Rubber Duck Debugging Method: How To Study More Effectively | UBIS

Rubber Duck Debugging Method: How to Make Your Study Time More Effective

If you’re looking for a new way to study, look no further – get a rubber duck.  Let us share a tip that will help you in your study journey – teaching rubber ducks! UBIS introduces some tips on how to make your study time more effective with the Rubber Duck Debugging Theory.

The Rubber Duck Debugging theory is commonly used by programmers. The idea is that when a programmer needs to debug their code, they should explain the program line-by-line to a rubber duck. Often, the act of explaining the problem step by step will cause the solution to present itself.

The theory of Rubber Duck Debugging need not be confined to programming. It can also be applied to other tasks like preparing presentations, revising for exams, and editing essays. The key idea is that speaking out loud can help solve problems. The real magic doesn’t happen on the rubber duck itself. However, it happens in our minds. Verbally explaining the problem that you are trying to solve helps greatly in coming up with a solution, because it forces you to pay attention to detail.

How Rubber Duck Debugging Theory Works

When you study by reading out loud, your sense of hearing becomes a part of the experience.  It triggers cognitive abilities related to memory, attention, and comprehension. This activates your ability to store and retain information.

A recent Waterloo study found that speaking text aloud helps to get words into long-term memory. Dubbed the “production effect,” the study determined that it is the dual action of speaking and hearing oneself that has the most beneficial impact on memory.

The current study tested 95 college students over the course of two semesters. Students were asked to remember as many words as possible from a list of 160 nouns. At one session, they read a list of words into a microphone, then returned two weeks later for a follow-up.  In some situations, the participants read the words presented to them aloud, while in others, they either heard their own recorded voice played back to them, heard recordings of others reading the words, or read the words silently to themselves. Afterward, they were tested to see how much they remembered from the list.

The participants remembered more words if they had read them aloud compared to all other conditions.  Even the one where people heard their own voices reading the words.

Teaching your Rubber Duck

When you’re assuming the ignorance of your rubber duck, you’re having to explain more thoroughly and exactly than you were likely thinking those specific study concepts in your head. You’re forced, by the need to be precise while helping someone else understand your problem.   Paying very careful attention to all that you were previously just taking for granted.

If you’ve possibly heard people recommend teaching as a great way to further your learning.  It’s rooted in the very same shift. When you’re explaining, “and then this probably will happen because it usually does” feels pretty lame as an explanation.  So you’re forced to understand more deeply and explain more fully. It is precisely this that makes rubber duck debugging effective. The psychological shift outside of yourself, and into the rubber ducky, changes everything.

rubber ducks on desk

Key Takeaways

  • Putting the effort to teach your rubber duck can help you recognize whether you actually understand a topic.
  • Reading an essay out loud that you want to edit can help you to decide whether sentences are grammatically correct and whether the essay flows well.
  • Sometimes, teaching a rubber duck is more useful than explaining the problem to a classmate or friend, because suggestions from a colleague may lead to distractions or digressions, making it harder to solve the problem.
  • The rubber duck debugging method may also help you improve your teaching skills!

On your way to success, you will stumble upon different ways to adapt and learn. Remember to be open to new ideas and not be afraid to innovate. Studying can be fun!

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