Self Help

Make It Stick - Peter C. Brown

Author Photo

Matheus Puppe

· 68 min read

Here are the key claims made in the book:

  1. Learning is deeper and more durable when it’s effortful. Easy learning is quickly forgotten.

  2. We are poor judges of when we are learning well and when we’re not. We prefer easy strategies like re-reading that feel more productive but provide only temporary gains.

  3. Rereading text and massed practice of a skill are common but ineffective study strategies. They produce feelings of fluency that are mistaken for mastery.

  4. Retrieval practice - recalling facts or events from memory - is a more effective learning strategy than review by re-reading. It strengthens memory and interrupts forgetting.

  5. Interleaving the practice of different but related topics or skills is more effective than massed practice of a single topic or skill. It leads to broader, more flexible mastery.

  6. The harder it is to retrieve a memory or skill, the more durable and useful it becomes once learned. Difficulties in learning activate neural mechanisms that boost retention.

  7. Drawing is a powerful learning technique, even for verbal information and non-visual topics. Visual thinking has broad applicability.

  8. Verbal explanations - using your own words to describe what you’re learning - strengthens learning, even for nonverbal materials. Speaking activates neural pathways that aid in understanding and long-term recall.

  9. Effortful practice, self-explaining, quizzing, teaching - these active techniques require more mental work but lead to more durable learning than passive absorption of information. They aid in building a robust memory that gives rise to expertise.

  10. Talent is overrated and gradually developed expertise is underrated. Consistent, mindful practice, not natural skill, builds abilities and exceptional outcomes for people in all walks of life. Mastery is made, not given.

• Spaced and varied practice of a task leads to better long-term learning than massed practice of the same task. Interleaving the practice of different tasks also improves learning and the ability to discern differences between the tasks.

• Testing one’s knowledge and skills during the learning process helps calibrate self-judgments of what one has learned and provides feedback to direct future study. Testing also strengthens and reinforces memory.

• Prior knowledge is essential for building new knowledge. The ability to relate new learning to what you already know through elaboration and creating mental models enhances learning and memory.

• Understanding that intellectual ability is malleable and not fixed leads to viewing difficulties and failures during learning as opportunities rather than indictments of one’s ability. Challenges and setbacks are a natural part of learning.

• Empirical research from cognitive psychology provides evidence for effective learning strategies. Intuition, theory, and lore are not always supported by evidence. Controlled experiments that test hypotheses about learning provide the most objective evidence to guide practice.

• Mental models: Extracting key ideas and organizing them into conceptual frameworks that relate the new ideas to what you already know facilitates learning, comprehension, and memory. Mental models provide a structure for applying knowledge to solve new problems.

Does this summary accurately reflect the key points from the passage? Let me know if you would like me to clarify or expand the summary further.

Here are the key criteria for effective design and learning objectivity based on the summary:

  1. Learning should be difficult and challenging, not easy. Easy learning tends to be superficial and quickly forgotten. Difficult learning, though harder, leads to stronger, longer-lasting mastery.

  2. Massed practice, or cramming, leads to temporary gains that quickly fade. Spaced and interleaved practice, or mixing up topics and coming back to them over time, leads to more durable learning.

  3. Rereading texts or other passive review of material is largely ineffective for building mastery. It gives an illusion of competence that doesn’t hold up over time. Active recall, through self-quizzing and practice exercises, builds memory.

  4. Learning is deeper and lasts longer when abstract ideas are grounded in concrete examples, especially examples that make the ideas emotionally meaningful or vivid. Stories help.

  5. Feedback and frequent tests help calibrate mastery and guide learners to allocate their attention appropriately. Learners themselves often don’t know which areas need the most work. Tests and feedback help.

  6. Practice in simulated conditions that approximate the “messiness” of real-world application helps transfer learning to new situations. The conditions of final performance should match the conditions of practice as much as possible.

  7. Belief in learning myths, like the belief that repetition alone builds mastery or that learning can be made “easy,” often leads educators and learners astray. The research evidence shows clearly that these beliefs are misguided. Effective learning is difficult and requires sustained, deliberate effort. There are no shortcuts.

In summary, these practices—sustained practice, spaced repetition, interleaved and varied practice, concrete and meaningful examples, frequent feedback, simulated conditions, and avoiding learning myths—define the objective criteria for effective learning and skill mastery according to the scientific evidence. Mastery is the result of intention, effort, practice, and persistence, not talent or ease of learning.

  • Research studies found modest benefits from rereading texts, but only when there was a meaningful lapse of time between readings. Rereading texts multiple times in close succession yields little benefit.

  • Students tend to favor rereading as a study strategy, but it is ineffective. Familiarity with a text can create the illusion of mastery, but the ability to repeat phrases from a text or lecture notes does not indicate real understanding.

  • Good metacognition - knowing what you know and don’t know - is important for learning. Many students overestimate how well they have learned material. Without quizzing themselves, they don’t know what they don’t know. Rereading notes and texts to fluency creates a false sense of mastery.

  • Knowledge alone is not sufficient, but it is necessary. Creativity depends on knowledge. Mastery requires both readily available knowledge and the ability to apply conceptual understanding.

  • Testing serves a dual purpose: it assesses learning (like a dipstick) but it also enhances learning (when used as a tool). Testing helps determine what students know and where the gaps are, but it also strengthens and expands learning through retrieval practice and identifying weaknesses. Both kinds of testing - standardized and classroom-based - can serve these purposes.

The key conclusions are: rereading is an ineffective study strategy; students need to develop better metacognition to accurately judge their own understanding; knowledge and conceptual mastery are both required for higher-order thinking; and testing serves the dual purposes of assessment and learning enhancement. Multiple-choice, standardized tests as well as instructor-developed tests can fulfill these purposes when used as learning tools, not just assessment.

• Mike Ebersold is a neurosurgeon with many years of experience and training. He was called in to treat a deer hunter who had been shot in the head.

• The bullet had fractured the hunter’s skull and lodged about an inch into his brain. It had also torn a large vein in the skull, which could lead to major bleeding.

• Ebersold went through standard pre-surgery procedures to prepare for possible complications, like heavy bleeding. Once in surgery, he carefully worked around the wound before removing the bullet to minimize bleeding.

• When Ebersold removed the bullet, the vein ruptured and the hunter lost a lot of blood very quickly. Ebersold then had to act fast based on his experience.

• To close the vein, Ebersold used a technique he had developed in past surgeries. He cut pieces of muscle from the surgical incision and used them to plug and stitch up the tears in the vein without damaging its shape.

• The hunter survived thanks to Ebersold’s quick thinking, experience, and ability to rely on skills he had developed through practice over many surgeries. His extensive experience allowed him to react almost reflexively in a crisis situation.

• The key message is that repeated practice and experience, which leads to fast and reflexive retrieval of knowledge and skills, can be lifesaving in some professions. Surgeons like Ebersold have developed expertise through extensive deliberate practice.

Here’s a summary:

• Repeated retrieval or testing of information helps strengthen memory and leads to better long-term retention of information. This is known as the testing effect or retrieval-practice effect.

• Forgetting information is fast without retrieval practice. We lose about 70% of what we learn shortly after learning it. Retrieval practice helps interrupt this forgetting process.

• Repeated retrieval embeds knowledge and skills into memory, making them reflexive or automatic. This is how experts in fields like neurosurgery are able to act quickly in high-pressure situations.

• Despite evidence for the benefits of retrieval practice, it remains underutilized as a learning technique. Many see it as unimportant for higher-order learning. But both memorization and creative thinking are important.

• Early research on the testing effect dates back to the early 1900s. Multiple studies have found retrieval practice to lead to better long-term retention than re-reading material.

• Massed studying or cramming leads to fast forgetting. Retrieval practice leads to much slower forgetting, with people able to retain much more information over time.

• For retrieval practice to be most effective, it needs to be repeated, spaced out over time, and require cognitive effort. Simple recitation is less useful. The challenge of recalling information strengthens memory.

That covers the key highlights regarding the testing effect and research on retrieval as a learning tool. Let me know if you would like me to explain anything in the summary in more detail.

  • A study was conducted to see how multiple testing sessions affect long-term retention of information in students. Students who took a test immediately after hearing a story recalled 53% of details in the initial test but only 39% a week later. Those not tested at all recalled only 28% after a week. This shows that testing boosts retention.

  • Students who took three immediate tests after exposure were able to recall 53% of details a week later, indicating they were “immunized” against forgetting. Spaced retrieval practice leads to better long-term retention than massed practice.

  • Researchers conducted studies in a middle school to see how retrieval practice works in a real classroom. They gave quizzes at the start and end of lessons, and review quizzes the day before exams. Students scored a full grade level higher on quizzed material versus non-quizzed material. Mere re-reading did not help.

  • The benefits of retrieval practice persisted 8 months later. More frequent quizzing, e.g. monthly, would likely have produced even better results.

  • Teachers adopted frequent quizzing and other retrieval practices. Students felt quizzing reduced anxiety and increased learning. Quizzing broke up lectures and engaged students.

  • In summary, spaced retrieval practice through testing and quizzing substantially improves learning and long-term retention of information. Mere re-exposure to material is not as effective. Retrieval practice works well in real classroom settings, not just controlled experiments.

  • Repeated testing, or retrieval practice, has been shown to significantly benefit learning and long-term retention.

