What do you do to learn and is it just providing the illusion of knowing? Are you gaining real knowledge? What is your belief about learning styles and how do you adjust your own learning accordingly? What tools are you using to develop your own learning skill set? How are you going about increasing your own ability to remember and assimilate information? What are you doing to Make It Stick?
I have to confess, even after seeing some of the things discussed in the book, that I still don’t use many of the proven learning tools available. I’ve gotten past rereading as a means of increasing knowledge and I’m well aware that learning styles don’t exist, but taking that next step to employing “tricks” to better remember things is something I just can’t bring myself to do. Here is a summary of the last 4 sections of Make It Stick. Hopefully they’re of use to you.
Make It Stick (Chapter by Chapter)
Avoid Illusions of Knowing
It’s possible to convince ourselves of things to the point that we believe something that is not true. We are also quite capable of supplying invented information to fill gaps rather than acquiring the truth, especially under hypnosis. Compounding the effect of thinking we know things that we don’t is the Dunning-Kruger effect where those least capable and knowledgeable are most sure of themselves. The solution is frequent testing and retrieval to verify what is known and what needs to be accurately added to our knowledge.
Hypothetical events that are imagined vividly can seat themselves in the mind as firmly as memories of actual events.
The better you know something, the more difficult it becomes to teach it.
Dunning-Kruger effect…incompetent people tend to overestimate their own competence and, failing to sense a mismatch between their performance and what is desirable, see no need to try to improve.
Get Beyond Learning Styles
Contrary to popular belief, there is no evidence that people’s preference in method of learning is correlated to their ability to learn. While it has been accepted in much of society, and even in some educational circles, the research simply isn’t there to support the idea. On the other hand, matching presentation style to subject makes a marked difference.
Some of these differences matter a lot — for example, our ability to abstract underlying principles from new experiences and to convert new knowledge into mental structures. Other differences we may think count for a lot, for example having a verbal or visual learning style, actually don’t.
Moreover, their review showed that it is more important that the mode of instruction match the nature of the subject being taught: visual instruction for geometry and geography, verbal instruction for poetry, and so on. When instructional style matches the nature of the content, all learners learn better, regardless of their different learning preferences for how the material is taught.
Knowledge is not knowhow until you understand the underlying principles at work and can fit them together into a structure larger than the sum of its parts. Knowhow is learning that enables you to go do.
Increase Your Abilities
This section blew my mind. I knew some of the concepts, but didn’t realize how applicable many of them could be to all learners. It’s intriguing to know that we can make a direct impact on how our brain approaches knew information and take advantage of speeding up the myelination process to move from conscious effort to habit. Whether it’s improving nutrition, or applying a memory scheme, the options available are plentiful to help us learn.
The neural circuits we use when we take a conscious action toward a goal are not the same ones we use when our actions have become automatic, the result of habit.
The hippocampus, where we consolidate learning and memory, is able to generate new neurons throughout life.
Learning goals trigger entirely different chains of thought and action from performance goals.
Make It Stick
The final chapter takes on the same title as the book, and serves as a longer than usual summary and consolidation of the information beforehand. What does it look like to apply the concepts and principles that research shows are beneficial to improving our cognitive abilities? To put it more bluntly, how do we do all of this? While much of this is written with formal education in mind, the suggestions are easily transferable.
Set aside a little time every week throughout the semester to quiz yourself on the material in a course, both the current week’s work and material covered in prior weeks.
Make quizzing and practice exercises count toward the course grade, even if for very low stakes. Students in classes where practice exercises carry consequences for the course grade learn better than those in classes where the exercises are the same but carry no consequences.
What Are You Going To Do About It?
What do you do to learn something you really want to know? Do you see these principles in your own approach to learning or in any apps or classes you are using to increase knowledge?