Derek Sivers

Make It Stick - by Peter Brown

Make It Stick - by Peter Brown

Go to the Amazon page for details and reviews.

Great core point: that effortful learning - not easy - is more effective. Also the importance of self-testing as a learning tool.

my notes

Learning really means acquiring knowledge and skills and having them readily available from memory so you can make sense of future problems and opportunities.

Learning is deeper and more durable when it’s effortful.

When learning is harder and slower and it doesn’t feel productive, we are drawn to strategies that feel more fruitful, unaware that the gains from these strategies are often temporary.

A single, simple quiz after reading a text or hearing a lecture produces better learning and remembering than rereading the text.

Periodic practice stops forgetting, strengthens retrieval routes, and is essential for hanging onto the knowledge you want to gain.

Trying to solve a problem before being taught the solution leads to better learning, even when errors are made in the attempt.

When you space out practice at a task and get a little rusty between sessions, or you interleave the practice of two or more subjects, retrieval is harder and feels less productive, but the effort produces longer lasting learning and enables more versatile application of it in later settings.

When you’re adept at extracting the underlying principles or “rules” that differentiate types of problems, you’re more successful at picking the right solutions in unfamiliar situations. This skill is better acquired through interleaved and varied practice than massed practice.

We’re all susceptible to illusions that can hijack our judgment of what we know and can do. Testing helps calibrate our judgments of what we’ve learned.

All new learning requires a foundation of prior knowledge. To learn trigonometry, you need to remember your algebra and geometry.

Give new material meaning by expressing it in your own words and connecting it with what you already know.

Learn to extract the key ideas from new material and organize them into a mental model and connect that model to prior knowledge.

When learning is hard, you’re doing important work.

“Creativity is more important than knowledge”: You wouldn’t want to see that t-shirt on your neurosurgeon or on the captain who’s flying your plane.

Testing is a tool for learning.

Even after ten years piloting the same business jet, his employer reinforces his mastery every six months in a battery of tests and flight simulations that require him to retrieve the information and maneuvers.

To learn better and remember longer: various forms of retrieval practice, such as low-stakes quizzing and self-testing, spacing out practice, interleaving the practice of different but related topics or skills, trying to solve a problem before being taught the solution, distilling the underlying principles or rules that differentiate types of problems, and so on.

Reflection is a form of practice. Reflection can involve several cognitive activities that lead to stronger learning: retrieving knowledge and earlier training from memory, connecting these to new experiences, and visualizing and mentally rehearsing what you might do differently next time.

To improve the way we learn, find a way to interrupt the process of forgetting.

After reading passages on the history of slavery, students are asked to write down ten facts about slavery they hadn’t known before.

Giving feedback on wrong answers to test questions strengthens retention more than testing alone does, and, interestingly, some evidence shows that delaying the feedback briefly produces better long-term learning than immediate feedback.

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.

Practice that’s spaced out, interleaved with other learning, and varied produces better mastery, longer retention, and more versatility.

Examples of massed practice: boot camps, fast learning, cramming.

Half the docs completed all four lessons in a single day, half had a week’s interval between them. Those whose lessons had been spaced a week apart outperformed their colleagues in all areas.

Embedding new learning in long-term memory requires a process of consolidation, in which memory traces (the brain’s representations of the new learning) are strengthened, given meaning, and connected to prior knowledge.

Rapid-fire practice leans on short-term memory.

A spiraling series of exercises that cycle back to key skillsets in a seemingly random sequence that adds layers of context and meaning at each turn.

Interleaving the practice of two or more subjects or skills is also a more potent alternative to massed practice.

Learning from interleaved practice feels slower, but interleaved and variable practice proved more helpful than massed practice for learning the underlying concepts that unite and differentiate the species and families.

The kind of retrieval practice that proves most effective is one that reflects what you’ll be doing with the knowledge later.

Space out study and practice in installments, enough so that practice doesn’t become a mindless repetition. Enough time so that a little forgetting has set in.

If you’re practicing something over and over in rapid-fire fashion, you’re leaning on short-term memory, and very little mental effort is required.

Retrieving a memory from long-term storage can both strengthen the memory traces and connect to more recent learning.

The more you’ve forgotten about a topic, the more effective relearning will be in shaping your permanent knowledge.

When you’re asked to struggle with solving a problem before being shown how to solve it, the subsequent solution is better learned and more durably remembered.

When letters are omitted from words in a text, retention improves.

Unsuccessful attempts to solve a problem encourage deep processing of the answer when it is later supplied.

Review what has been learned, asking yourself questions: What are the key ideas? What are some examples? How do these relate to what I already know? What went well? What could have gone better? What might I need to learn for better mastery?

Write to learn: express the main ideas in your own words.

People who are taught that learning is a struggle that often involves making errors will go on to exhibit a greater propensity to tackle tough challenges.

Desirable difficulties: Difficulties are desirable because they trigger encoding and retrieval processes that support learning, comprehension, and remembering. If, however, the learner does not have the background knowledge or skills to respond to them successfully, they become undesirable difficulties.

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 already stored in long-term memory. Retrieval updates learning and enables you to apply it when you need it.

Meta is Greek for “about”.

Our understanding of the world is shaped by a hunger for narrative that rises out of our discomfort with ambiguity.

Overhearing one side of a conversation proved more distracting than overhearing both sides, and the content of those partial conversations was better recalled later by the unintentional eavesdroppers.

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. As you get more expert in complex areas, your models in those areas grow more complex, and the component steps that compose them fade into the background of memory.

“Unskilled and Unaware of It”: the Dunning-Kruger effect. Incompetent people overestimate their own competence and see no need to try to improve.

Incompetent people can be taught to raise their competence by learning the skills to judge their own performance more accurately.

Students will learn better under an instructor who knows where improvement is needed and structures the practice required to achieve.

Replace subjective experience as the basis for decisions with a set of objective gauges outside ourselves, like cockpit instruments. Your judgment and learning are calibrated by working alongside a more experienced partner: The apprentice model.

Analytical intelligence is our ability to complete problem-solving tasks such as those typically contained in tests
Creative intelligence is our ability to synthesize and apply existing knowledge and skills to deal with new and unusual situations
Practical intelligence is our ability to adapt to everyday life—to understand what needs to be done in a specific setting and then do it - what we call street smarts.

Strengthening one skill does not automatically strengthen others. Learning and memory strategies are effective for enhancing intellectual abilities in the material or skills practiced, but the benefits don’t extend to mastery of other material or skills. The benefits are more likely the fruits of better habits, such as learning how to focus attention and persist at practice.

A kid who is genetically just a little bit more curious becomes significantly smarter if she’s in an environment that feeds curiosity.