Time away from learning is often seen as a break in the learning process – a way to cool off, recharge, and then return to learning again.
A study was carried out to observe the neural activity of participants who learned how to type with their nondominant hand; it used magnetoencephalography (a highly sensitive brain-scanning technique) to analyse the data. After a practice session, the participants were given a short break.
The data revealed – a spike in brain activity during the break, mimicking the neural pattern seen during the practice session, but compressed by twentyfold.
The brain was not idle, instead it was replaying the practice session over and over at a very high rate of speed, flipping the learning material from the neocortex (where sensory and motor skills are processed) to the hippocampus (the brain’s memory centre), over two dozen times in the span of 10 seconds. It turns out that taking a break from the practice session/activity is not stepping away from the activity at all.
According to this study – after learning new information, our brains use the cognitive downtime as a virtual staging ground to process, organize, and integrate the learned information. After practicing a skill, our brains rapidly cycle through the experience, compressing and imprinting the material to optimize storage and recall.
Incorporating breaks into learning is essential; just like practice, breaks help in learning a new skill. During breaks, our brains compress and consolidate memories of what we just practiced.
Importance of Breaks in the Classroom
Short breaks of 5 - 15 minutes every hour or 3 - 5 minutes every 30 minutes can help in eliminating boredom, fatigue, and distraction in the classroom. It recharges students’ cognitive energy and improves their learning outcome and test scores.
Here are some tips for breaks in the classroom:
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