Welcome back for another week of goodies. Summer's winding down but I'll be soaking up all the last nectars the sun has to offer this week in OBX. I'll be drinkin bloodies whilst searching for the wreckage of The Royal Merchant (& the $400 million worth of gold inside). Wish me luck ; )
In college I created my own curriculum towards the latter half of my degree so naturally I became really interested in how we learn. This led to multiple learning experiments, much reading on the subject, and a job creating online courses.
I found that many of the ways we've been taught to learn have proven to be extremely ineffective.
The best research by far came from Peter Brown's book, Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning. I give the book a 10/10, which I don't do often. It's extremely value dense with case studies and actionable advice for students and educators. What follows is the distillation of learning tactics that I've had success with.
Repetition - repeating a phrase and definition multiple times to remember it.
Rereading - rereading text to commit it to memory
Highlighting & Underlining - People believe that this makes key points more memorable, the benefit is negligible compared to elaboration and reflection.
Massed Practice - Doing 1 thing continuously without rest (3 hour math study sessions the night before an exam)
✅ Retrieval Practice - recalling information when it's not readily in front of you. (Commonly done with quizzes/exams)
Problem (How it's commonly used):
Educators use tests as a way to validate learning and weigh it heavily on students' grades. It's often seen as a "end all be all". The traditional 2-4 big exams per semester method has been proven to be ineffective as it promotes massed practice which leads to great short term recall but doesn't tattoo information into memory long term.
Solution (How it should be used):
Regular retrieval quizzes with known dates (2-3/week) that are weighed significantly less than exams show promise. Instead of 2-3 exams in a semester that total 50% of their grade there should be 30-40 short quizzes that total 50% of the grade.
This increases the repetitions of recalling information which leads to long term mastery of the subject, opposed to short term recall.
We need to design environments that promote failure as a learning strategy. Failing is good. When we get feedback then go in and correct our failure, that is when we really learn. There should be a tight loop kept between the time students consume information and the time they are asked to retrieve it.
✅ Interleaving - alternating subjects while studying (i.e. 60 minutes math, 60 minutes english, 60 minutes science opposed to 3 hours straight of math)
"Interleaving is unpopular and seldom used because it feels sluggish but the research shows it improves retention long term. Massed practice feels more productive, and it is with short term retention, but long term durable learning and mastery is best improved with interleaving." —Peter Brown
Interleaving develops your "sorting skill"— your ability to look at any problem and discern which tools/principles you need to use. This skill is built with interleaving and problems that pull multiple real life themes. Blocking or mass practice doesn’t build this skill.
✅ Elaboration- Elaboration is the process of giving new material meaning and relating it to what you already know.
Elaboration stacks new material on top of something you already know, what you already know then becomes a cue for recalling that information later. Checkout how world memory athletes build "memory palaces".
✅ Reflection (combo of retrieval and elaboration)
Strategy: Weekly low stakes learning paragraphs for students to sum up what they learned and relate it to something else in their life. Conversational and informal.
1. Read something once
2. Rephrase into your own words
3. Convert main points into series of questions
4. Relate to something that you already know outside the subject
5. Attempt to answer the questions (retrieve the information) the next day
To all the educators on here; I'd love to hear your take on this.
In my opinion - I think there should be a class on "how to learn" that should be mandatory at all grade schools & universities. To me, it's the equivalent of learning the internal "Operating Manual" on the human brain and how it absorbs information.
Have you ever noticed that whenever you have a deadline you're able to bang out 5 hours straight from 7pm to midnight before it's due? The deadline lights a fire under your ass and gets you moving. But other times when you sit down to work it feels sluggish and unproductive.
How can you recreate this type of urgency to maximize your output each day? I've found great success with artificial urgency. Here's what I do:
Seems super simple but I was surprised at how useful it's been. I use my apple watch because I like that I can look down to check the countdown at any time and I also like that it'll vibrate my wrist when it's done opposed to an annoying alarm.
This is the name of a thread that absolutely blew me away by Naval Ravikant. A friend recommended it to me on LinkedIn and I was in awe at how concisely Naval distills "principles" that he's found to be true on gaining wealth.
The thread, on Twitter, is a distillation of principles on how to gain wealth; the ROI on your reading time is bar none. You can find it here.
My favorite is "Play iterated games. All the returns in life, whether in wealth, relationships, or knowledge, come from compound interest."
or, in other words... "What can I focus on doing consistently that will gain value proportional to the time I put in?"
Some things that come to mind for me are reading books, attempting (& failing) to start ventures, & sharing everything I learn.