Thursday, March 12, 2015

Make It Stick

Sharing a few highlights from Make It Stick by Peter Brown.

Learning is deeper and more durable when it’s effortful. Learning that’s easy is like writing in sand, here today and gone tomorrow

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

In other words, the elements that shape your intellectual abilities lie to a surprising extent within your own control. Understanding that this is so enables you to see failure as a badge of effort and a source of useful information—the need to dig deeper or to try a different strategy

Learning is stronger when it matters, when the abstract is made concrete and personal

Mastery requires both the possession of ready knowledge and the conceptual understanding of how to use it

Just as knowledge amounts to little without the exercise of ingenuity and imagination, creativity absent a sturdy foundation of knowledge builds a shaky house

show that giving feedback 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

In interleaving, you don’t move from a complete practice set of one topic to go to another. You switch before each practice is complete. A friend of ours describes his own experience with this: “I go to a hockey class and we’re learning skating skills, puck handling, shooting, and I notice that I get frustrated because we do a little bit of skating and just when I think I’m getting it, we go to stick handling, and I go home frustrated, saying, ‘Why doesn’t this guy keep letting us do these things until we get it?’ ” This is actually the rare coach who understands that it’s more effective to distribute practice across these different skills than polish each one in turn. The athlete gets frustrated because the learning’s not proceeding quickly, but the next week he will be better at all aspects, the skating, the stick handling, and so on, than if he’d dedicated each session to polishing one skill

Here again we see the two familiar lessons. First, that some difficulties that require more effort and slow down apparent gains—like spacing, interleaving, and mixing up practice—will feel less productive at the time but will more than compensate for that by making the learning stronger, precise, and enduring. Second, that our judgments of what learning strategies work best for us are often mistaken, colored by illusions of mastery

Unsuccessful attempts to solve a problem encourage deep processing of the answer when it is later supplied, creating fertile ground for its encoding, in a way that simply reading the answer cannot

Moreover, 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 and will tend to see mistakes not as failures but as lessons and turning points along the path to mastery

The qualities of persistence and resiliency, where failure is seen as useful information, underlie successful innovation in every sphere and lie at the core of nearly all successful learning

The central idea here is that expert performance is a product of the quantity and the quality of practice, not of genetic predisposition, and that becoming expert is not beyond the reach of normally gifted people who have the motivation, time, and discipline to pursue it

Embrace the fact that significant learning is often, or even usually, somewhat difficult. You will experience setbacks. These are signs of effort, not of failure. Setbacks come with striving, and striving builds expertise. Effortful learning changes your brain, making new connections, building mental models, increasing your capability. The implication of this is powerful: Your intellectual abilities lie to a large degree within your own control. Knowing that this is so makes the difficulties worth tackling