  • Research with college students shows that those who took an initial test after studying material recalled more of it after a delay of two days or a week compared to those who just restudied the material.

  • Giving feedback on tests, especially delayed feedback, strengthens the benefits of testing. Delayed feedback may be better for learning because it gives students practice spaced over time, which aids retention.

  • Tests that require students to supply responses, like short-answer or essay tests, tend to produce better long-term retention than recognition tests like multiple choice. However, even multiple-choice tests can yield strong benefits.

  • A survey found that college students are largely unaware of the benefits of retrieval practice as a study strategy and rarely use it for that purpose. However, students who experienced frequent testing in their classes rated those classes more favorably.

  • Retrieval practice may facilitate not just rote learning but also the ability to apply and transfer knowledge to new contexts.

  • While students generally dislike the idea of tests, especially high-stakes ones, research shows they come to appreciate the benefits of low- or no-stakes testing during a course.

So in summary, research on retrieval practice, especially in classroom settings, shows that it is a highly effective learning tool that, when implemented well, students come to value. Its benefits extend beyond just short-term recall to application, transfer, and long-term retention of knowledge.

The belief that massed practice (focused repetitive practice) leads to better learning is a myth. While massed practice may produce rapid gains in performance, it leads to rapid forgetting. Spaced practice, where practice is broken into separate periods over time, leads to better long-term learning and retention.

A study of surgical residents learning microsurgery techniques showed that residents who practiced the techniques over a spaced schedule, with a week between practice sessions, outperformed residents who practiced in a massed schedule, completing all practice in one day. A month after practice, the spaced practice residents performed better on measures like time to complete surgery, number of hand movements, and success at reattaching blood vessels. The massed practice residents were less successful, with some unable to complete the surgeries.

Spaced practice leads to better learning because it allows for consolidation, where memory traces are strengthened over time and connected to prior knowledge. Massed practice relies primarily on short-term memory. While spaced practice may feel like slower learning, the long-term benefits are greater. Even when spaced practice shows better results, people tend to believe massed practice was more effective.

The takeaway is that for learning to endure, spread out your practice over time. While massed practice may be satisfying in the short term, only spaced practice produces long-term mastery and retention.

• Interleaved practice, where you switch between multiple subjects or skills, leads to better long-term learning and retention compared to massed practice of concentrating on one skill at a time. However, interleaved practice can feel more difficult and confusing during the initial learning process.

• Varied practice, where you practice a skill or subject under varying conditions, also improves long-term learning and the ability to transfer knowledge to new situations. Varied practice engages more of the brain compared to massed practice.

• Interleaved and varied practice help develop discrimination skills - the ability to determine what kind of problem you are facing and select the right solution. These skills are important for applying knowledge in real-world situations where problems come up unpredictably.

• Studies comparing interleaved vs. massed practice for learning to identify painters’ works and identify birds found that interleaved practice led to better discrimination ability and long-term retention, even though students preferred massed practice.

• In summary, spaced, interleaved, and varied practice may feel more difficult during initial learning but lead to stronger learning and memory in the long run. However, massed practice of focusing on one skill at a time is more commonly used in education and training.

  • The study found that interleaved practice of viewing paintings by different artists improved people’s ability to discriminate between styles, compared to massed practice of viewing many paintings by a single artist. However, despite experiencing the benefits of interleaving themselves, many people continued to believe that massed practice was more effective for learning.

  • Interleaved and varied practice has also been shown to benefit learning bird classification, which requires conceptual knowledge and an ability to discern differences, not just memorize facts. Repeated retrieval of facts and examples is not enough for higher-level learning.

  • Douglas Larsen, a medical professor, has applied these lessons to medical education. He found that hands-on practice with simulated or standardized patients better prepares students for patient encounters than just reading. However, some repetition of the fundamentals is also needed, not just variety. A balance of variety and repetition, as well as reflection, is key.

  • Larsen questions the effectiveness of traditional lectures and conferences, given how much forgetting occurs without repetition or retrieval practice. He suggests redesigning them to incorporate more active retrieval, such as via worksheets, questions, and discussion. Simply listening to talks and PowerPoints is not an effective learning strategy on its own.

  • In summary, interleaved and varied practice, combined with repetition and retrieval of key fundamentals, leads to improved learning and mastery, especially for complex domains. Reflection and hands-on practice can further enhance learning from experience. Traditional passive teaching methods like lectures are inadequate on their own.

Massed practice, cramming, involves prolonged focus and repetition. It leads to momentary gains in performance but does not build long-term learning and retention.

Spacing out practice over time and leaving intervals between sessions leads to stronger learning and memory. Some forgetting between sessions is beneficial as it requires effort to retrieve the information. Sleep also aids in memory consolidation.

Leitner boxes are a system for spaced retrieval using flashcards. Cards that are frequently missed are practiced more often. As mastery improves, practice frequency decreases but the material is never completely dropped.

The familiarity trap refers to the feeling that material is known so well that it no longer needs practice. This can lead to shortcuts and missed opportunities for retrieval during self-quizzing. Interleaving, or mixing up different types of problems or subjects during practice, also aids learning and discrimination. Switching between topics before completing full practice sets of one topic.

Quizzing and testing are forms of spaced retrieval that require recall and prevent shortcuts. They build long-term learning and retention.

In summary, massed practice leads to temporary gains but spaced and interleaved practice, with variation and frequent testing, builds strong and lasting learning and skills.

  • Mia Blundetto, a 23-year-old lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps, had to complete jump school training even though she was afraid of falling and heights. She knew she had to in order to earn the position she was given overseeing air delivery operations.

  • Jump school training provides a model of learning through “desirable difficulties” - challenges and impediments that ultimately strengthen learning by requiring more effort and spacing out practice. Students have to listen, watch, rehearse and execute without taking notes. Testing is the main form of instruction.

  • The training teaches the parachute landing fall (PLF), a technique for landing safely from a jump. Students learn by practicing the PLF in gradually increasing levels of difficulty, from demonstrations in a gravel pit to jumping from two-foot and 12-foot platforms to zip lines and 34-foot towers.

  • The difficulty is increased in stages, with practice spaced out and interleaved as students wait their turn at each stage. Students have to master each stage before progressing to the next one.

  • By the end, students have learned through simulation and practice how to properly board and exit an aircraft, deploy parachutes, deal with problems, land in difficult terrain, and jump in various conditions.

  • In summary, the army’s jump school training uses “desirable difficulties” like spacing, mixing up practice and increasing difficulty in stages to strengthen learning and ensure students master the knowledge and skills to parachute safely.

  • Learning to be Airborne-certified requires intensive training over 3 weeks to master parachute jumping.

  • On Mia’s third jump, her parachute got tangled with another jumper’s parachute after exiting the plane. Thanks to her training, she was able to remain calm and untangle herself, avoiding injury.

  • This experience demonstrated how hands-on practice and retrieval of learning through testing helps build mastery and confidence.

  • Learning occurs through encoding, consolidation, and retrieval:

  • Encoding: Turning perceptions into meaningful representations in the brain

  • Consolidation: Strengthening and stabilizing memory traces over time through rehearsal, connecting new info to prior knowledge. Like revising an essay, learning becomes clearer and more organized.

  • Retrieval: Recalling knowledge or skills after a lapse in time strengthens and modifies the memory, enabling new connections. Struggling to retrieve the memory leads to deeper, more durable learning.

  • Forgetting also plays a role in learning by creating opportunities for retrieval practice.

  • Retrieval cues help make knowledge and skills readily accessible when needed. Repeated practice and application are required to develop effective retrieval cues.

  • Learning requires anchoring new material in long-term memory through consolidation and associating it with retrieval cues to enable later recall. Mastery is the ability to readily retrieve and apply knowledge and skills.

The key insights are that learning is a process, not an event. It requires effortful retrieval as well as repetition. Struggling while retrieving new learning leads to deeper understanding and mastery. Testing and application of learning in realistic conditions build confidence in one’s ability to retrieve and execute new skills. Forgetting also provides opportunities to strengthen learning through retrieval.

At high altitudes (twelve hundred feet), many things can go wrong while skydiving, but mental rehearsal and spaced practice help prepare you to handle difficulties and “swim out of” dangerous situations. Our ability to retrieve information from memory is limited, even though we can continue learning and creating new connections indefinitely. Knowledge that is deeply embedded in memory, connected to emotions and practical importance, and tied to many cues is the most durable. However, some forgetting or disruption of cues is often needed to form new connections and learn new things. Though we may not be able to recall certain memories or skills easily, the knowledge itself is rarely completely lost. Providing the right cues or context can help retrieve deeply embedded information.

An inverse relationship exists between the ease of retrieval practice and its power to strengthen memory. The more effort required to retrieve information or practice a skill, the more it reinforces learning. The baseball team experiment illustrates this. Players who practiced hitting randomly interspersed pitches, requiring more effort and difficulty, showed greater improvement than those who practiced hitting the same type of pitch repeatedly, which felt easier and more productive at the time. Our judgments about optimal learning strategies are often mistaken.

Apparent mastery and ease during practice or studying can be illusory and lead to less durable learning. Difficulties that slow progress and require more effort, like spacing, interleaving, and mixing, ultimately strengthen learning and performance. They feel less productive in the moment but yield better outcomes.

