Tag Archives: learning

Make it Stick

Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning (2014) by Peter Brown, Henry Roediger and Mark McDaniel is all about how to learn things, apparently pretty much everything, better.

The book looks at how when learning things people often try to reread and reread course material to learn things. This doesn’t work. Instead, they say you should learn, then self-quiz, retrieve things with further back spacing to check you still remember, interleave problems and areas, try to solve new questions without first knowing how, reflect, calibrate by checking how well you know things and use mnemonic devices.

Notably the book says that ‘learning styles’ has no solid, replicable basis.

For courses the book recommends that regular low stakes testing is used to remind students of material and that more tests lead to better recollection of the subject. It seems, however that also leads to more work for lecturers. The way they describe teaching to work best is the way it was in high school and in the early years of University for me, not the later ones. Perhaps students were expected to use such techniques on their own by then.

The learning here seems to be focused on subjects where remembering large numbers of things is key. It’s not quite so clear that it works as well for learning things that have more math in them. A Mind for Numbers might be a better book for that.

It’s interesting that the way the book describes the best way to learn seems to be the way that computer courses are tending to do. Lots of quizzes on material learnt earlier and interspacing older material. The language learning app Duolingo seems to operate exactly this way.

The book is quite good and seems to concur with other evidence based studies of learning that are around. It’s reasonably short and quite well written. It is a bit repetitive. Perhaps this is in order to embed the ideas best into the brain of a reader.