Wednesday, December 24, 2014

How We All Can Learn and Remember What We Have Learned

Peter C. Brown, Henry L. Roediger III, & Mark A. McDaniel make it stick:--The Science of Successful Learning

Thinking back to all the books I have read and test I have taken, after reading make it stick I am wondering how much I have truly retained. Well to answer my own question, not nearly enough. Which is painful to say from one who values continuous learning. Now, I can only move forward and possibly revisit old friends (text) and do things differently from this point forward.  So what exactly do we all need to do differently to make it stick?

The author’s use of real world examples helps the reader easily identify with what works and what feels like it is working. Whether you are a medical student, high school student, or a life long learning you can follow their research-based advice and adhere to the following.

Remember learning is more durable when you go deep. This will require significant effort on the learner but make the knowledge more meaningful now and in your future (i.e. you’ll remember it!). To learn better and remember longer you need to add various types of retrieval practices in your learning routines including; self testing, spaced out practice, solving problems before you study the solution, and revisit what you have learned.

Practice at retrieving new understanding from memory is a powerful tool for learning to “stick”. The learner can also mix up their practice by spacing their learning in short and longer periods of time. Add variation to your learning by interleaving similar content so you can apply what you know in a variety of different ways. Reflection of your learning and reflecting in writing what you have learned is also key to your long-term retention. (Hey haven’t I heard that somewhere before—write as a reflection of your learning?)

Learning is hard work, but embrace the difficulty. Challenge yourself and develop a growth mindset. You just don’t know it, YET! Work with peers and teams so you can provide and receive targeted feedback on what you know and don’t know. Your efforts are in your control and striving towards mastery will not only change your brain, but also build greater capacity for your intellectual ability to learn and make it stick.  

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