  • Hitting a curveball when you know it’s coming is a different skill than hitting a curveball when you don’t know it’s coming. Baseball players need to practice the latter skill, but often practice the former, which relies on short-term memory. Random pitches challenged the Cal Poly batters and made performance gains slow but lasting.

  • Requiring effort to retrieve or relearn information leads to better learning. Reconstructing knowledge from long-term memory, as in spaced practice, strengthens learning and retrieval routes. Massed practice feels like mastery but is temporary. Effortful recall triggers reconsolidation and deeper learning.

  • Practice in varied conditions and with interleaved material links new associations, builds knowledge networks, and provides more retrieval cues. This broadens mastery and enables applying learning in more situations. Interleaving also strengthens discrimination and induction, leading to more nuanced understanding.

  • Difficulties from spacing, interleaving, and variation mimic challenges of real-world application, improving transfer of learning. Overcoming random pitches built a broader range of skills for discerning and responding than massed practice. Varied practice, like different basket sizes, improves versatility.

  • Struggling before being shown a solution improves learning and memory. Real-world application, like learning a knot when needing it for your boat, is more effective than demonstration with no context.

  • Certain interferences, like slightly blurry text or mismatched lectures and texts, require effort and produce better recall. Omitted or obscured letters in text raise comprehension effort and strengthen memory. Generation, like paraphrasing or drawing conceptual maps, leads to better learning than just reading.

• Requiring learners to generate answers, solve problems, or fill in blanks (rather than just reading information) strengthens learning and retention. This is because generation requires mental effort and active thinking.

• Reflection, like summarizing key ideas in your own words, is another active learning strategy that enhances comprehension and retention. Studies show reflective writing leads to better learning and longer-term retention.

• Errors and struggle are a natural part of learning. The view that errors should be avoided (“errorless learning”) is misguided. Errors, when coupled with feedback, do not lead to learning of incorrect information. In fact, productive struggle and errors often enhance learning.

• Fear of failure and anxiety about errors can actually hamper learning and test performance. Fear of failure occupies working memory, leaving less capacity for problem-solving. Teaching students that errors and struggle are natural and help you learn can help alleviate this fear and enhance performance.

• Difficulty enhances learning, but anxiety from difficulty reduces learning. The key is cultivating a mindset where difficulty and errors are seen as natural and helpful for learning rather than as failure. With this view, students are better able to struggle productively, without anxiety hampering their performance.

• In summary, learning strategies that require effort and involve productive struggle or overcoming difficulties in a non-threatening way are the most effective for achieving deep, lasting learning. A growth mindset that embraces difficulty and error is key.

The example of Bonnie Blodgett, a self-taught gardener, illustrates the power of generative learning through trial-and-error and perseverance. Blodgett had no formal training in gardening but launched herself into creating an ornamental garden out of a desire to make beauty. She started gardening around middle age and gradually gained mastery through continuous effort and experimentation.

Blodgett’s success demonstrates how struggling with problems and persisting in the face of difficulties and failures leads to learning and expertise. She calls herself the “Blundering Gardener” to give herself and others permission to make mistakes in the process of learning. Her trial-and-error approach led her to gain knowledge of plants, gardening techniques, and design principles that she shares with readers through her popular gardening newsletter.

Blodgett did not start out intending to learn plant classification or Latin names. But in her constant grappling with how to achieve the garden spaces she envisioned, she eventually came to find that understanding plants’ scientific names and relationships helped in her work. Her latent knowledge of Latin from school, along with cues that triggered those memories, helped her pick up the botanical terminology, showing how learning in one context can transfer to another. Blodgett’s story illustrates how generative learning through sustained trial-and-error effort leads to mastery, expertise, and the ability to see connections across areas of knowledge.

In summary, the example of Bonnie Blodgett shows how difficulties, mistakes, and failures encountered in the process of struggling to solve complex problems are essential experiences for learning and growth. Her story demonstrates the power of generative learning through perseverant effort in the face of doubts and obstacles.

Here’s a summary:

  • Monitoring your own thinking and judgments (metacognition) is key to effective learning and problem solving. It helps you avoid blind alleys and poor decisions and improve your performance.

Make It Stick ê 104

  • Our judgments are easily distorted or misled in many ways: perceptual illusions, cognitive biases, distortions of memory, overconfidence in our knowledge or abilities. These can have serious consequences.

  • Examples of poor judgment: three robbers in Minneapolis who kept robbing delivery drivers at the same two addresses, using the same two cellphones, failing to consider they would eventually be caught. An undercover cop organized a stakeout, posed as a delivery driver, and caught them in the act.

  • Techniques for improving your judgment:

  1. Question your intuitions and first impressions. Our intuitions are often wrong. Look for alternative explanations and opinions.

  2. Consider the opposite. Try to find reasons why you might be mistaken. This can help overcome confirmation bias.

  3. Look for direct evidence to support your beliefs and judgments. Don’t rely on questionable assumptions or analogies.

  4. Get external perspectives. Ask others to review your thinking and look for weaknesses or alternative interpretations.

  5. Review how you’ve thought about similar situations or problems in the past. Look for recurrent errors or limitations in your thinking.

  6. Try to envision how events might unfold if you’re mistaken versus if you’re correct. This “prospective hindsight” can reveal weaknesses.

  7. Learn techniques for avoiding common biases and judgment errors like anchoring effects, availability heuristic, confirmation bias, etc. These take conscious practice.

  8. Reflect regularly on your thinking and decision making. Look for ways you can improve your evaluation of what you know and don’t know. Continuously practicing good judgment pays off.

Does this summary accurately reflect the key points and techniques presented in the chapter for improving your judgment and avoiding illusions of knowing? Let me know if you have any feedback or suggestions for improvement.

The narrator describes an encounter with a man who ordered food for delivery as part of a robbery setup. When the narrator arrived, three men approached, one put a gun to his head, and demanded everything he had. The narrator ended up shooting one of the robbers through the food package in self-defense.

The narrator reflects that we are all prone to errors in judgment and must work to improve our competence and judgment. He describes psychologist Daniel Kahneman’s two systems of thinking:

System 1: Fast, automatic, intuitive thinking. Relies on senses, emotions, and memories.

System 2: Slow, conscious, analytical thinking. Makes choices, decisions, exerts self-control. We need to train System 2 to monitor System 1 and avoid illusions.

Examples of illusions that can mislead System 1:

  • Spatial disorientation: Losing sight of the horizon and trusting senses over instruments. Caused plane crashes that killed Missouri Governor Mel Carnahan and JFK Jr.

  • Memory distortions: We construct memories and narratives that feel true but aren’t accurate. This can mislead investigations and testimony.

To improve judgment, we must:

  • Recognize competence in others
  • Accurately judge what we know and don’t know
  • Adopt effective learning strategies
  • Find objective ways to track our progress

The key is learning when to trust intuition (System 1) and when to engage analytical thinking (System 2) to avoid illusions and errors. With practice, we can develop expertise, but we must always remain vigilant for our tendencies towards overconfidence and illusion.

• Humans have a strong tendency for “motivated reasoning” - we are adept at convincing ourselves of conclusions we want to believe and denying inconvenient truths. This is due to biases and illusions in our thinking.

• We crave narratives to make sense of ambiguous events and resolve uncertainty. We construct stories to explain things, even unimportant things, and these narratives shape our memories and understanding of the world.

• Our personal narratives are strongly influenced by our emotions and past experiences. We select and distort memories to fit these narratives. These narratives in turn shape how we interpret and remember new events.

• Memory is fallible and shaped by emotion, suggestions, and narrative. We reconstruct memories, filling in details that may be inaccurate. We can come to remember things that were implied but not stated, and imagining events vividly can make us think they really happened.

• Suggestion and leading questions can distort our memories. Asking about the speed of vehicles “smashing” into each other versus “contacting” each other can lead to very different estimates, even though it’s the same event.

• Letting witnesses freely recall events, even if guessing, can lead them to generate and later remember misinformation. Their guesses can become part of their memory.

• We should remain open to the possibility that our views and memories may be distorted or inaccurate. Checking them against objective facts and considering alternative perspectives can help mitigate motivated reasoning and illusions.

• Hypnosis can distort memory by causing people to confidently recall events that did not actually happen. Memories produced under hypnosis are often mistaken for real experiences.

• Interference from related events can distort memory. For example, viewing pictures of suspects after a crime can cause a witness to mistakenly identify an innocent person in a lineup.

• The “curse of knowledge” causes us to underestimate how long it will take others to learn something we already know well. Teachers often suffer from this and have trouble relating to students struggling with new concepts.

• Familiar-sounding information can create an illusion of knowing and be mistaken for the truth. Repetition of claims, even false ones, can make them seem familiar and thus credible.

• “Fluency illusions” result from mistakenly equating fluency or ease with a text for mastery of its content. Students who focus on rereading material are prone to this illusion.

• Our memories are subject to “social influence” and tend to align with the memories of those around us. We can incorporate details from others into our own memories of events.

• Confidence in a memory is not a reliable indicator of its accuracy. We can be utterly convinced of the accuracy of a memory that is in fact mistaken.

• “Mental models” are the bundled steps we develop to solve problems in areas we know well. As we gain expertise, the individual steps fade into the background, making the models hard to teach to others. Physicists and teachers struggle with this.

