The Art of Manliness: Learning How to Learn

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Peter’s Book – Make it Stick
  • The book is a culmination of a decade of research by 11 cognitive psychologists, trying to understand what leads to better retention
  • What they found – the strategies we are drawn to for learning, are low yield strategies
    • Things like reading and rereading, or doing acts over and over again (like putting a golf ball)
    • These strategies feel productive, but the fluency and improvements you see are leaning on short-term memory, not long-term memory
  • Strategies like the above work well for cramming right before a test, but you won’t remember most of the material a week later
Other Learning Illusions
  • In instructional settings, there’s a temptation to sometimes make the material easy/as clear as you can for the learner
    • The learner then develops a confidence that they are on top of that piece of material
    • However, it’s just an illusion of knowing it, the brain hasn’t actually struggled to learn anything
    • We tend to think easy material sticks easier, not the case
  • Another misconception – if you intend to remember something you will
    • The intentionality doesn’t make learning stick
  • “All new learning has to connect to something we already know, or we won’t learn it”
    • To make learning stick – it’s essential our brain is engaged to connect the new learning to other things we know
The Dunning-Kruger Effect
  • Some people are immune to the normal signals the rest of us get from other people
    • Signals like “I should be doing better, I need to try harder”
  • Not everybody has the ability of seeing where they stack up in terms of whether they know something or not
  • The big idea – if you engage in low productive strategies for learning, you may be more likely to think you know something, when you actually don’t
What role does IQ play in learning?
  • IQ has some impact on your potential, but  using effective strategies can allow anyone to bring up their mental abilities
  • “The more you know, the more you can learn”
Learning Styles (Audio vs. Visual lLearning)
  • There’s no evidence that supports using one’s learning preference to learn, actually leads to better learning
  • However, a person is more likely to stick with it longer if the material is presented in the way a person prefers
  • “All learners learn best when the material is presented in the form that fits the material best”
    • Geometry needs to be visual
    • Language needs to be a combination of visual and oral
What’s the best way to learn?
  • “If you want to make learning stick, practice getting it out of the brain, not getting it into the brain”
  • After you’ve read the material once or twice, put it aside and ask:
    • What are the main ideas of this?
    • How do they relate to what I already know?
    • How would I put this in my own words explaining it to somebody else?
  • Practice recalling the knowledge later, spaced out, when it’s harder to recall
    • This strengthens the connection of that material in the brain, and your ability to recall it
    • Do this instead of repeating things over and over all at once
  • Mix up examples
    • Do different types of problems and questions that are somewhat related
    • This strengthens the learning, even if you might not do as well
  • “When it feels like you’re not making progress, that’s actually probably when you are making progress”
    • The process of learning should be difficult
    • When you’re learning, you’re moving material from short to long-term memory, and this happens over time (hours) – sleep helps
    • “Short term memory is just electrical and chemical traces, but long-term memory involves actual physical change to the brain” – that’s why real learning takes time
Other Tips for Better Integrating the Retrival Process into the Learning Method
  • Elaborate when you’re learning something – pause and ask:
    • How does this relate to what I already know?
    • Is there any way to visualize this? – memory requires cues/pathways to call the information up when you need it
  • “Flashcards are very potent”
    • There are apps and websites that make flash cards for you, check out Anki
  • Low stakes quizzing
    • This is a very powerful way to help learners lock in information over time
    • Quizzing before you learn the material may help as well, having already wrestled with the question enables you to better remember the information when you actually learn it 
  • The easier it is to recall, the longer you should wait to try and recall it
  • Constantly go back to the basics
    • You might discover you may have had some skill degradation
    • “We’re always needing to re-calibrate our judgment of what we know, and what we can do”
    • This is why cumulative quizzes work well (quizzes with both new and old information)