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Elaboration & Learning

Let's say you are trying to learn how to do effective Brainstorming techniques. First, you might study different strategies, like making analogies, doing free associations, changing the original problem's context, or imagining only an ideal situation where there are no constraints like money or deadlines. Practicing in different settings can help you develop skill and understanding about brainstorming.

Through a series of studies, cognitive scientists found that other forms of practice, called elaboration, could improve one's remembering and learning of an idea. For instance, having students read about famous cases of brainstorming, or identifying similarities between brainstorming and memory-building techniques, all would help improve the learner to build and extend their organization of ideas about brainstorming. Some elaboration studies suggested that even reading an article about a topic backwards could improve one's memory of the subject because the task still caused the brain to make connections with the subject that it might not have made had it not done that elaboration strategy.

In sum, getting students to remember, explain, write about, analyze, make connections to new topics, make connections between a new idea and what they already know (activating prior knowledge) -- all of these help further the process of elaboration upon an idea, which can lead to more connected and flexible understandings of a topic.

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