• A simple experiment shows how poorly we estimate others’ ability to guess information inside our own heads. We think the chances of correct guessing are much higher than they really are.

  • Mental models and solutions we have built up from experience can trip us up when we fail to recognize that a new problem requires a different approach. Failure to discern when your usual approach isn’t working leads to trouble.

  • Incompetent people often fail to recognize their own incompetence due to a lack of metacognitive ability. They lack the skills to accurately judge their own performance and see no need to improve. But training in metacognitive skills can help improve their judgment.

  • We are all prone to illusions and misjudgments that stem from the biases and flaws in our perceptual and cognitive systems. Our intuitions about what works for our own learning are not always accurate.

  • “Student-directed learning,” based on the idea that students know best how they learn, has limitations. Most students lack effective learning strategies and overestimate what they’ve learned. They need guidance to develop good strategies.

  • To counter our susceptibility to illusion and misjudgment, we need reference points outside ourselves to calibrate our judgment, such as:

› Frequent testing and retrieval practice to verify what we really know › Low-stakes quizzing to verify learning and identify areas that need work › Cumulative quizzing to consolidate learning across a course › Rubrics that define what competence looks like at each level of progression › Checking our intuitions against objective evidence and standards

  • These tools and habits can help us recognize when our usual approach isn’t working, see what really needs improvement, and make better decisions about how to focus our efforts. Our judgment can be calibrated to the realities around us.

  • Learners should practice summarizing concepts and topics from one part of a course when they encounter related new material later on. This helps reinforce learning.

  • Practice testing yourself in many ways, not just at the beginning. Space out your practice and do it repeatedly over time. Momentary gains from cramming are fleeting.

  • Peer instruction, where students teach and explain concepts to each other, is an effective learning technique. It reveals where students are struggling, gives opportunities for feedback, and helps gauge understanding.

  • Pay attention to cues that actually demonstrate learning, like being able to explain concepts in your own words, relate ideas, and draw inferences. Ease of recall or familiarity alone may not indicate true learning.

  • Seek corrective feedback from others. Feedback from instructors and peers helps calibrate your own judgment about what you know and don’t know.

  • Work with more experienced mentors and partners. Apprenticeships and internships provide guidance from experts. Teams provide complementary expertise.

  • Simulations and role playing provide realistic practice for complex learning. They help assess mastery and identify areas that need improvement. Mistakes in simulations provide valuable feedback.

  • Learning styles, like visual vs. verbal, are not strongly supported by evidence. A mix of learning techniques tailored to the material and tasks is most effective for most learners.

  • Successful learning often involves a “winding stair” of different techniques, mentors, experiences, and overcoming obstacles or failures. There is no one way people learn.

  • Bruce learned through active experience from an early age. He took charge of his own education and learned from his mistakes and failures.

  • Bruce had a knack for identifying underlying rules and patterns that allowed him to learn from each new experience. He was able to filter out irrelevant details and piece together key ideas into a coherent mental model. These qualities made him an effective learner.

  • In his teens, Bruce bought a wooded lot, built a house on it over several summers, and traded it for an apartment complex. Though it was ultimately a “sour lesson,” he learned a great deal from the experience.

  • Bruce went to work as a microfilm salesman for Kodak and became a top performer. He learned that salespeople often earned more than managers. He then moved into selling stocks and learned that half of his commissions went to his firm and the IRS. He also learned that stock investing was risky when he lost money.

  • Bruce met Sam Leppla, who taught him how to identify undervalued bonds. They invested in distressed Florida real estate investment trusts and made significant profits. They then shifted into analyzing bankrupt eastern railroads.

  • Leppla believed that railroad bankruptcies were complicated, so people did not understand them fully. This allowed for opportunities. They partnered with a railroad expert, Barney Donahue, to analyze the Erie Lackawanna railroad’s assets and bonds to identify undervalued opportunities.

  • The key to their investment strategy was gaining knowledge that other investors lacked about a company’s assets and bond structure. This allowed them to identify underpriced bonds that were likely to be repaid, even in bankruptcy.

  • There are many factors that determine a person’s ability to learn and succeed. Two key factors are a person’s mindset about their abilities and their actual skills.

  • Successful people like Richard Branson and Diane Swonk overcame learning disadvantages like dyslexia by developing a growth mindset and perseverance. They believed in their ability to improve and overcome obstacles.

  • Skills like reading ability, abstract thinking, and converting knowledge into mental models are very important for learning and success. Lacking these skills, like in the case of dyslexia, can pose major disadvantages. However, people can still succeed by developing a growth mindset, practice, and working around their weaknesses.

  • Dyslexia makes reading and word recognition very difficult. It affects about 15% of people and is highly correlated with difficulties in school and even criminal behavior if not addressed early. The key to helping dyslexic learners is early diagnosis and intervention, building reading skills through practice, and developing a growth mindset.

  • There are many factors that shape a person’s learning and success, including their beliefs about themselves, their skills, their available resources and supports, and their ability to overcome their weaknesses and learn from difficulties. While some differences like learning styles don’t matter much, other factors like reading ability, thinking skills, and mindset are very significant.

• There are many theories of learning styles, but little evidence to support them. The most common are visual, auditory, reading/writing, and kinesthetic preferences.

• A review found virtually no evidence that teaching to a student’s learning style improves learning. It is more important to match instruction to the content and use techniques proven to benefit all learners.

• Successful intelligence encompasses logical-mathematical intelligence (critical thinking), spatial intelligence (visualization), linguistic intelligence (with words), kinesthetic intelligence (physical), musical intelligence (sound), interpersonal intelligence (social interactions), intrapersonal intelligence (self-reflection), and naturalist intelligence (nature).

• IQ tests measure logical-mathematical and linguistic intelligence. Intelligence used to be seen as fixed, but now viewed as malleable. Successful intelligence also depends on acquired knowledge and learned skills.

• Successful intelligence means adapting to one’s environment and cultural context. It requires a balance of analytical, creative, and practical abilities. Successful individuals often develop compensatory abilities to overcome learning difficulties.

  • Musical intelligence: ability with sounds, rhythms, music

  • Interpersonal intelligence: ability to understand and work with other people

  • Intrapersonal intelligence: ability to understand yourself and make accurate self-judgments

  • Naturalistic intelligence: ability to relate to the natural world (gardening, hunting, etc.)

  • Sternberg’s theory of intelligence includes:

  • Analytical intelligence: ability to solve logic/reasoning problems

  • Creative intelligence: ability to apply knowledge/skills in new ways

  • Practical intelligence: ability to adapt to everyday situations

  • Dynamic testing assesses current ability and potential for improvement. It focuses on weaknesses and re-testing to measure progress.

  • Dynamic testing has 3 steps:

  1. Initial test to identify weaknesses
  2. Focus learning on improving weaknesses
  3. Re-test to measure progress and identify any remaining weaknesses
  • “Structure building” refers to actively making connections between new information and prior knowledge. This leads to stronger, more flexible learning.

  • “Mindset” refers to beliefs about the nature of intelligence and learning. A “growth mindset” believes that intelligence can be developed. A “fixed mindset” believes that intelligence is static.

  • A growth mindset supports the kind of flexible, persistent learning that dynamic testing aims to develop. A fixed mindset can limit learning potential.

  • Psychologists distinguish between high “structure-builders” and low “structure-builders.” High structure-builders are better able to identify key concepts and organize them into a coherent mental framework. Low structure-builders struggle to determine what information is most important and how to integrate it into a useful mental model.

  • An analogy is constructing a village out of Lego blocks. High structure-builders can identify the key elements like apartments, schools, and hospitals and build a conceptual framework around them. Low structure-builders have trouble figuring out what pieces are essential and how they should fit together. Providing questions or prompts can help low structure-builders improve their learning.

  • A related distinction is between “rule learners” and “example learners.” Rule learners abstract underlying principles from examples, while example learners focus on memorizing individual examples. Rule learners are better able to apply their learning to new situations. Asking learners to compare examples can help example learners become better at identifying rules.

  • An example is solving problems that require directing a large force at a target, which can be solved by dividing the force into smaller units that converge on the target. Students struggle with this until prompted to find similarities between problems, allowing them to identify the underlying “rule.”

  • These cognitive skills develop over time, as seen in children’s improving ability to tell jokes, which requires understanding structure and rules. High structure-builders and rule learners are better able to transfer their learning to new contexts.

  • An example is Bruce Hendry applying his early lesson about supply and demand to understanding the surplus of boxcars and their value. He built on that initial mental model over time.

  • The marshmallow study showed that children who were able to delay gratification tended to be more successful later in life. This illustrates the importance of focus, self-discipline, motivation and a sense of empowerment.

  • James Paterson learned about mnemonic devices, tools to help memorize and recall large amounts of information. He started practicing them as a way to spend less time studying, but ended up becoming fascinated with memory competitions. In 2006, he won a competition as a beginner and became hooked.

  • Nelson Dellis started training his memory after his grandmother died of Alzheimer’s disease. He hoped that building his mental capacities could help stave off decline if he developed the disease. He also climbs mountains to raise money for Alzheimer’s research.

  • The brain is highly plastic, meaning it can rewire itself and adapt to new demands. People can improve cognitive abilities like memory, attention, problem-solving and mental focus through deliberate practice and training.

