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Chunking – An effective strategy exert postive effect on learning

A chunk is a meaning unit of information, such as a group of character or number (Gerrig and Zimbardo, 2010, p. 202). Thus, the process of creating a chunk on the basis of similarity (SpringReference, 2013). Acorrding to George A. Miller (Malamed, no date), he stated that working memory is limited in gaining new knowledge. Morever, cognitive researchers showed that the effectiveness of woking memory is based on the types of information which required to process and the person’s ability of creating chunk (Malamed, no date). Therefore, once the space of working memory was exhausted, incapbility of obtain new items would be occured. In this writings, we will use two pieces of evidenece to support chunking is an operative method on learning.


Firstly, according to Nagel ( How ‘Chunking’ speeds up your language learning, no date), chunking was useful when people were acquiring new language. Furthermore,  he explained this method by using of learning Arabic language. For example, “mish ma3aya filus kifaya” means “I don’t have enough money”. In fact, we don’t know the meaning of this sentence. However, we can refer those words in terms of chunk and after a several times of repetition over times, we will get use to this sentence and retrieve it out efficiently when faced with certain kind of situation. Therefore, chunking can deal with the difficulties of learning new language.


Then, Steven (1981) showed that transformed verbal into meaningful units improved students’ reading ability in high school student. He provided students with two form of reading test, one was presented with the original form and the other one was chunked by drawing slash line between units. The students were required to answer the questions from these two articles. Consequently, students showed a greater marks on answering the “chunked” article rather than the original passage.


Although the above evidences showed the efficiency of chunking, there are still some limitations exist. Firstly, the subjects in Stevens’ study just focused on high school student. In other words, it can not provided a convincing result due to narrow size of participants. Moreover, the participants in Stevens’ study were males. Thus, it didn’t provide any consideration of females’ students. Lastly, learning is a wide field which is not just focus on the part of language acquisition. Therefore, chunking might not suitable in other kinds of learning, such as mathematics.


Reference list

Gerrig, R.J. and Zimbardo, P.G. (2010). Psychology and Life (19th ed.). United States of America: Pearson Education

Malamed, C. (no date). Chunking Information for Instructional Design. Retrieved 5 October 2013, from

Nagel, D. (no date). How ‘Chunking’ speeds up your language learning. Retrieved 5 October 2013,

SpringReference (2013). Chunking Mechanisms and Learning. Retrieved 5 October 2013, from

Steven, K.C. (1981). Chunking material as an aid to reading comphrension. Journal of Reading, 25(2): 126-129.


5 responses to “Chunking – An effective strategy exert postive effect on learning

  1. I think proof reading would really help your writing style here. You have good points, but your article is confusing in places, with various inconsistencies and basic mistakes that make the article hard to follow. For example, your very first line does not differentiate between plural and singular when it needs to, and some words have been left half written (“…a meaning unit of information”)

    To expand upon your blog, Gobet et al. (2001) state that chunking can occur both consciously and unconsciously. We can use chunking strategically to remember information, but we can also use it in continuously and automatically in combination with perceptual processes. The study goes on to discuss this “diverse range of applications of perceptual chunking” focusing on “successes in verbal learning, expert memory, [and] language acquisition”.
    This evidence of unconscious chunking is backed up by Graybiel (1998), who proposed that the striatum (the main input area of the basal ganglia), can recode the representations of motor and cognitive action sequences so that they can be implemented as performance units by chunking them into pieces. This happens without our conscious knowledge, as it is key to our understanding of how we think and act.

    Gobet, F , Lane, P, C, R, Croker, S, Cheng P, C-H, Jones, G, Oliver, I and Pine, J, M. Chunking mechanisms in human learning. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 5 (6)

    Graybiel, A, M,. The Basal Ganglia and Chunking of Action Repertoires. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory. 70 (1-2).

  2. I think it’s important when talking about chunking to mention Miller’s paper “The magic number seven plus or minus two” (1956). After much research into short term memory, he concluded that a person can only hold on average 7 items within their immediate memory. He also noted that this number can vary but only by +/-2 items. He found that this number was consistent across many stimuli, letters, numbers, musical note, words, dots etc. He noticed that people were able to recall 7 words as easily as 7 letters, introducing the idea of chunking.
    It has also been found that the size of a chunk can impact how much can be remembered. Simon (1974) found that an individual’s memory span is longer for smaller chunks than it for larger chunks.
    You’ve stated that chunking may not be a suitable technique when it comes to teaching mathematics, however when it comes to learning a sequence of numbers compared to learning a sequences of letters, it has been found that the average span of numbers remembered is 9.3, greater than the average span of letters remember, 7.3 (Jacobs, 1887). The research suggested that this may be due to the fact that there are only 10 different digits (0-9) while there are 26 different letters. Then by using the technique of chucking people are able to increase the number of items within a sequence they can recall, however the numbers of 7+/- chunks still remains.

