Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning— by Peter C. Brown, Henry L Roediger III, and Mark A. McDaniel

Some of the key points and learning strategies they mention in the preface:

  • The most effective learning strategies are not intuitive
  • Spaced repetition of key ideas and the interleaving of different but related topics are two excellent teaching/learning strategies

 

“This is a book about what people can do for themselves right now in order to learn better and remember longer. The responsibility for learning rests with every individual.”

 

 

Some the key points and learning strategies they mention in the first chapter:

  • When they talk about learning they mean acquiring knowledge and skills and having them readily available from memory so you can make sense of future problems and opportunities.
  • There are some immutable aspects of learning that we can probably all agree on:
    1. To be useful, learning requires memory, so what we’ve learned is till there later when we need it.
    2. We need to keep learning and remembering all our lives.
    3. Learning is an acquired skill and most effective strategies are counterintuitive
  • Learning is deeper and more durable when it’s effortful
  • We are poor judges of when we are learning well and when we’re not
  • Rereading text and massed practice (i.e., cramming) of a skill or new knowledge are by far the preferred study strategies of learners of all stripes, but they”re also among the least productive. Rereading and cramming give rise to feeling of fluency that are taken to be signs of mastery, but for true mastery or durability these strategies are largely a waste of time.
  • Retrieval practice — recalling facts or concepts or events from memory — is a more effective learning strategy than reviewing by rereading
    • Flashcards are a simple example
    • Retrieval strengthens the memory and interrupts forgetting
    • A single simple quiz after reading a text or hearing a lecture produces better learning and remembering that rereading the text of reviewing lecture notes.
  • Periodic practice arrest forgetting, strengthens retrieval routes, and is essential for hanging onto the knowledge you want to gain.
  • Space out practice and interleave the practice of 2 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.
  • Trying to solve a problem before being taught the solution leads to better learning, even when errors are made in the attempt.
  • Learning styles are not supported by the empirical research.
  • 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.
  • In virtually all areas of learning, you build better mastery when you use testing as a tool to identify and bring up your areas of weakness.
  • All learning requires a foundation of prior knowledge.

 

If you practice elaboration, there’s no known limit to how much you can learn. Elaboration is the process of giving new material meaning by expressing it in your own words and connecting it with what you already know. The more you can explain about the way your new learning relates to your prior knowledge, the stronger your grasp of the new learning will be, and the more connections you create that will help you remember it later.***

 

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

 

“Making mistakes and correcting them builds the bridges to advanced learning.”

 

Learning is stronger when it matters.^^^

 

  • One of the most striking research findings is the power of active retrieval — testing — to strengthen memory, and the more effortful the retrieval, the stronger the benefit.
  • The act of retrieving learning from memory has 2 profound benefits:
    1. It tells you what you know and don’t know, and therefore where to focus further study
    2. Recalling what you have learned causes your bring to reconsolidate the memory
  • To learn better and remember longer, [use]:
    • 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
    • and distilling the underlying principles or rules that differentiate types of problems

 

One of the best habits a learner can instill in herself is regular self-quizzing to recalibrate her understanding of what she does and does not know. 

 

Brown, P. C., Roediger III, H. L., & McDaniel, M. A. (2014).
Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning.
Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
Retrieved from https://www.amazon.com/Make-Stick-Science-Successful-Learning/dp/0674729013

 

 

*** This quote reminds me of what turned Quin Schultze’ learning around. With Quin’s permission, the following excerpt is from Quentin Schultze’s solid book, Communicate like a True Leader (pages 35 & 36)

 

 

 

During the beginning of my sophomore year, I started reviewing each day’s class notes after classes were over. I soon realized how little I recalled even of that day’s lectures and discussions. It dawned on me that normal note-taking merely gave me the impression that I was learning. I implemented a strategy that revolutionized my learning, launched me successfully into graduate school, helped me become a solid teacher, equipped me to be a productive researcher-writer, and made it possible for me to be an engaging speaker.

I not only reviewed my notes daily. I rewrote them from scratch within a couple of hours of each class meeting. I used my actual course notes as prompts to recall more of the lecture and to help me organize my own reactions to the material. My notes expanded. My retention swelled.

My revised notes became a kind of journal of my dialogue with the instructor and the readings. I integrated into my revised course notes my daily reading notes, reworking them into language that was meaningful to me and preparing to ask the instructor at the next class anything that I was uncertain about. From then on I earned nearly straight A’s with far less cramming for exams.

Moreover, I had begun journaling about my learning — one of the most important communication skills. I became a real learner by discovering how to pay attention to others and myself.