  • Memory athletes use techniques like visual imagery, mnemonics, and mental maps to rapidly memorize and recall large volumes of information. With regular practice, their memories become highly developed.

  • Other techniques that can expand abilities include mindfulness meditation, cognitive reappraisal, and growth mindset interventions. These can all help overcome tendencies toward distraction, impulsiveness and focusing too much on innate abilities.

  • The brain is malleable and capable of reorganizing itself throughout life. This is known as neuroplasticity. While genes determine the basic architecture of the brain, experiences shape the details of neural connections.

  • An infant’s brain produces an overabundance of neural connections. Many connections are pruned in childhood and adolescence. The connections that remain depend on genetics and experiences. Most learning occurs after this period of pruning.

  • Scientists have seen evidence of neuroplasticity in people overcoming brain injuries or sensory deprivation. For example, patients learned to use their tongues to sense balance or see. With practice, the brain adapted to interpreting signals from the tongue.

  • The brain, not the eyes themselves, sees. The eyes sense information that the brain interprets. By adapting the brain to interpret signals from the tongue, scientists enabled a blind patient to see again.

  • Ongoing research is exploring how components like neural cell bodies (gray matter) and axons (white matter) enable cognition. Understanding neuroplasticity and how experiences shape the brain may enable people to improve their intellectual abilities, even into old age.

  • Examples of raising intellectual ability include increasing IQ scores over time and the feats of memory athletes and experts who have honed skills through practice. Early stimulation and ongoing learning seem most likely to enable gains in ability.

That covers the key points on neuroplasticity, experience-dependent brain changes, and the potential to raise intellectual ability at any age. Please let me know if you would like me to clarify or expand on any part of the summary.

Our motor skills and cognitive abilities change over the course of our lives. Recent advances in brain imaging technology have allowed researchers to better understand how our brain connectivity and neural circuits develop and mature from infancy through adulthood. Studies show that the robustness of our neural connections is largely determined by our genes early on, but neural connections continue to strengthen and change through experience and practice into our 40s, 50s and beyond.

Myelination, the process of coating neural axons, is important for increasing the speed and efficiency of neural signaling. Studies show that increased practice of certain skills, like playing the piano, correlates with increased myelination of the neural circuits involved.

Habit formation and skill mastery involve a transfer of control over actions from the conscious parts of the brain to deeper areas like the basal ganglia. This allows us to perform complex sequences of actions automatically and quickly. Researchers refer to this process as “chunking.”

The hippocampus, which is central to learning and memory, continues to produce new neurons throughout life through a process called neurogenesis. Neurogenesis is thought to play an important role in lifelong learning and memory. Studies show learning activities can stimulate the growth of new neurons in the hippocampus.

IQ scores have been rising steadily over the last 60+ years, a phenomenon known as the Flynn effect. While IQ is largely inherited, it is also shaped by environment and experience. Modern society provides many more opportunities for cognitive stimulation and learning that contribute to rising IQ scores over generations. Early interventions, like improved nutrition, preschool education, and environmental enrichment, have been shown to increase IQ, especially in disadvantaged children. Raising intelligence remains controversial, but some interventions show promising and long-lasting results.

In summary, the human brain maintains a high degree of plasticity throughout life. Both genes and environment shape our cognitive abilities in an ongoing interaction. Practice, experience, learning, and neural stimulation can all enhance brain connectivity and intellectual capacity, though the outcomes vary for each individual based on a multitude of interacting factors. A growth mindset—the belief that intelligence is mutable—can motivate us to pursue lifelong learning and development.

  • Early education programs provide environmental enrichment and structured learning for children prior to preschool. They are especially beneficial for disadvantaged children, who may lack stimulation at home.

  • Gains in IQ and language development have been demonstrated from early education programs, interactive reading with parents, and preschool. These gains tend to be greater for disadvantaged children.

  • “Brain training” games and activities that claim to boost fluid intelligence are not scientifically validated. While they may improve efficacy and persistence, there is little evidence they raise IQ or enhance cognitive abilities beyond the specific skills practiced.

  • A “growth mindset”—the belief that intellectual ability is malleable and can be developed—leads to greater effort, persistence, and learning. A “fixed mindset”—the belief that intellectual ability is fixed—can promote helplessness in the face of challenges.

  • To boost your cognitive performance, adopt a growth mindset, practice deliberately like an expert, and develop memory cues and mental models. These act as cognitive “multipliers,” amplifying the effects of your existing abilities.

  • A focus on performance goals limits learning and growth. A focus on learning goals fuels persistence and the acquisition of new knowledge and skills.

Does this summary accurately reflect the key ideas and conclusions presented in the passage? Let me know if you would like me to clarify or expand on any part of the summary.

  • Focusing on performance leads to doing the same thing over and over to look competent. Focusing on learning leads to taking on increasing challenges to grow your abilities.
  • Learning goals trigger a growth mindset, while performance goals trigger a fixed mindset. With a growth mindset, you see ability as malleable and failure as useful feedback. With a fixed mindset, you see ability as static and failure threatens your self-image.
  • Praising children for being smart encourages a fixed mindset, while praising them for effort encourages a growth mindset. Kids praised for being smart avoid challenges and struggle with failure. Those praised for effort embrace challenges and learn from failure.
  • Success depends more on grit, curiosity, and persistence than on IQ alone. Facing adversity in childhood helps build these qualities. Both poverty and overprotection can inhibit their development.
  • Deliberate practice— difficult, focused, goal-directed practice—is key to developing expertise. It rewires the brain and body to achieve higher performance. Most experts require 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to reach high levels of skill.
  • Simple mnemonic devices like acronyms can help remember lists and sequences. Memory palaces use visualized familiar locations to help remember larger amounts of information by mentally associating what you want to remember with specific features of the locations.

In summary, adopting a growth mindset, praising effort over ability, facing challenges, engaging in deliberate practice, and using memory devices are effective strategies for increasing your abilities and achieving higher levels of skill and expertise.

• The method of loci is an effective mnemonic technique that associates information you want to remember with visual cues in a familiar space, like your home. As you mentally walk through the space, the cues help retrieve the information.

• Humans have an easier time remembering images than words alone. The method of loci uses vivid mental images as cues to help remember verbal or abstract information.

• Mark Twain used sketches as visual cues to help his children remember the succession of English monarchs. The visual cues were very effective for memorization and retrieval.

• Rhyme schemes, like the peg method, can also serve as mnemonic tools. They use rhyming words or phrases as “pegs” to help remember a list of items. The pegs stay the same, but the associations change based on what you need to remember.

• Songs and poetry have also been used as mnemonic devices to aid in communication over long distances. Their familiar structure can be linked to information you want to remember.

• The example describes students preparing for rigorous A-level exams in the UK. They have an enormous amount of information to master on many possible essay topics. Mnemonic techniques like the method of loci are helping them memorize and retrieve this information under high-pressure exam conditions.

  • The passage describes students preparing for difficult exams by using mnemonic techniques like memory palaces to organize and memorize large amounts of information.

  • A memory palace involves visualizing a familiar physical space and mentally filling it with vivid and memorable images that cue memories of what you’re trying to remember.

  • Students construct memory palaces by visiting cafes and locations on their campus. Their teacher, James Paterson, is a memory expert who teaches them these techniques.

  • A former student, Michela Kim, uses memory palaces to prepare for university exams. She reduces information to key ideas, ties each idea to a location in her memory palace, and populates each location with a memorable image linked to one of the key ideas.

  • This allows her to feel confident during the exam, even if she can’t remember every point, because she knows the information will come back to her. Mnemonics provide a way to organize and retrieve information, not just memorize it.

  • James Paterson has memorized a unique image for every number from 0 to 1,000 to help him remember long strings of digits. He can memorize a deck of cards in under 2 minutes and 10-12 decks in an hour.

  • To demonstrate, Paterson listened to the number string 615392611333517 once and then described images (like a space shuttle, train, gunfight) he associated with groups of 3 digits to remember the full string. Each digit from 0-9 has a corresponding speech sound, and 3-digit numbers have unique images representing those sounds.

To take charge of your learning and develop mastery:

• Accept that real learning is often difficult. Setbacks and struggles are signs you are gaining expertise, not that you are failing. Your abilities are within your control.

• Make retrieval practice through self-quizzing your primary study strategy. Ask yourself questions about the key ideas and terms, without looking at notes or texts. Quiz yourself on both current and past course material. Check your answers. Focus further study on areas of weak mastery. Retrieval practice, even when difficult, is very beneficial.

• Rereading and highlighting are weak strategies compared to retrieval practice. They create illusions of knowing and fluency but do not promote real learning and remembering like self-quizzing does.

• Interleave the practice of different but related topics or skills during your study sessions. Switch between ideas and subjects, rather than massing your practice by topic. Interleaving strengthens abilities and leads to better transfer of learning.

• Give attention to difficult concepts and tasks, not just the easy ones. Struggling with learning, then overcoming obstacles through persistence and effort, builds expertise and abilities.

• practice, retrieve, and apply your knowledge in a variety of contexts. Apply learning to new situations and make connections between ideas. Look for opportunities to teach the material to another person. This strengthens understanding and retention.

• Space out practice over time. Cramming concentrates effort but diffuses its effects. Space out and review key ideas and skills over days or weeks to strengthen memory. Our abilities are built gradually through effort and persistence.

