Make it Stick — Peter Brown

Most commonly known ways to study doesn’t work. There are more effective ways to learn, which may seem counter intuitive or difficult at first. This book explains different techniques to improve your learning; full of references and stories to support their ideas. It ends with practical tips for teachers, students, trainers and lifelong learners.

My rating: 4/5. I really liked it. My notes length: 3 min.
Date read: February 10, 2016. More information on Amazon.

My Notes

Learning: we mean acquiring knowledge and skills and having them readily available from memory so you can make sense of future problems and opportunities. — Peter Brown

Learning is a skill. Develop it, as it’ll be your most valuable skill.

Learning is hard and it usually isn’t enjoyable. It depends more on the kind of effort spent while learning than on genetics. Be patient and determined.

In practice, there’s no limit to what we can remember. Retrieving those memories is a lot harder. The skill of learning focuses on techniques to improve retrieval.

You build knowledge upon your existing knowledge. The more you learn, them more you’ll be able to learn.

Good Ways to Learn

Look for concrete and personal examples for abstract ideas.

Develop the habit of self-quizzing. After you read something important, close your eyes and try to explain it with your own words.

Develop the habit of reflection. Close your eyes, visualise a previous situation, and figure out what you can do different in the future.

Create mental models. While extracting the main ideas from texts, create models and associate them with models you already know.

Space your repetitions. Space your practice sessions enough so that it’s difficult to remember. Avoid spacing them so that you need to learn again.

Interleave your practice. Include memories from different contexts in your practice sessions. It helps you to build the ability to discriminate the context and pick correct way to solve a problem.

Vary your practice. Include slight variations of a problem in your practice sessions. It helps you to build the ability to adapt and to discern when your knowledge isn’t actually enough.

Practice like it’s the real thing. Don’t frustrate when real life doesn’t look like your practice sessions. Focus on practicing adaptation and flexibility, always keeping an eye on real life situations.

Don’t fear failure. Some of the best lessons you’ll learn will come from failures. Try new things even if there’s risk associated.

Solve it yourself first. Struggling with something new helps you understand the lesson better when explained. Don’t look for the answer or feedback right away. Fail yourself first.

Make your goal to learn. Even if you fail, when learning is your goal, you’ll pick situations that’ll make you grow. If your goal is performance, then you’ll pick things you know how to do well. You’ll never improve that way.

Sleep is good. You consolidate and strengthen memories while sleeping. Consider sleeping between practice sessions.

Bad Ways to Learn

Reading multiple times a text. It makes you think you know something when you only understand it. Understanding a text is not the same as knowing the ideas behind it.

Massed practice. Uses short-term memory, which makes you believe you’re learning fast. What you don’t know is that you’ll also be forgetting it as fast as you learned it.

Believing that you don’t need to practice anymore. You need to practice your knowledge from time to time. If you decide you know something and stop practicing, you’ll forget it.

Cultivate Good Judgement

Develop the skill of good judgement. You’ll make errors of judgement, without a doubt. But develop the habit of being an observer to your own thoughts and actions.

Decide if you should follow your instinct or not. Don’t always follow it, and don’t always reject it. Develop the habit of evaluating your intuition.

Test your knowledge to have an accurate idea of what you know and what you don’t know.

Judge your own performance by asking for peer review. It’ll help you develop the ability to discern between competence and incompetence.