In a broad sense, I learned how to listen.

 

^^^ This quote explains why it is so important to answer the first question a learner asks when approaching a new lesson/topic/lecture/etc.:

  • Why is this topic relevant?
    i.e., why is this topic important and worthy of my time to learn it?

 

 

Implications of Learning Theories on Instructional Design — from elearningindustry.com by Jon-Erik Oleyar-Reynolds
Are you interested in becoming an Instructional Designer? Or are you just starting out in the world of learning theories? The focus of this article is to inform the reader of 3 unique learning theories while discussing the implications they have had in the field of Instructional Design (ID).

Excerpt:

Behaviorist Learning Theory
Behavioral learning theory can be summarized as learning that occurs through the behavioral response to environmentally sourced stimuli. The foundation of this theory is built upon assumptions that “have little regard for the cognitive processing of the learner involved in the task”.

The focus of behavioral learning theory resides in the use of reinforcement to drive behavior. Instructional Design can benefit from the use of reinforcement as a means to train learners to complete instructional objectives that are presented to them.

Cognitive Learning Theory
The primary focus of learning is on the development of knowledge by the creation of schemas. Schemas are like catalogs of information that can be used to identify concepts or experiences through a complex set of relationships that are connected to one another. In short, the catalogs act like a database of knowledge for the learner. 2 prominent theories that will be discussed are Gestalt theory and information processing theory; these 2 have paved the way for cognitivism and its impact on the field of Instructional Design.

Information processing theory further supports cognitive learning theory. Similar to Gestalt theory, the focus of learning is on the individual. The processing of information by the learner is similar to the way a computer processes information. The memory system is broken into 3 stages based on this approach:

  • Sensory memory
  • Working memory
  • Long-term memory

…the working memory may require more rehearsal to establish a clear connection to the concept and store it in long-term.

One of the most widely used strategies could arguably be a rehearsal. The expression “practice makes perfect” may seem cliché, but it does fit very well when discussing cognition and development. As one rehearses, the working memory is exercised.

While working memory has a limit of 7 (plus or minus 2), creating a chunk of information increases the amount that can be worked with.

Instructional Design shifted in the presence of cognitivism and includes a more system-like design approach with a focus on the learners.

 

Social Learning Theory
Social learning theory focuses on the impact of learning based on factors related to the social environment. In other words, learning occurs in the context of a social situation that the learner is placed in.

Self-Efficacy
Think of the expression “perhaps it rubbed off on me”. This has a direct relationship to social learning theory. Self-efficacy can be influenced by the design of lessons that allow for learners to view others of similar ability succeeding at instructional tasks. This could be achieved in a number of creative ways, but generally is most effective in collaborative activities where learners work in small groups. Overall, self-efficacy is the belief that one can be successful at particular tasks.

Collaborative learning groups and the use of peer review are widely used in many settings in which learning occurs.

 

 

From DSC:
I wanted to briefly relay an example that relates to the Cognitive Learning/Processing Theory — and more specifically to a concept known as Cognitive Load.  The other day I was sitting at the kitchen table, trying to read an interesting blog posting. But at the very same time, the radio was (loudly) relaying an item re: Virtual Reality (VR) — which also caught my ear and interest.

Which “channel” do I focus on? My visual channel or my auditory channel?

For me, I can’t do both well — perhaps some people can, but our visual and auditory channels can only handle so much at one time. Both channels request our attention and processing resources. I ended up getting up and shutting off the radio so that I could continue reading the blog posting. But for me, I think of it like a traffic jam. There are only so many cars that can simultaneously get through that busy highway that leads downtown.

So another application of this is that it’s helpful NOT to have a lot of auditory information going on at the same time as a lot of visual information. If you have PowerPoint slides, use graphics, photos, and/or graphs and use your audio voiceover to speak to them…but don’t list a long paragraph of text and then simply read that text and then also ask the learner to absorb other visual information at the same time. 

 

 

 

From DSC:
Why aren’t we further along with lecture recording within K-12 classrooms?

That is, I as a parent — or much better yet, our kids themselves who are still in K-12 — should be able to go online and access whatever talks/lectures/presentations were given on a particular day. When our daughter is sick and misses several days, wouldn’t it be great for her to be able to go out and see what she missed? Even if we had the time and/or the energy to do so (which we don’t), my wife and I can’t present this content to her very well. We would likely explain things differently — and perhaps incorrectly — thus, potentially muddying the waters and causing more confusion for our daughter.

