Chunk Your Life Together

By Laken Barlow

Congratulations! You’re going to college! Or you may already be there, still good for you. Going and getting into college is an important milestone in many people’s lives. It prepares you for your future career. College is also a time to figure out who you are as a person and to help you grow. It can be intimidating sometimes, I’m not going to lie. You’re put in a completely new environment where you have to make new friendships and completely start over in sports and other organizations. You have to create a positive image of yourself to your peers, all the while under the pressure of doing well in your classes. The whole reason you came to college is to prepare yourself for your future, so you need to learn how to balance out your social and academic life. A key component to managing your academic work is your study habits.

Studying is important to being successful in college. If you’re a freshman DO NOT blow off studying and putting your academic work off till last minute. This can affect your GPA in a bad way. You do not want to start off your freshman year with below a 3.0 because it is hard to get it back up. You do not want to have to work extra hard in your more difficult major classes to get you GPA back to where you want it. From my own experience I wish I would have worked harder my freshman year because I could be doing less than what I have to do now. Starting my sophomore year, I began working harder and continued to work harder as I continue to go through school. I recently found a neat study habit, chunking, which helps me learn and remember information better.

Chunking is grouping similar information together, so that information takes up less room in your memory, and therefore leaves more room in your memory for more information. “Memory chunks are the basic building blocks for hierarchical control of skilled performance” (1). Chunking together information allows for you to control the information for your needs, which then allows you to become more proficient in the material. Memory chunking is created in your short-term memory. So, after having the information in your short-term memory you must learn the material and move it to your long-term memory.

After you have moved to information to long-term memory the material stored is remembered as one unit (2). This is beneficial to you because when you’re searching for a piece of information, you recall that chunk and everything that you chunked together. The information you chunked together can help you find a solution easier and more quickly. Having similar information chunked together helps you understand the material better.

Here is a diagram of how information can be broken up and chunked together (3).

The easiest way to use chunks is grouping together information together that have something in common. After you have a specific chunk put together there is room for altering it. Throughout a class you learn more information. If the information you are learning is similar to a chunk you have already created, you can add that information to the chunk (4). That is the great thing about using this study habit. In classes you are constantly learning new information that relates back or builds off the material you already learned. Being able to update chunks you already created is very handy.

Like any other time you are studying, you do not remember the information the first time you read through the material. It takes a few times for that information to become encoded. The more difficult the information is to learn and retain, the better your retrieval for the information will be later when you need to use that information. If the material you are chunking together is more difficult, when you are going to use that information it means “(a) the original code has been retrieved and (b) that elaboration is taking place” (5). Chunking together information helps you elaborate because you have chunked together similar information and having that additional information helps you better understand the material. Therefore, you are able to work through the material better which results in learning.

Chunking can be beneficial to you in many ways. You should see an improvement in your exam scores. Not only can you use chunking to help with studying, you can use it for everyday things you need to remember. Chunking helps your memory in general if you have a bad short-term memory like myself. Chunking keeps me from forgetting important things on a daily basis. Now that you know how to study better for your classwork, you’ll be able to balance out your social life and academic work. Now get out there and go have some fun! This is college after all!

References

(1) Yamaguchi, M., Randle, J. M., Wilson, T. L., & Logan, G. D. (2017). Pushing typists back on the learning curve: Memory chunking improves retrieval of prior typing episodes. Journal Of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, And Cognition, 43(9), 1432-1447. doi:10.1037/xlm0000385

(2) Gobet, F., & Clarkson, G. (2004). Chunks in expert memory: Evidence for the magical number four … or is it two?. Memory, 12(6), 732-747. doi:10.1080/09658210344000530

(3) Fountain, S. B. (1990). Rule abstraction, item memory, and chunking in rat serial-pattern tracking. Journal Of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes, 16(1), 96-105. doi:10.1037/0097-7403.16.1.96

(4) Sargent, J., Dopkins, S., Philbeck, J., & Chichka, D. (2010). Chunking in spatial memory. Journal Of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, And Cognition, 36(3), 576-589. doi:10.1037/a0017528

(5) Bellezza, F. S., & Young, D. R. (1989). Chunking of repeated events in memory. Journal Of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, And Cognition, 15(5), 990-997. doi:10.1037/0278-7393.15.5.990

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