Tuesday, January 13, 2015

[book] How We Learn

Who doesn’t want to be better at learning? Learn faster, more efficiently, with better recall…that’s this book, by Benedict Carey, a journalist who has long been tracking the science of learning. The whole book is worth reading, but here are a few of my takeaways:

  • Use the spacing affect, aka “distributed learning”. There is a whole science of how much and how often you should repeat something in order to seal it in memory. Not too often, just enough space between practice, not too seldom. Nowadays you can get software to help with this.  Good idea.
  • Testing is another form of learning, so do it on yourself all the time. Spend about 1/3 of your time studying and 2/3rds testing yourself (flashcards, re-writing your thoughts, etc.)
  • Distraction can actually be good, but only if: you’ve focused long enough on the task to feel stumped. When that happens, take a break and do something else for a while.
  • Systematically alter your practice: change the place where you study, change the background noises or music. If you study the same material in two different places, you’ll learn the material better than if you studied it in the same, familiar location.
  • Sleep is free learning: never go to bed without a problem to review in your mind. Think of it as “learning with your eyes closed”.

There is much more to absorb from this book, and I’m sure I’ll continue coming back to the concepts regularly.