Saturday, April 10, 2010

Rest Before Mental Work a Plus

The Drs. Eide had a brief post about the positive effects of taking a nap prior to doing mental gymnastics that relate to memory and learning. A UC-Berkley study showed a significant gain in learning for those who nap/rested prior to doing the mental activity compared to those who did not nap.

I like the example they use where, at Google, employees have access to what are effectively napping modules (nap pods) that block light and sound. By resting for, say, 30 minutes or so, worker productivity, innovation and creativity should be enhanced by being able to take that quick rest period, particularly if it is just prior to a working group meeting or research period. The brain literally has a chance to reset and blood flow to the hippocampus increases, which is good preparation for the parts of the brain where learning and memory physically take place.

This has implications for education. If there is a more intense period of learning planned towards the end of a class period, where students have already been working for some period of time, a brief few minutes to rest may in fact enhance the learning immediately prior to the more intense learning period. Many teachers, myself included, know that using something like a 20-5 strategy works with students (meaning 20 minutes of activity followed by 5 minutes of practice/rest) seems to be effective for many students. This type of research helps explain why such strategies work, and suggests we should do more of work-rest periods in the classroom help our students maximize what they get from a lesson or activity. A detailed article about what is happening with the brain can be found here.