Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning

I trust that if you read this blog you are engaged in a course of lifelong learning. But how much do you remember of what you allegedly learned? Peter C. Brown, Henry L. Roediger III, and Mark A. McDaniel offer suggestions for improving retention in Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning (Harvard University Press, 2014).

Among their claims,

“Learning is deeper and more durable when its effortful. Learning that’s easy is like writing in sand, here today and gone tomorrow.”

Rereading text and massed practice [the single-minded, rapid-fire repetition of something you’re trying to burn into memory] are among the least productive study strategies.

Retrieval practice—recalling facts or concepts or events from memory—is a more effective learning strategy than review by rereading.”

“When you space out practice at a task and get a little rusty between sessions, or you interleave the practice of two or more subjects, retrieval is harder and feels less productive, but the effort produces longer lasting learning and enables more versatile application of it in later settings.”

“When you’re adept at extracting the underlying principles or ‘rules’ that differentiate types of problems, you’re more successful at picking the right solutions in unfamiliar situations.”

“People who learn to extract the key ideas from new material and organize them into a mental model and connect that model to prior knowledge show an advantage in learning complex mastery.”

These are just a few bullet points from an altogether excellent book. It’s well worth reading, and remembering.