Note: I received a digital copy of this book from NetGalley for review consideration.
Wow, did I enjoy this book way more than I thought I would! How We Learn is a well-researched look into why the things we think we know about studying and learning are totally wrong, and what we should be doing instead. It was informative, packed with scientific studies and research, and written in an approachable tone, which is exactly how I think non-fiction books should be written.
The focus of the book is to show how many common study tips have been proven ineffective, such as studying in the same, quiet place every day. Research shows that if you study in a wider array of places, you’re more likely to recall the facts you learned later, and that distractions are actually good for your brain, as they force you to consolidate your memories and give you a fresh perspective on whatever you’ve been working on. How We Learn includes a lot of information that could be extremely helpful for teachers and students alike–for instance, it discusses the importance of pretesting, which keeps you from the issue of fluency (thinking you know something because you just studied it) and from being thrown off by different options. You also get to see what words and concepts are important before you start learning them. Likewise, percolation (the art of taking breaks and allowing your mind to actively or inactively make connections) is incredibly important. Mixed practice (also known as interleaving) also increases transfer of information and skills to other areas, even if it feels less productive at the time.
This book also includes tons of studies on neuroscience, which I find fascinating! One of the most interesting things I remember reading was about memory block–when this tip-of-the-tongue brain block occurs, it’s likely because there is too much information getting in the way of the fact you want to remember, rather than that there is not enough information. Research also seems to show that once you learn something, you never forget it–it just gets covered up with other information and is extremely difficult to retrieve. In addition, the book speaks about the importance of sleep, as we need that time to allow our brains to consolidate memory and learning.
I could go on and on about the fascinating facts and concepts I learned from How We Learn, but you should probably just pick it up yourself. This book is great both for teachers and life-long learners, whether you’re currently in college or graduate work, or whether you’re just interested in learning about learning.
Rating: Re-read Worthy