There should be entry level recording studios — such as the One Button Studio from Penn State University — in each K-12 school for teachers to record their presentations. At the end of each day, the teacher could put a checkbox next to what he/she was able to cover that day. (No rushing intended here — as education is enough of a run-away train often times!) That material would then be made visible/available on that day as links on an online-based calendar. Administrators should pay teachers extra money in the summer times to record these presentations.

Also, students could use these studios to practice their presentation and communication skills. The process is quick and easy:

 

 

 

 

I’d like to see an option — ideally via a brief voice-driven Q&A at the start of each session — that would ask the person where they wanted to put the recording when it was done: To a thumb drive, to a previously assigned storage area out on the cloud/Internet, or to both destinations?

Providing automatically generated close captioning would be a great feature here as well, especially for English as a Second Language (ESL) students.

 

 

 

From DSC:
After seeing the article entitled, “Scientists Are Turning Alexa into an Automated Lab Helper,” I began to wonder…might Alexa be a tool to periodically schedule & provide practice tests & distributed practice on content? In the future, will there be “learning bots” that a learner can employ to do such self-testing and/or distributed practice?

 

 

From page 45 of the PDF available here:

 

Might Alexa be a tool to periodically schedule/provide practice tests & distributed practice on content?

 

 

 

DC: The next generation learning platform will likely offer us such virtual reality-enabled learning experiences such as this “flight simulator for teachers.”

Virtual reality simulates classroom environment for aspiring teachers — from phys.org by Charles Anzalone, University at Buffalo

Excerpt (emphasis DSC):

Two University at Buffalo education researchers have teamed up to create an interactive classroom environment in which state-of-the-art virtual reality simulates difficult student behavior, a training method its designers compare to a “flight simulator for teachers.”

The new program, already earning endorsements from teachers and administrators in an inner-city Buffalo school, ties into State University of New York Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher’s call for innovative teaching experiences and “immersive” clinical experiences and teacher preparation.

The training simulator Lamb compared to a teacher flight simulator uses an emerging computer technology known as virtual reality. Becoming more popular and accessible commercially, virtual reality immerses the subject in what Lamb calls “three-dimensional environments in such a way where that environment is continuous around them.” An important characteristic of the best virtual reality environments is a convincing and powerful representation of the imaginary setting.

 

Also related/see:

 

  • TeachLive.org
    TLE TeachLivE™ is a mixed-reality classroom with simulated students that provides teachers the opportunity to develop their pedagogical practice in a safe environment that doesn’t place real students at risk.  This lab is currently the only one in the country using a mixed reality environment to prepare or retrain pre-service and in-service teachers. The use of TLE TeachLivE™ Lab has also been instrumental in developing transition skills for students with significant disabilities, providing immediate feedback through bug-in-ear technology to pre-service teachers, developing discrete trial skills in pre-service and in-service teachers, and preparing teachers in the use of STEM-related instructional strategies.

 

 

 

 

 

This start-up uses virtual reality to get your kids excited about learning chemistry — from Lora Kolodny and Erin Black

  • MEL Science raised $2.2 million in venture funding to bring virtual reality chemistry lessons to schools in the U.S.
  • Eighty-two percent of science teachers surveyed in the U.S. believe virtual reality content can help their students master their subjects.

 

This start-up uses virtual reality to get your kids excited about learning chemistry from CNBC.

 

 


From DSC:
It will be interesting to see all the “places” we will be able to go and interact within — all from the comfort of our living rooms! Next generation simulators should be something else for teaching/learning & training-related purposes!!!

The next gen learning platform will likely offer such virtual reality-enabled learning experiences, along with voice recognition/translation services and a slew of other technologies — such as AI, blockchain*, chatbots, data mining/analytics, web-based learner profiles, an online-based marketplace supported by the work of learning-based free agents, and others — running in the background. All of these elements will work to offer us personalized, up-to-date learning experiences — helping each of us stay relevant in the marketplace as well as simply enabling us to enjoy learning about new things.

But the potentially disruptive piece of all of this is that this next generation learning platform could create an Amazon.com of what we now refer to as “higher education.”  It could just as easily serve as a platform for offering learning experiences for learners in K-12 as well as the corporate learning & development space.

 

I’m tracking these developments at:
http://danielschristian.com/thelivingclassroom/

 

 

The Living [Class] Room -- by Daniel Christian -- July 2012 -- a second device used in conjunction with a Smart/Connected TV

 


*  Also see:


Blockchain, Bitcoin and the Tokenization of Learning — from edsurge.com by Sydney Johnson

Excerpt:

In 2014, Kings College in New York became the first university in the U.S. to accept Bitcoin for tuition payments, a move that seemed more of a PR stunt than the start of some new movement. Much has changed since then, including the value of Bitcoin itself, which skyrocketed to more than $19,000 earlier this month, catapulting cryptocurrencies into the mainstream.