• Explain key ideas and concepts to another person. This requires understanding and cements your own learning. Look for chances to teach the material to classmates or friends.

• Take a productive and positive approach. Growth mindset, grit, and effective strategies drive mastery and success. You can develop and strengthen these qualities.

• Self-quizzing provides a reliable measure of what you’ve learned and helps prevent forgetting. It strengthens your memory of new learning and ability to recall it later.

• Compared to rereading, self-quizzing can feel awkward and frustrating, but it is more effective for learning. Even when you struggle to recall something, you are strengthening your memory of it.

• Space out your retrieval practice over time. Don’t mass your practice. Space it out, with time in between for forgetting. This makes your learning stronger and more memorable.

• Interleave the study of different topics or problem types. Don’t block your practice by focusing on one thing at a time. Mix it up. This helps you get better at discerning different types of problems and choosing the right solution.

• Elaboration involves finding additional layers of meaning and relating new learning to what you already know. It provides more cues to help you remember and apply the learning. Techniques include relating material to your life, explaining it to others, using visual images and metaphors.

• Summary sheets, concept maps, and teaching the material to others are powerful elaboration techniques. They show how concepts relate and provide a visual overview of learning.

• Other effective strategies include distributed practice over time, mixing up the context where you study, teaching the material to others, and keeping an organized record of your learning and thinking.

  1. Generation: Attempting to solve a problem or answer a question before being shown the solution. For example, filling in missing words in a text or solving problems before going to class. This makes the mind more receptive to learning and results in better retention.

  2. Reflection: Reviewing what was recently learned and asking questions about it. For example, what went well, what could be improved, how does it connect to prior knowledge, what more needs to be learned. This strengthens learning through elaboration and retrieval.

  3. Calibration: Using objective measures like quizzes or practice tests to gauge what you actually know and adjust your judgment of your own mastery. This helps avoid illusions of competence and targets studying where it’s needed.

  4. Mnemonic devices: Techniques like rhymes, acronyms, songs or visual images to help retain and retrieve arbitrary information or sequences. For example, “Old Elephants Have Musty Skin” to remember the Great Lakes.

  5. Michael Young’s story: A medical student who struggled at first but then applied learning strategies based on research to rise to the top of his class. Specifically, he focused on retrieval practice (quizzing himself), elaboration (explaining concepts in his own words), and reflection (reviewing what he learned and connecting it to prior knowledge). By actively engaging with the material instead of just passively rereading, he was able to master the huge amount of information in his courses.

In summary, these are all strategies that promote learning by actively engaging with the material, connecting new information to existing knowledge, gauging your own understanding, and using techniques to aid retention and recall. The key insight is that passive reading or rereading is not enough; students need to make a deliberate effort to practice and apply their learning. With strategies like these, they can take control of their studying and get the maximum benefit even from limited time.

Timothy Fellows was an exceptional student in Stephen Madigan’s introductory psychology course. Madigan was astonished by Fellows’s performance and asked him about his study habits. Fellows employed several effective learning strategies:

• He did the reading before the lecture.

• He anticipated test questions while reading and tried to answer them.

• He reviewed the material, identified anything he couldn’t recall, and relearned it.

• He copied key terms and definitions into a notebook to aid understanding.

• He took practice tests to identify concepts he didn’t know and then learned them.

• He created his own study guides.

• He wrote out key concepts and tested himself on them regularly.

• He spaced out his studying over the duration of the course.

These techniques helped him learn and retain the material thoroughly.

Nathaniel Fuller, a professional actor, uses retrieval practice to memorize his lines and roles. He highlights all his lines, estimates how much he can learn in a day, and starts early enough to achieve his daily goal. He covers his script and tries to say his lines aloud from memory, checking for accuracy. He continues practicing, moving from more familiar to less familiar parts of the script. By struggling to recall the lines, he is able to remember them better. He keeps practicing until he reaches diminishing returns, then picks up where he left off the next day. Using this technique, he is able to memorize roles even when understudying at the last minute.

In summary, Fellows and Fuller employed spaced retrieval practice, among other techniques, to achieve a high level of learning and mastery in their respective domains. Their examples demonstrate how these principles can be effectively adapted for lifelong learning.

The actor David Fuller uses a variety of techniques to learn and memorize his lines for a play. He starts by practicing the last scene, then works backwards to the beginning of the play, stitching new material to more familiar parts. He examines the script to understand the meaning and figures of speech. He works to discover how his character moves, speaks, and expresses emotion. He records the other characters’ lines and practices responding in character. He imagines the blocking and staging in his living room. Through these techniques of elaboration, spacing, generation, and retrieval practice, Fuller develops a deep understanding of his role.

John McPhee advises aspiring writers to just start writing to engage their minds, even if it’s clumsy. The mind will start “knitting” at the problem, leading to new ideas and solutions. Learning works the same way: we engage our minds by explaining the material in our own words and relating it to what we know. Struggling with new concepts stimulates our thinking.

The pianist Thelma Hunter, 88, uses elaboration to learn new pieces. She learns them physically, aurally, visually, and intellectually. Though aging has brought some changes, she continues to practice daily, memorizing new pieces through mental imagery, visualization, and thinking through the pieces while driving. Her elaborative techniques have served her well throughout her long career.

  • The teacher, Mary Pat Wenderoth, introduces the concepts of desirable difficulties and the testing effect to her students. She explains how retrieval practice through self-testing leads to better long-term learning than passive rereading.

  • She models these techniques in her class by frequently questioning students on recently covered material and having them think through the answers instead of looking in their notes. This helps create mental pathways to the information and improves memory.

  • She has students write and vote on possible answers to questions to encourage discussion and wrestling with the topics. This helps students evaluate their own understanding and figure out the correct responses.

  • Wenderoth aims to make her students self-sufficient, capable learners. She teaches them Bloom’s taxonomy so they can assess what level of learning they have achieved - from basic knowledge up to high-level evaluation and judgement. Her techniques push students up this pyramid towards synthesis and evaluation.

  • She is transparent about her teaching philosophy and techniques so students understand why she employs them and can apply them in their own studying. The desirable difficulties and self-testing she introduces, though initially frustrating, ultimately lead to stronger learning and understanding.

The key goals are for students to become independent, evaluative learners; to move beyond superficial learning and comprehension to higher-order thinking; and to develop effective study strategies based on empirically-proven learning techniques. Wenderoth accomplishes this through transparency, modeling effective techniques, and pushing students outside their comfort zone so their learning sticks.

  • The psychology professor Beth Wenderoth has developed a new vocabulary for describing setbacks in learning to help students develop a growth mindset. Rather than accusing tests of containing “trick questions,” students say they have the “illusion of knowing.” This framing helps them work with the professor to improve.

  • Wenderoth uses “testing groups” instead of “study groups.” In testing groups, students work together to figure out questions without referring to texts. This helps them explore ideas and gain a deeper understanding.

  • Wenderoth also assigns “free recall,” where students spend 10 minutes writing down everything they remember from class. This helps pull learning forward and see connections. She also assigns “summary sheets” where students illustrate key ideas from the week and “learning paragraphs” where they answer short questions.

  • Wenderoth translates test questions into Bloom’s taxonomy so students can see what level of learning their answers demonstrate and improve.

  • Wenderoth and colleagues found “high-structure” classes with frequent low-stakes practice led to higher success and test scores, especially for poorly prepared students. They teach students the importance of struggle and perseverance for growth.

  • At West Point, the Thayer method incorporates frequent quizzing and recitation in all classes. Cadets must focus on essentials to survive the demanding workload. Classes involve quizzing, group problem-solving at the board, recitations, and active exercises. The goal is understanding concepts, not memorizing facts. Quizzing helps cadets check their progress.

  • Cadet Kiley Hunkler used effective learning strategies called “shooting an azimuth” to study for the MCAT. She created her own learning objectives, took practice tests frequently, reviewed what she got wrong, and focused on understanding concepts rather than just memorizing.

  • One of the authors, Roediger, attended a military high school that used daily quizzes and assignments, an approach that helps students develop good learning habits.

  • Psychology professor Kathleen McDermott gives daily quizzes in her classes. She establishes clear rules, allows students to drop some quizzes, does not allow makeup quizzes, and makes the quizzes worth 20% of the grade. Students initially dislike the quizzes but eventually find them helpful.

  • A school district in Columbia, Illinois has adopted regular quizzing and spacing to help students meet new, more rigorous learning standards. For example, in science, students learn basic concepts at multiple grade levels with increasing depth.

  • For continuing professional education, people can create their own quizzes on presentation materials, schedule follow-up questions via email, and ask professional organizations to redesign training using principles like retrieval practice and spacing.

  • Kathy Maixner, a business coach, helps clients understand the root causes of problems and evaluate different solutions. She uses scenarios and hypotheticals to help them think through the implications of options before deciding on a strategy. Her experience helps her guide clients to good solutions.

The author describes the training program at Farmers Insurance for new sales agents. The training utilizes active learning strategies like role-playing, problem-solving, getting feedback, and practicing what works. The training focuses on four key areas: sales, marketing systems, business planning, and promoting the company brand.

The training starts by having agents create a vision of what success looks like to them in 5 years. This helps them set concrete metrics and goals to work toward. The training itself cycles between the four focus areas, building up agents’ knowledge and skills over time. A lot of the learning happens through practice and simulation. For example, they practice how to respond to sales leads by role-playing as customers and agents.

