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Research on the Best Methods of Study

Scripture memorization can be a powerful practice that not only helps you to remember a truth but also to understand it better.

This idea draws support from an article in the journal Science about the effectiveness of different methods of studying for schoolwork. The article reported on research performed by Jeffrey D. Karpicke and Janell R. Blunt of Purdue University, which compared the effectiveness of several methods of learning.

New York Times author Pam Belluck describes one of the experiments in the study:

The students were divided into four groups. One did nothing more than read the text for five minutes. Another studied the passage in four consecutive five-minute sessions.
A third group engaged in "concept mapping," in which, with the passage in front of them, they arranged information from the passage into a kind of diagram, writing details and ideas in hand-drawn bubbles and linking the bubbles in an organized way.
The final group took a "retrieval practice" test. Without the passage in front of them, they wrote what they remembered in a free-form essay for 10 minutes. Then they reread the passage and took another retrieval practice test.
A week later all four groups were given a short-answer test that assessed their ability to recall facts and draw logical conclusions based on the facts.

The students who learned the material best were those in the final group, who took a retrieval practice test following their reading. These students outperformed the second best study method by roughly 50 percent in their ability to recall information one week later.

The lead author of the research, Jeffrey Karpicke, an assistant professor of psychology at Purdue University, offered an explanation for why this method of study could be so effective. "I think that learning is all about retrieving, all about reconstructing our knowledge. I think that we're tapping into something fundamental about how the mind works when we talk about retrieval."

In other words, when we try to remember something, it can help us understand it. It can force us to think further about what we learned, to "reconstruct our knowledge," as Karpicke said, and to organize the material in our minds.

For those who are motivated to understand the Bible, memorizing and then meditating on the Bible can be a powerful way to grow in understanding and to renew the mind. Each time we attempt to repeat a Bible verse in the process of memorization, it is a retrieval test that helps clarify the truth of God's Word in our minds.

One final thought from the Times article offers hope to those who become discouraged when trying to memorize material, because when they try to recall a Bible verse they keep getting it wrong. Belluck, the author of the N. Y. Times article, wrote, "The Purdue study supports findings of a recent spate of research showing learning benefits from testing, including benefits when students get questions wrong."

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