Book - Make It Stick - Notes

02 Jul 2018

Chapter 0

  • Spaced repetition is the key - review it in 1 day and then 7 days and 2 months etc.
  • Interleave the topics of study - keep juggling between different topics brain will make more solid connections

Chapter 1 - Learning Misunderstood

Learning: acquire knowledge so that when needed loaded up from memory so that you can use it to make sense of future problems.

3 skills needed for learning

  • memory (remember it)
  • keep learning (to build up from prior knowledge)
  • acquired skill (learning is a skill on its own)

  • Learning is more durable when you are suffering (effortful)
  • People are bad at judging if they are learning good or bad.
  • Re-reading text or massed practice is one of the least effective ways to learn.
  • Always try to recall information to make neural connections stronger and remember faster later on.
  • Spaced practice and interleaved study help a lot.
  • Try to learn something without looking at the solution first (hence more effort)
  • First, learn the fundamentals and then build on that knowledge
  • Try to express things with your own words and sentences, it makes easy to create a mental model.
  • Try to connect new knowledge to prior knowledge and create a mental model around it.
  • Make mistakes and correct them the best way to get advanced learning.

“had he thought of converting the main points of the text into a series of questions and then later tried to answer them while he was studying? Had he at least re- phrased the main ideas in his own words as he read? Had he tried to relate them to what he already knew? Had he looked for examples outside the text?”

“low-stakes quizzing and self-testing, spacing out practice, interleaving the practice of different but related top- ics or skills, trying to solve a problem before being taught the solution, distilling the underlying principles or rules that dif- ferentiate types of problems”

When you learn something new every time, you are changing the structure of your brain. Cool. More effort means better learning.

  • Do not fall into trap of more repetition means more understanding of the topic.
  • Mastering same order of words and content gives the illusion of understanding. Try to understand core ideas and how to apply them.
  • Mastery of knowledge means that you know the fundamentals of some topic but also you know how to use that knowledge when a situation comes up (both theoretical and practical)
  • Use testing for fetching from memory, not for memorization.

Chapter 2

  • Practice at retrieving new knowledge or skill from memory is a potent tool for learning and durable retention. This is true for anything the brain is asked to remember and call up again in the future— facts, complex concepts, problem- solving techniques, motor skills.
  • Effortful retrieval makes for stronger learning and retention. We’re easily seduced into believing that learning is better when it’s easier, but the research shows the opposite: when the mind has to work, learning sticks better. The greater the effort to retrieve learning, provided that you succeed, the more that learning is strengthened by retrieval. After an initial test,
  • Delaying subsequent retrieval practice is more potent for reinforcing retention than immediate practice, because delayed
  • retrieval requires more effort. Repeated retrieval not only makes memories more durable but produces knowledge that can be retrieved more readily, in more varied settings, and applied to a wider variety of problems.
  • repeated testing is better tool than repeated reading on same material
  • getting feedback when you did something wrong especially if you get feedback in the long term makes learnings last longer.

Chapter 3

  • Rapid-fire practice leans on short-term memory. Durable learning, however, requires time for mental rehearsal and the other processes of consolidation
  • The increased effort required to retrieve the learning after a little forgetting has the effect of retriggering consolidation, further strengthening memory
  • The basic idea is that varied practice—like tossing your beanbags into baskets at mixed distances—improves your ability to transfer learning from one situation and apply it successfully to another
  • The learning of motor skills from varied practice, which is more cognitively challenging than massed practice, appears to be consolidated in an area of the brain associated with the more difficult process of learning higher-order motor skills
  • problems and opportunities come at us unpredictably, out of sequence. For our learning to have practical value, we must be adept at discerning “What kind of problem is this?” so we can select and apply an appropriate solution. 
  • It’s not just what you know, but how you practice what you know that determines how well the learning serves you later.
  • (1) you have to keep practicing the fundamentals from time to time, forever, so you keep them sharp, other- wise you’re cooked, but (2) you need to change it up in prac- tice because too much repetition is boring
  • Beware of the familiarity trap: the feeling that you know something and no longer need to practice it. This familiarity can hurt you during self-quizzing if you take shortcuts