Tagging on what Vangor said, one of my professors last semester formed a major part of our class grade on a weekly one-page written reflection on how we had comprehended the readings and lectures, made connections with our prior knowledge, and applied the knowledge inside and beyond the class. I found it to be an enormously valuable exercise, both because the process of forming my thoughts into paragraphs is precisely the sort of synthesis that triggers long-term retention and because it leaves me with personalized notes that trigger those memories six months after the class ended. And that doesn't even consider what a valuable formative assessment my writings would have held for my professor. I'm totally jazzed about forcing journaling on my students someday! :)

webgiant
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Re: I am so sick of forgetting stuff I had once learnt

Postby webgiant » Sat Oct 20, 2012 3:37 am UTC

Try cross linking. This is a name for something I do to link my memories together. First, find common elements and work on remembering them together. If common elements do not exist, make some. For example, link computer science and physics by writing linear regression software. Linking memories like this means you are less likely to forget anything: if you forget something, you'll soon remember it by remembering its cross linked companion memory.

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Re: I am so sick of forgetting stuff I had once learnt

Postby tastelikecoke » Sat Oct 20, 2012 12:29 pm UTC

You could also use spaced repetition flashcards if you really want to remember stuff. It works like a flashcard, except for the fact that cards that you remember well will appear less often, and cards you get wrong appears much more often. I personally use Anki as a SRS.

It might be overkill though, and not most knowledge can be remembered with this way (e.g. how to prove the four-color theorem). But it's effective. I use it to keep the trigonometric identities (the most horrible part of math) in my head, and it definitely helped me during exams.

Tounx
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Re: I am so sick of forgetting stuff I had once learnt

Postby Tounx » Mon Nov 19, 2012 4:54 pm UTC

If you don't use something, you will forget it.

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Izawwlgood
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Re: I am so sick of forgetting stuff I had once learnt

Postby Izawwlgood » Mon Nov 19, 2012 4:56 pm UTC

Magnanimous wrote:Teach it to other people.

This.
... with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, to tread the jeweled thrones of the Earth under his sandalled feet.


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