“Make It Stick” by Peter C. Brown: Part Two

  1. Interleaving is unpopular and seldom used. Teachers dislike it because it feel sluggish. Students find it confusing: they’re just starting to get a handle on new material and don’t feel on top o fit yet when they are forced to switch. But the research shows unequivocally that mastery and long-term retention are much better if you interleave practice than if you mass it.
  2. It’s one thing to feel confident of your knowledge; it’s something else to demonstrate mastery. Testing is not only a powerful learning strategy, it is a potent reality check on the accuracy of your own judgment of what you know how to do.
  3. It’s better to solve a problem than to memorize a solution.
  4. To be desirable, a difficulty must be something learners can overcome through increased effort.
  5. Learning is at least a three-step process: initial encoding of information is held in short-term working memory before being consolidated into a cohesive representation of knowledge in long-term memory. Consolidation reorganizes and stabilizes memory traces, gives them meaning, and makes connections to past experiences and to other knowledge stored in long-term memory. Retrieval updates learning and enables you to apply it when you need it.
  6. One problem with poor judgment is that we usually don’t know when we’ve got it.
  7. Blink—your instantaneous ability to size up a situation plays against your capacity for skepticism and thoughtful analysis. Of course, when System 1’s conclusions arise out of misperception or illusion, they can steer you into trouble. Learning when to trust your intuition an when to question it is a big part of how you improve your competence in the world at large and in any field where you want to be expert.
  8. Humans do not give greater credence to an objective record of a past event than to their subjective remembering of it, and we are surprisingly insensitive to the ways our particular construals of a situation are unique to ourselves.
  9. Memory is a reconstruction. We cannot remember every aspect of an event, so we remember those elements that have greatest emotional significance for us, and we fill in the gaps with details of our own that are consistent with our narrative but may be wrong.
  10. The curse of knowledge is our tendency to underestimate how long it will take another person to learn something new or perform a task that we have already mastered.
  11. The stories we create to understand ourselves become the narratives of our lives, explaining the accidents and choices that have brought us where we are: what I’m good at, what I care about most, and where I’m headed. (Understanding those stories is a major theme in “Essentialism”)
  12. Fluid intelligence is the ability to reason, see relationships, think abstractly, and hold information in mind while working on a problem; crystallized intelligence is one’s accumulated knowledge of the world and the procedures or mental models one has developed from past learning and experience.
  13. Most of us can learn to perform nearer to our full potential in most areas by discovering our weaknesses and working to bring them up.
  14. Emphasizing effort give a child a rare variable they can control. But emphasizing natural intelligence takes it out of a child’s control, and it provides no good recipe for responding to failure. (Much like the theme of early childhood testing and its faults found in “Nurture Shock”)
  15. Children in the lowest strata of society are so beset by challenges and starved of resources that they don’t stand a chance of experiencing success. But, and here’s another paradox, kids at the top of the heap, who are raised in cosseted settings, praised for being smart, bailed out of predicaments by helicopter parents, and never allowed to fail or overcome adversity on their own initiative, are also denied the character-building experiences essential for success later in life. (See “David and Goliath” about how without failing we never know what we can truly achieve)
  16. The path to complex mastery or expert performance does not necessarily start from exceptional genes, but it most certainly entails self-discipline, grit, and persistence.
  17. Your grasp of unfamiliar material often starts out feeling clumsy and approximate. But once you engage the mind in trying to make sense of something new, the mind begins to “knit” at the problem on its own. You don’t engage the mind by reading a text over and over again or by passively watching PowerPoint slides. You engage it by making the effort to explain the material yourself, in your own words—connecting the facts, making it vivid, relating it to what you already know. (Whole books about this idea with “Autopilot” and “Incognito”)
  18. Struggling with the puzzle stirs your creative juices, sets the mind to looking for parallels and metaphors from elsewhere in your experience, knowledge that can be transferred and applied here. It makes you hungry for solutions.
  19. In particular, students must be helped to understand such fundamental ideas as these:
    1. Some kinds of difficulties during learning help to make the learning stronger and better remembered.
    2. When learning is easy, it is often superficial and soon forgotten.
    3. Not all o four intellectual abilities are hardwired. In fact, when learning is effortful, it changes the brain, making new connections and increasing intellectual ability.
    4. You learn better when you wrestle with new problems before being shown the solution, rather than the other way around.
    5. To achieve excellence in any sphere, you must strive to surpass your current level of ability.
    6. Striving, by its nature, often results in setbacks, and setbacks are often what provide the essential information needed to adjust strategies to achieve mastery.
  20. The six levels range from gaining knowledge (the most fundamental level) to developing a comprehension of the underlying facts and ideas, being able to apply learning to solve problems, being able to analyze ideas and relationships so as to make inferences, being able to synthesize knowledge and ideas in new ways, and, at the most sophisticated level, being able to use learning to evaluate opinions and ideas and make judgments based on evidence and objective criteria.
  21. Do not look at your notes. Just take a minute to think about it yourself. I tell them our brains are like a forest, and your memory is in there somewhere. You’re here, and the memory is over there. The more times you make a path to that memory, the better the path is, so that the next time you need the memory, it’s going to be easier to find it. But as soon as you get your notes out, you have short-circuited the path. You are not exploring for the path anymore, someone has told you the way.
  22. Helping the client dig past the symptoms of a problem to discover its root causes, and then to generate possible solutions and play out the implications of different strategies before committing to them. (Again, a major theme in “Essentialism” and discovering a situation’s constraints.)
  23. “If you hand people the solution, they don’t need to explore how you go to that solution. If they generate the solution, then they’re the one who are traveling down that road.
  24. FORE: the habit of asking about one’s Family, Occupation, Recreation, and Enjoyment
  25. A learning culture places the responsibility for learning with the employees and empowers them to change the system. Problems become information rather than failures. And learning by solving the problems (generation) and by teaching other (elaboration) becomes an engine for continuous improvement of performance by individuals and by the production line that they compose.


Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning

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