Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning

August 29, 2014 - Comment

To most of us, learning something “the hard way” implies wasted time and effort. Good teaching, we believe, should be creatively tailored to the different learning styles of students and should use strategies that make learning easier. Make It Stick turns fashionable ideas like these on their head. Drawing on recent discoveries in cognitive psychology

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To most of us, learning something “the hard way” implies wasted time and effort. Good teaching, we believe, should be creatively tailored to the different learning styles of students and should use strategies that make learning easier. Make It Stick turns fashionable ideas like these on their head. Drawing on recent discoveries in cognitive psychology and other disciplines, the authors offer concrete techniques for becoming more productive learners.

Memory plays a central role in our ability to carry out complex cognitive tasks, such as applying knowledge to problems never before encountered and drawing inferences from facts already known. New insights into how memory is encoded, consolidated, and later retrieved have led to a better understanding of how we learn. Grappling with the impediments that make learning challenging leads both to more complex mastery and better retention of what was learned.

Many common study habits and practice routines turn out to be counterproductive. Underlining and highlighting, rereading, cramming, and single-minded repetition of new skills create the illusion of mastery, but gains fade quickly. More complex and durable learning come from self-testing, introducing certain difficulties in practice, waiting to re-study new material until a little forgetting has set in, and interleaving the practice of one skill or topic with another. Speaking most urgently to students, teachers, trainers, and athletes, Make It Stick will appeal to all those interested in the challenge of lifelong learning and self-improvement.

Comments

James Knight says:

Never Too Late, Is It? There are those situations in your life when you think, “Dang, if only I would have known that earlier, I could have…….” That thought crossed my mind a couple times when reading Make it Stick, because I certainly could have profited handsomely from knowing how to study, how to acquire knowledge, how to learn more effectively and more efficiently. The book lays out in very readable and convincing fashion the surprising conclusions of much research into different methods of studying and teaching, and describes a number of real world success stories in classrooms, hospital teaching programs, corporate training, and elite athletic programs.The big surprise for me is that some of the most widely used study techniques, certainly including several of my old standbys, are also the least effective. It turns out that knowing how best to learn is not necessarily intuitive, and worse, some of the seemingly most intuitive learning regimens are not really very…

Kevin Currie-Knight says:

There’s How You Think You Learn, and There’s How You Learn! Okay, well maybe I am overstating that a little. But the main “thesis” of Peter Brown’s book – aside from being a summary of what cognitive science data shows about how we learn – is basically that many of the things we often assume about learning are wrong. Here are some of them: we learn best by reading and rereading a passage until we really understand it. WRONG! We learn best when we isolate a skill and practice it over and over again. WRONG! We all have learning styles that are the way we learn best. WRONG! IQ (or something like it) imposes relatively firm limits on how much information we can absorb. WRONG!In this pretty easy-reading book, Peter Brown summarizes some of the latest findings in cognitive science, and many of these findings contradict what is often assumed about learning. First, many k-12 and college students are taught to (and do) use the ‘reread and highlight’ method to try and absorb content. Well, while this works to an extent, it leads…

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