    Jacobs, J. (1887). Experiments on “prehension”. Mind, (45), 75-79.
    Miller, G. A. (1956). The magical number seven, plus or minus two: some limits on our capacity for processing information. Psychological review, 63(2), 81.
    Simon, H. A. (1974). How big is a chunk. Science, 183(4124), 482-488.

  3. psuf3c

    Chunking involves breaking down little bits into information into more manageable amounts so that remembering becomes easier. For example, when trying to remember a list of things that you need to buy from the supermarket it is easier to break things down into categories, such as dairy, fruit and freezer foods etc. and remember them in their groups rather than trying to remember a full list in a random order. Miller argued that a person can hold 7 +/- 2 items of information in their working memory, therefore when trying to memorise bits of information it is better to break it down into more manageable smaller chunks but also try not to do too much outside of the 7 +/- 2.
    Miller, G. A. (1956). “The magical number seven, plus or minus two: Some limits on our capacity for processing information”. Psychological Review 63(2): 81-97

  4. This blog topic is quite an interesting one; however it seems to portray a slightly narrow view on chunking. You also seem a little confused on the topic, or at least the writing style left me a little confused. Proofreading may help this issue (unless it’s just me and in that case please ignore this comment)

    Chunking is a unifying information-processing mechanism rather than the data itself (Gobet et al., 2001). Gobet et al. (2001) explains that there are two broad areas in chunking, depends on when it is assumed, a goal-orientated view and a perceptual view. The blog seems to have focused on perceptual chunking which can be seen to draw heavily from Gestalt grouping principles, in particular proximity and similarity (Quinlan & Wilton, 1998). This idea does lend itself towards the learning of language and perhaps the two could be assimilated into a holistic approach. The goal-orientated area is a more deliberate action on the part of the learner. Gobet (2005) gives a more general view of the impact of chunking in education (it also gives some good tips on how to teach chess to people, in case any of you are interested).

    Gobet, F. (2005). Chunking models of expertise: Implications for education. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 19. 183-204. doi: 10.1002/acp.1110.
    Gobet, F., Lane, P. C. R., Croker, S., Cheng, P, C-H., Jones, G., Oliver, i. & Pine, J. M. (2001). Chunking mechanisms in human learning. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 5(6). 236-243.
    Quinlan, P. T., & Wilton, R. N. (1998). Grouping by proximity or similarity? competition between the gestalt principles in vision. Perception, 27(4), 417-430. doi: 10.1068/p270417.

  5. Jessica

    I agree with what you say about chunking being an effective strategy on learning, and probably one of the most popular. However, there are other ways of learning that might show be more effective. Sequence learning is something that is not as widely known, but is inherent to humans as it integrated both the conscious non-conscious learning. It is used in everyday tasks such as speech or movement (Clegg, DiGirolamo, Keele, 1998).
    The ability to ‘sequence information’ has been found to be fundamental to human performance. Clegg, DiGirolamo and Keele found that reaction times and error rates decreased when subjects were asked to respond to various spatial locations of a stimulus and when the target followed a sequence.

    Additional to sequence learning, another effect technique used is Method of Loci. This is a mnemonic method, which is where you store lists of related items. Mnemonics can vary in how effective they are depending on age. Usually, the most effective mnemonic techniques are the ones that are most simple and creative, and must be used at the right time for maximum effectiveness (McAlum & Seay, 2010). O’Hara & Ruth et al. (2007) also found that mnemonic training can have long-term memory benefits for older adults, however, this tends to be the case for those who carry on the training.

    So, although chunking has shown to be an effective memory technique, it may be used in situation where other memory techniques could be more useful. These other techniques may not be used as people might not realise how effective they can be.

    O’Hara, Ruth et al,”Long-term effects of mnemonic training in community-dwelling older adults””Journal of Psychiatric Research”, October 2007

    McAlum, Harry G., and Sharon S. Seay.,”The use/application of mnemonics as a pedagogical tool in auditing””Academy of Educational Leadership Journal”, May 2010

    Clegg, Benjamin A; DiGirolamo, Gregory J, Keele, Steven W (August 1998). “Sequence learning”. Trends in Cognitive Sciences 2 (8): 275–81. doi:10.1016/S1364-6613(98)01202-9.

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