The training also teaches the agents the company’s history and values through stories. The training emphasizes learning through generation and spaced practice. New concepts or skills are returned to multiple times, each time in a new context to deepen understanding. For example, they learn an acronym, FORE, for questioning prospects about their family, occupation, recreation, and enjoyment. This acronym is first used as an icebreaker, then returned to as a tool for uncovering a prospect’s needs.

The key to the training’s success is how it interleaves multiple related topics, with each new exposure adding meaning and broadening competence. The training gives agents the knowledge, skills, and practice they need to succeed as independent business owners representing Farmers Insurance.

In summary, the training utilizes active learning strategies, focuses on key competencies, builds knowledge gradually through spaced and interleaved practice, incorporates feedback and role-playing, and gives agents the skills and practice they need to achieve their vision of success.

  • Jiffy Lube provides extensive training for all of their employees through Jiffy Lube University. Employees progress through training and certifications for various roles, including management positions.

  • The training is designed to be engaging in order to keep employees interested. For example, they created a simulation game to help train managers.

  • Employees who complete all the training and certifications can earn college credits. The training program has led to lower employee turnover and higher customer satisfaction.

  • At Andersen Windows and Doors, production workers help train and advise managers to improve efficiency. They have a culture of continuous improvement where all ideas for improvement are valued.

  • For example, they held a “Kaizen event” where a team including production workers redesigned a production line. The redesign led to meeting stretch goals of reducing space by 40% and doubling production, while also cutting costs in half.

  • Erik Isaacman struggled as a new business owner of an acupuncture clinic. Although the business was growing quickly, they lacked critical systems and management skills.

  • Erik worked with a business coach who helped them develop the necessary systems and skills through generation, reflection, elaboration, and rehearsal. They created tools like an operating manual, job descriptions, and financial goals. They learned that customer satisfaction and managing costs were both crucial.

  • The summary highlights how three companies used engaging and empowering training strategies to help employees and managers develop skills and a culture of continuous improvement. Hands-on practice and problem-solving were key to their successes.

• Linic metrics refer to quantitative measures that are used to evaluate how well a clinic is functioning. Examples include the number of patient visits, patient disappearance rates, and referral sources.

• The partners learned how to improve their reimbursement rates from insurance companies by ensuring they were paid appropriately. They were able to increase their reimbursement rates from as little as 30% to higher levels.

• They developed a standard protocol for clinicians to follow when seeing a new patient. This helped to clarify the patient’s condition, treatment options, fees, and insurance coverage.

• Role-playing between clinicians helped them practice explaining treatment options and fees to patients. They recorded and reviewed these role-playing sessions to identify differences and make improvements.

• Continuous learning and skill development were essential to the success of the clinic. The founders took an active role as both learners and teachers. They did not rely on intuition alone but used techniques like simulation, feedback, and practice.

• Their dedication to learning and skill mastery allowed them to build a successful clinic that has been operating for over 8 years with several clinicians and administrative staff. They have also expanded to a second location.

• In summary, the key to their success was a focus on learning and skill development through deliberate practice and feedback. This allowed them to overcome early struggles and build a sustainable business model.

Here is a summary of the value of applied research on retrieval practice in improving classroom learning:

Recommendation from a teacher (Peter Brown):

  • Regular quizzing and testing helps students retain and apply knowledge. Quizzing also helps students develop effective study habits by encouraging them to space out and interleave their studying over time.

Recommendation from a principal (Andrew Sobel):

  • Frequent low-stakes testing keeps students engaged and helps identify gaps in their learning. It also helps teachers adjust their instruction. Principals should encourage teachers to implement regular quizzing and provide them resources on how to develop good assessments.

Recommendation from a scientist (Henry L. Roediger III):

  • Research shows that retrieval practice through quizzing and testing is one of the most potent enhancers of learning and retention. Educators should utilize quizzing and low-stakes testing frequently and strategically in the classroom to boost students’ learning. Feedback after quizzing is also critical. Quizzing works best when it focuses on the most important concepts and promotes effortful retrieval. Mixing up question types and spacing quizzes over time enhances the benefits.

In summary, there is clear consensus among practitioners and researchers that regular quizzing and testing, especially when strategically implemented, significantly improve students’ learning and retention. Educators at all levels should encourage the frequent use of quizzing in classrooms.

  1. Learning and memory are enhanced when learners experience difficulties and challenges during the learning process. Psychologists call these “desirable difficulties.”

  2. Forgetting some information over time and then relearning it leads to better retention than simply repeatedly studying the material. The reconsolidation of memories through retrieval strengthens them.

  3. Interleaving the study of different topics leads to better learning than massing study of one topic. Interleaving highlights differences and makes learning more effortful.

  4. Generation of information, like summarizing in your own words or drawing examples, enhances learning more than simply reading information. Generation makes learning more difficult but also more memorable.

  5. Varying the context in which information is learned, like practicing skills in different settings, enhances learning. Contextual variation creates challenges that foster learning.

  6. Disfluency, like harder-to-read fonts or outlines that do not match reading structure, can boost learning by making learning more effortful and engaging. Readers have to work harder to make sense of the material.

  7. Writing about material enhances learning more than simply reading the material. Writing is a generative act that consolidates memories through effortful processing.

  8. Some difficulties during learning, like spacing and interleaving practice, create desirable difficulties that enhance learning. Other difficulties, like interference from prior learning, create undesirable difficulties that inhibit learning. Successful learning navigates between these extremes.

Here is a summary of the article:

The researchers examined the effects of requiring students to write about course material, a technique known as “writing-to-learn.” In an introductory psychology course, some students were assigned brief writing assignments asking them to summarize or apply course concepts. Other students were not given these writing assignments. On examinations and other assessments, the students who did the writing assignments showed better learning and longer retention of the material.

The writing assignments were “low stakes” in that they did not count heavily in the course grades. They were meant to encourage students to actively process the material by reorganizing, simplifying, and connecting ideas. This active learning through writing led to improved performance on higher-stakes measures of learning. The results show that minimal writing-to-learn assignments can significantly improve student learning, even in large lecture-based courses. Regular active learning activities may be an easy way for instructors to boost learning and retention.

In summary, the study found benefits for learning and long-term retention from brief writing-to-learn assignments in an introductory psychology course. The assignments significantly improved student learning and the benefits persisted over time.

• Learning styles theories—the idea that people can be categorized into distinct styles of learning and teaching should be matched to learning style—are not supported by evidence. Learning is highly complex and contextual.

• There are individual differences in intelligence, thinking styles, interests, and a host of other attributes, but categorizing people into a few types of “learners” is an oversimplification not supported by research.

• People adapt how they learn to the particular demands of the situation, topic, and available information. Learning is highly flexible.

• Some stable tendencies in learning have been identified, such as a preference for focusing on examples versus underlying rules or schemas, or a tendency to be a better “structure builder.” But these are tendencies, not fixed attributes.

• Learning is not just about “intelligence” or ability. Opportunity, experience, interests, motivation, and context are all highly influential. People can develop expertise in highly specific domains.

• Teaching and learning should focus on sound principles of learning, not on trying to match instruction to presumed “learning styles.” The principles include: providing meaningful contexts, comparing and contrasting cases, actively processing information, obtaining feedback, and progressively removing scaffolds to promote transfer of learning.

• Dynamic testing that allows expression of learning potential—not just current ability—is important. But this is far from suggesting people have fixed or constrained “learning styles.” Learning is flexible and expansive.

• There are promising methods for helping people develop better learning strategies and skills, including the ability to build coherent mental representations and pattern recognition skills. But again, these strategies should be applied based on need—not based on ascribing fixed attributes to learners.

The study found that an individual’s tendency to learn concepts by focusing on examples (exemplar learning) or by abstracting key features (abstraction) persisted across multiple different types of concept-learning tasks in the lab. This suggests that people may have a relatively stable predisposition for either exemplar learning or abstraction when learning new concepts. Interestingly, the study also found that on average, the abstractors achieved higher grades in an introductory college chemistry course than the exemplar learners.

Here is a summary of the article:

  • The authors, 8 researchers from multiple universities, investigated whether active learning techniques could enhance student performance in introductory biology courses.
  • They implemented “prescribed active learning” techniques including generation of questions, concept mapping, and peer discussion over 2 semesters in multiple sections of intro biology.
  • Students in the active learning sections outperformed students in traditional lecture sections on unit exams and a standardized assessment of biology knowledge and skills.
  • Students reported increased course engagement and learning gains with the active learning methods.
  • The researchers conclude that prescribed active learning significantly improves student learning and engagement in introductory biology courses. Active learning should be more widely implemented to improve undergraduate science education.

The key findings are:

  1. Active learning techniques like generation of questions, concept mapping and peer discussion improved student performance compared to traditional lecturing.

  2. Students reported higher engagement and learning gains with active learning.

  3. The researchers recommend active learning methods be more widely used to enhance undergraduate science education.

Encoding refers to the process by which information is transformed into a mental representation for storage in memory. When information is encoded, it is associated with various cues that can help facilitate later retrieval. Effective encoding strategies include:

  • Paying attention to the information and relating it to concepts you already know
  • Organizing or categorizing the information
  • Visualizing or creating mental images of the information
  • Associating the new information with familiar sounds, smells, touches, tastes or locations
  • Mnemonics like acronyms, rhymes, songs or flashcards

The encoding process is influenced by factors like:

  • The nature and duration of attention paid to the information
  • The specific strategies and techniques used to encode the information
  • The context in which the information is learned
  • Individual learning styles and preferences

So encoding has a major impact on how well information is remembered later. Strong, deep encoding leads to stronger, more enduring memories.