A handful of other universities (and even preschools) now accept Bitcoin for tuition, but that’s hardly the extent of how blockchains and tokens are weaving their way into education: Educators and edtech entrepreneurs are now testing out everything from issuing degrees on the blockchain to paying people in cryptocurrency for their teaching.

 

 

 

 

From DSC:
I’m posting this in an effort to:

  • Help students learn how to learn
  • Help students achieve the greatest possible returns on their investments (both their $$ and their time) when they are trying to learn about new things

I’d like to thank Mr. William Knapp, Executive Director at GRCC for Distance Learning & Instructional Technology, for sharing this resource on Twitter.


A better way to study through self-testing and distributed practice — from kqed.org

Excerpts (emphasis DSC):

As I prepared to write this column, I relied on some pretty typical study techniques. First, as I’ve done since my student days, I generously highlighted key information in my background reading. Along the way, I took notes, many of them verbatim, which is a snap with digital copying and pasting. (Gotta love that command-C, command-V.) Then I reread my notes and highlights. Sound familiar? Students everywhere embrace these techniques and yet, as it turns out, they are not particularly good ways to absorb new material. At least not if that’s all you do.

Researchers have devoted decades to studying how to study. The research literature is frankly overwhelming. Luckily for all of us, the journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest published a review article a few years ago that remains the most comprehensive guide out there. Its 47 pages hold valuable lessons for learners of any age and any subject — especially now, with end-of-semester exams looming.

The authors examined ten different study techniques, including highlighting, rereading, taking practice tests, writing summaries, explaining the content to yourself or another person and using mnemonic devices. They drew on the results of nearly 400 prior studies. Then, in an act of boldness not often seen in academic research, they actually awarded ratings: high, low or moderate utility.

The study strategies that missed the top rating weren’t necessarily ineffective, explains the lead author John Dunlosky, a psychology professor at Kent State University, but they lacked sufficient evidence of efficacy, or were proven useful only in certain areas of study or with certain types of students. “We were trying to find strategies that have a broad impact across all domains for all students,” Dunlosky says, “so it was a pretty tough rating scale.”

 

In fact, only two techniques got the top rating: practice testing and “distributed practice,” which means scheduling study activities over a period of time — the opposite of cramming.

Practice testing can take many forms: flashcards, answering questions at the end of a textbook chapter, tackling review quizzes online. Research shows it works well for students from preschool through graduate and professional education.

Testing yourself works because you have to make the effort to pull information from your memory — something we don’t do when we merely review our notes or reread the textbook.


As for distributed practice vs. cramming, Dunlosky and his fellow authors write that “cramming is better than not studying at all,” but if you are going to devote four or five hours to studying for your biology mid-term, you would you be far better off spacing them out over a several days or weeks. “You get much more bang for your buck if you space,” Dunlosky told me.

 

 

Also see:

Improving Students’ Learning With Effective Learning Techniques — from journals.sagepub.com by John Dunlosky, Katherine A. Rawson, Elizabeth J. Marsh, Mitchell J. Nathan, and Daniel T. Willingham
Promising Directions From Cognitive and Educational Psychology

Excerpt:

In this monograph, we discuss 10 learning techniques in detail and offer recommendations about their relative utility. We selected techniques that were expected to be relatively easy to use and hence could be adopted by many students. Also, some techniques (e.g., highlighting and rereading) were selected because students report relying heavily on them, which makes it especially important to examine how well they work. The techniques include elaborative interrogation, self-explanation, summarization, highlighting (or underlining), the keyword mnemonic, imagery use for text learning, rereading, practice testing, distributed practice, and interleaved practice.

 

 

 

In fact, only two techniques got the top rating: practice testing and “distributed practice,” which means scheduling study activities over a period of time — the opposite of cramming.

 

 

From DSC:
This is yet another reason that I like the approach of using streams of content to help people learn something new. Because you can implement distributed practice, encourage recall, etc. when you put the content out there at regular intervals.

 

 

 

From DSC:
One of the biggest gifts that we can give our students today is learning how to learn. Along those lines, I was thinking about note-taking the other day.

Many students may not know how to take good notes, and to make the notes/thoughts their own. So I was thinking, wouldn’t it be great if, for each professor’s class, there was a place where students could go to see what exemplary notes look like for several — even many — of the sessions of a particular class?! If there were an accompanying audio-based or a video-based commentary that could relay the note-taker’s thinking/information processing, all the better.

