by Peter C. Brown, Henry L. Roediger (III), Mark A. McDaniel
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Empirical research over the last decade shows that what we know today on how to learn is wrong.
The growing science of learning shows that there are effective, evidence based strategies that are not intuitive which replace those ineffective techniques (which are widely accepted today due to theory, lore, intuition).
To be useful, learning requires memory so its there when we need it.
We need to keep learning and remembering all our lives.
Learning is an acquired skill.
If it is easy, it is here today, gone tomorrow - like writing in sand
Actual productive learning is hard and goes slower - so instead we go for things that feel productive, but those gains are temporary.
Rereading text and massed practice (single minded rapid fire repetition) of a skill or new knowledge are the most popular but least productive strategies.
They make you feel fluent or that you are gaining mastery but are ultimately wasteful uses of time, leading to illusions of competence.
Recalling facts or concepts or events from memory (e.g. via flashcards) strengthens memory (through stronger neural pathways) and interrupts the Ebbinghaus Curve of Forgetting which is essential for memory.
Spaced Repetition of practice of a task or Interleaving of the practice of two or more subjects leads to retrieval becoming harder and feels less productive.
However it is more effortful and ultimately leads to longer durability of memory and more versatility in application of learning.
Trying to solve a problem before being taught the solution leads to better learning, even when errors are made in trying. This is known as the Generation Effect.
Empirical research does not support notion that you learn better when you receive teaching in a form that matches your "learning style".
You learn better by going wide and using your aptitude and resources to learn across multiple forms or styles.
By being able to understand or extract the underlying principles or rules that separate different types of problems, you'll be more able to pick the right solutions in unfamiliar situations and apply your learning more effectively.
Acquire this skill through Interleaving and varying your practice.
Testing helps to calibrate our judgements of what we think we have learned and overcome illusions of competence.
Overcome limits to what you can learn and remember through the process of elaboration.
This is giving new material meaning by expressing it in your own words and connecting it with what you already know.
All new learning requires a foundation of prior knowledge - the more you can explain about the way your new learning connects to your prior knowledge, the more you will understand of your new learning and the more you will remember it.
Being able to extra key ideas from new material, organise them into a mental model and connect that model to prior knowledge helps acquire complex mastery.
It also helps to put new knowledge into a larger context, which helps retain information by giving it meaning
Intellectual ability is not hardwired from birth and everytime you learn something new you rewire/change the brain.
We are born with genetic gifts/pre-dispositions, but we have a large amount of control over our capability through learning and development of mental models to reason, solve and create.
Failure is not a indication of limits but a badge of effort and a source of useful information - when learning is hard, you're doing important work and you will often fail and struggle but this will help you identify areas for improvement and also prime your brain for new learning.
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Founder of Meta (www.metalearn.io) and Marketing Manager at ReadCloud, helping students to grow and learn how to learn effectively.
Learning how to learn is a fundamental skill that I was not taught when I was younger and had to actively seek out and understand myself. Develop this meta skill and you'll be able to apply it to all parts of your life.
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