267n3; distributed practice for

Engagement, mental, in learning,

regular production of, 93;

224– 225, 229; affect and

and growth mindset, 92, 93,

motivation in, 207; through

179– 183, 281n16; importance

retrieval practice, 201, 202

of to learning, 7, 8, 9, 22,

Engineering psychology, 8

93– 94; marking hypotheses

Engineers, learning styles of, 155

and intuitions in, 208– 209;

Enhancement of learning, 28;

mental engagement in,

through mnemonics, 31, 265n9;

224– 225; need for task

through sleep and dreaming,

commitment to, 228– 229;

63; through testing, See Testing

optimizing, 93– 94; productive


struggle in, 93– 94, 157,

Epilepsy, surgically induced

279n4; refl ection and

change in interests with, 169

self- monitoring of in learning,

Episodic memory, 163, 267n7

Index ê 300

Eriksen, Eriksen, 206

257n5; for rule learners vs.

Eriksen fl anker task, 206

example learners, 155– 157,

Error, productive, 157, 279n5

278– 279n5; Universal Design

Error correction. See Feedback

for Learning, 157– 159

and feedback

Familiarity in memory, distortion

Evolutionary psychology, 8

through, 116

Example learners, learning

Far transfer, learning with,

processes for, 155– 157,

148– 152, 275n1

278– 279n15; embedded

Farah, Martha J., 168

questions for, 155, 277n13

Farmers Insurance, training

exercises for, 156; Universal

methods at, 242– 243,

Design for Learning for, 157

285nn16– 17

Exemplars, learning from,

Fast ForWord, 179

156– 157

Feedback and feedforward,

Exercise, brain changes with, 178

93– 94, 95– 96, 265n8; in

Expert knowledge, 127

specific and corrective, 51,

Expertise: breadth and depth

52, 78– 79, 161; immediate,

of, 261n10; as example of

88– 89; learning impacted by

learning, 2; perceptual

errors and, 32, 51, 64, 81, 101,

learning in, 53


Expertise reversal effect, 276n8

Finley, Jason, 125, 127

Exposure, spaced. See Spaced

Fishburne, Lawrence, 13

practice; distribution of

Fixed mindset, 179– 183


Flashbulb memories, 117– 118, 273n14

Fact learning, 31, 103, 105,

Flexibility in learning, 65, 101

228– 229; compared to

Flipping the Classroom, 194

conceptual learning, 55,

Flourishing programs at Jiffy


Lube, 246, 284n11

Failure: attributions on, 180– 182;

Fluid intelligence, 147, 176

productive, 157, 279n5

Flynn, James, 251

False consensus effect, 117,

Flyvbjerg, Bent, 124


Folk beliefs on learning, 3– 4;

Familiar examples, learning

contrasted with empirical

from, 156

research, 9

Familiarity with knowledge,

Ford, Steve, 23– 27, 29, 59, 120,

curse of, 115– 116, 119, 273n11,

165, 198, 222


Forgetting: curve of, 20, 49, 63,

Faraday School at Dartmouth, 12,

256n1; protection against

Index ê 301

throught esting, 20; reasons

Goldstein, E. Bruce, 169

for, 115; sleep protecting

Good, Michael, 125, 127

against, 267n4

Goode, Andy, 34

Formal education, importance of

Growth mindset, 92, 93,

to learning, 2

139– 140, 142, 157, 161,

Framing problems in different

179– 183, 233, 281n16;

ways, creative benefi ts of,

compared to fi xed mindset,

30, 260n7

179– 183; irrational beliefs

France CLIL Project, 216– 217

with, 181; overcoming lack of

Freeman, Theron, 112– 115

confidence in, 180; productive

French language immersion in

failure in, 157, 279n5; and

England, 217

rule learners, 157

Frequency of learning. See

Guided instruction, 155

Spaced practice; distribution

Guilt in memory distortions, 109,

of practice

110, 273n10

Frontal lobes, 170– 171; injury to

Gullibility in memory distortions,

and perseverance, 162– 163,


279n1 Fundamental attribution error,

Habit formation. See also Brain:

180– 182

and chunking, 171; and myelination, 169; and neurogenesis,

Generation effect in memory, 31,

172; and plasticity, 66, 168

43, 44, 71, 90, 265n10

Hindsight bias, 115– 116,

Geraci, Lisa, 66, 125


Gerold, Lucy, 164– 165, 167

Hockey stick effect in expertise,

Gladwell, Malcolm, 106


Goal- oriented behavior, brain

How People Learn (Bransford,

systems involved in, 170,

Brown, and Cocking), 1, 6,

177– 178

8, 145, 148, 149

Going for the Look (McDaniel), 84

Howard, Dan, 228, 229

Goldberg, Elkhonon, 169

Howard, Peter, 203, 204,

Golden Rule in learning, 145

212– 213

Goldin- Meadow, Susan, 7, 8

Human factors, in emergency

Goldman- Rakic, Patricia, 170

plane landing, 106– 109, 271n3

Goldrick, Margaret, 265n9

Human intelligence, learning

Goldstein, Kurt, 165, 279n2

and, 147– 151; analytical,

Index ê 302

148, 150; creative, 148, 150;

Imagination inflation, 113, 272n7

crystallized, 147, 176; fi uid,

Imaging techniques, new, 166,

147, 176; practical, 148,

172; positron emission

150– 151

tomography as, 169

Human memory, susceptibility

Imitation, social learning

to distortions and errors,

through, 117, 199

109– 118

Immersion programs, 217

Hunches in learning, marking

Implicit learning, 171– 172

and returning to, 208– 209

Improvisation, learning through,

Hunkler, Kiley, 1, 11, 13

29– 30, 260n6

Hunter, Thelma, 204, 205,

Inattentional blindness, 99– 101, 272n4

211– 212

Independent learning, fostering,

Hypnosis for memory distortion, 114, 272n9

94– 98 Industrial and organizational

Hypercorrection effect, 32,

psychology, 8

216, 283n4

Inference, learning through, 55 Information: accumulation of,

Imagery as mnemonic

I apologize, but I do not have enough information in your original prompt to provide a useful summary. Can you clarify what information you are interested in summarizing?

Here is a summary of the key ideas related to dynamic learning:

• Dynamic learning involves frequent variation and interleaving of practice. It is contrasted with massed practice, which involves prolonged focus on a single topic or skill.

• Dynamic learning leads to stronger and more flexible mastery compared to massed practice. However, massed practice can create an illusion of mastery or fluency that is revealed as superficial when tested.

• Dynamic learning applies to both cognitive and motor skills. Studies show the benefits of interleaved practice for learning perceptual skills like identifying artists’ painting styles, mathematical skills, and physical skills like juggling or surgery.

• A key reason dynamic learning is effective is that it leads to stronger memory consolidation and reconsolidation. The mental effort required to frequently switch between topics or skills also strengthens learning.

• Dynamic learning aligns well with theories of neuroplasticity and myelination. Frequently changing the focus of practice helps build more complex neural connections and pathways.

• Dynamic learning can be encouraged through the use of mixed or interleaved practice problems, connecting new learning to unpredictable real-world contexts, and embracing errors and challenges as learning opportunities. An exploratory, growth-oriented mindset is helpful for dynamic learning.

• Examples of dynamic learning can be seen in pilot training, medical education, commercial training programs, and the mnemonic techniques of memory athletes. Reflection and retrieval practice are other tools that can encourage a dynamic learning process.

Here is a summary of the main points:

  • Learning is often misunderstood as simply taking in and storing information when it really involves retrieval and active use of knowledge.
  • Retrieval practice - recalling facts, concepts, or events from memory - enhances learning. Testing is a powerful form of retrieval practice.
  • Varied and spaced practice of retrieving information leads to stronger learning and memory. Repeated testing over time strengthens connections in the brain.
  • Desirable difficulties, like spacing out practice, interleaving different topics, and testing, enhance learning even though they make learning feel more difficult. They provide challenges that strengthen memory.
  • Illusions of knowing and competence are common but mistaken beliefs that we have learned and understood material that we have merely read or heard. Retrieval practice helps avoid these illusions.
  • The concept of fixed learning styles is a myth. People can enhance their learning in any style. What matters most is using effective learning strategies, like retrieval practice.
  • Talent and ability can be enhanced through training and dedication over time. Even working memory and fluid intelligence, closely tied to “raw ability,” can be improved to some degree.
  • To make learning stick, use retrieval practice, space out and mix up your learning, embrace difficulties, minimize illusions of knowing, go beyond learning styles, and develop your abilities through effort and persistence. Effective teaching and training methods utilize these principles.

The key strategies for improving learning and memory are: retrieval practice (especially testing), spaced repetition, interleaving, embracing difficulties, and avoiding illusions of competence. With practice and persistence, abilities and skills can continue to strengthen over time. Utilizing these learning principles can enhance both student learning as well as lifelong learning and development.

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