These notes could be provided by the professor herself/himself or by a 4.0-type of student who has demonstrated solid study habits and shows a strong capacity for processing information.  The notes would want to:

  • Demonstrate what good note taking looks like
  • Provide examples of one’s own wording/understanding of the material
  • Identify/show any gaps in understanding by listing their own remaining questions. This type of gap analysis could help the learners see what a metacognitive check-in might look like.

By doing something like this, students could see what the main points were, what effective note taking looks like, and to see that the note-taker has taken the time to put some of their own reflections/summaries alongside the larger set of notes.

It would also be interesting to provide a platform whereby students could contribute/share their own notes to help others better understand not only the materials covered, but what different methods of note-taking might look like. Perhaps a certain style of note-taking would jump out at any given learner. Also, doing so would foster a more collaborative approach, as is often needed in the real-world.

An accompanying forum could be made available for students’ discussions of a particular class/topic. This forum could highlight for the professor what the areas of struggle are as well as how the material is being processed by the students.

 


On a separate thought…we also need to help students form habits of learning, such as regularly checking into streams of content (i.e., micro-learning).  If we can model this in the ways that we relay content and encourage dialog around a topic, then they will be that much better equipped to:

  • Deal with the new pace of exponential change
  • Reinvent themselves, if need be
  • Practice lifelong learning
  • Learn how to pulse-check their surroundings

 

 

 

Love this VR of a classroom lesson – 7 uses that really takes you there — from donaldclarkplanb.blogspot.com by Donald Clark

Excerpt:

I received a fascinating link via Twitter from Chris Edwards, a Deputy Head in Surrey, who was interested in views on his experiment with a 360 camera and VR. In the 360 degree video, Mike Kent, a Geography teacher, delivers a great lesson and you can look round the entire room as students and teacher move around, get things done, interact with the teacher and go through a Q&A session. It is fascinating. They’re using this approach for lesson observations allowing the teacher, or their colleagues, to watch it back in full Virtual Reality. This gives the teacher a view of themselves, from the student’s point of view, as well as observe ‘everything’ that happens in the classroom. It made me think of different possibilities…..

 

Good lessons by great teachers must surely be worth viewing by novice teachers. The rich set of processes, actions, behaviours, body language and interactions that go into a great lesson are complex, wonderfully captured in this example and could be done on any subject. A bank of such lessons would be far more useful than dry lesson plans.

 

From DSC:
Donald covers a range of ideas including using these 360 degree cameras and VR in regards to addressing:

  1. Exemplar lessons
  2. Teacher training in school
  3. Behaviour training
  4. Students
  5. Parents
  6. Class layout
  7. Research

 

Also see:
(You can turn around/view the entire room and somewhat move about the space by zooming in and out):

bubl-in-classroom-july2016

 

Also see:

bubl-july2016

 

 

 

Do the math: New math learning lab offers one-stop shop for student success — from udel.edu by Ann Manser and Juwan Montalvo

Excerpt:

If there’s a University of Delaware department that really knows how to rely on numbers, it’s Mathematical Sciences, and faculty members there have been seeing some worrisome data — a large proportion of freshmen failing or dropping their beginning math courses and, too often, difficulties with math causing interested students to abandon STEM classes altogether.

“We know that, nationally, a large number of students enter college with an interest in STEM [science, technology, engineering and math], but those numbers drop off,” said John Pelesko, professor of mathematical sciences and interim associate dean for the natural sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences. “A lot of that attrition is due to negative experiences in college math classes, so we decided to address it. We realized that we can’t fix this problem by doing the same things that got us here.”

The department and the college came up with what they think is a solution.

 

 

TeachingInADigitalAge-TonyBates-April2015

Teaching in a Digital Age
A.W. (Tony) Bates
Guidelines for designing teaching and learning for a digital age

The book examines the underlying principles that guide effective teaching in an age when everyone, and in particular the students we are teaching, are using technology.  A framework for making decisions about your teaching is provided, while understanding that every subject is different, and every instructor has something unique and special to bring to their teaching. The book enables teachers and instructors to help students develop the knowledge and skills they will need in a digital age: not so much the IT skills, but the thinking and attitudes to learning that will bring them success.

 

As Tony mentions here, his intended audience is primarily:

  • college and university instructors anxious to improve their teaching or facing major challenges in the classroom,
  • school teachers, particularly in secondary or high schools anxious to ensure their students are ready for either post-secondary education or a rapidly changing and highly uncertain job market.

 

An example chapter:
Chapter 7: Pedagogical differences between media

 

 

 

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