Crack the core of education and become a lifelong learner.
No life skill can earn you greater dividends than learning how to learn. Yet, most people don’t know how to master learning.
When asked, “Do you study the way you do because somebody taught you to study that way?” a study by Kornell & Bjork showed about 73% of students answered “no.”
Long after school, we continue to rely on ineffective learning strategies like passive consumption, highlighting, or rereading in the hope new knowledge will magically stick to our brain. Most people ignore that humans don’t absorb information and knowledge by reading sentences.
The mediocre majority will continue struggling through life this way, never experiencing the benefits of effective learning. They don’t care enough about the potential benefits to invest in their growth.
Most people ignore the proven ways to improve their learning process.
As a result, their lives stagnate. “Entertainment and distraction is the enemy of creation and learning. They will keep you in mediocrity,” Benjamin Hardy once wrote.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
A life full of meaningful learning and growth is available if you know where to start. In the last years, I read +15 books on learning, taught as a Teach for All fellow, and continue working in education. Here are the best resources for learning how to learn.
📘Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning
A research group around neuroscientist Henry Roediger and psychologist Mark McDaniel spent ten years exploring learning strategies. Their goal was to bridge the gap between cognitive science and educational science. The result of their work is ‘Make it stick.’
The book in one sentence: Learning that’s easy is like writing in sand, here today and gone tomorrow; learning works better when it feels hard.
Why you should read it: Because of its applicability, this is my favorite book on evidence-based learning. You’ll realize the factors that shape your intellectual ability lie to a surprising extent within your own control. After reading, you’ll understand how to make the best learning techniques work for you.
Time Commitment: 336 pages; 7 hours to read it
Content Sneak Peek: This book explores and summarizes six evidence-based, application-ready strategies that help you learn better and store new knowledge in your long-term memory. The six strategies include retrieval practice (recall something you’ve learned in the past from your memory), spaced repetition (repeat the same piece of information across increasing intervals), interleaving (alternating before each practice is complete), elaboration (rephrasing new knowledge and connecting it with existing insights), reflection (synthesize, abstract, and articulate key lessons taught by experience), self-testing & calibration (answer a question or solve a problem before looking at the answer and identify knowledge gaps).
💻 Dr. Barabara Oakley — Learning How to Learn
Learning How to Learn is the most popular Coursera course of all time taught by academic experts Dr. Barbara Oakley and Dr. Terrence Sejnowski from the University of California, San Diego. Dr. Oakley’s research has been described as “revolutionary” in the Wall Street Journal, and she won numerous teacher awards for it.
The course in one sentence: Taking responsibility for your learning is one of the most important undertakings you can manage.
Why you should watch it: By exploring effective learning and retention strategies, this course upgrades your learning toolbox. Plus, the course dismantles common learning traps and guides and how to overcome them. After watching it, you’ll feel ready for an effective, personalized learning journey.
Time Commitment: Self-paced 15 hours
Content Sneak Peek: The course explores the modes of thinking (diffuse mode and focused mode), how our memories work (long-term memory and working memory), a handful of learning strategies (recalling, interleaving, and deliberate practice), learning blockers (Einstellung, procrastination, illusions of knowledge, task-switching), brain hacks on a mental level (memory training, environment, Pomodoro technique, habit-forming, focus) and hacks on a physical level (sleeping, naps, workout).
📰 Farnam Street Blog: Accelerated Learning
Shane Parrish, the founder of Farnam Street, was a cybersecurity expert at Canada’s top intelligence agency and an occasional blogger. He promotes proven strategies of rigorous self-betterment as opposed to classic self-help fare. The best articles on the blog explore timeless ideas around learning.
The source in one sentence: You can train your brain to retain knowledge and insight better by understanding how you learn.
Why you should read it: The blog is excellently written and application-oriented. There’s constantly new content, and it serves as a great refresher to the other resources.
Time Commitment: Around 10 minutes per article.
📘Mindset: The New Psychology of Success
There’s been a lot of criticism around this book as the studies by Carol Dweck haven’t been replicated. Yet, I benefited so much from the mindset this book taught me that it belongs in this resource list. While reading it, just consider that it’s not peer-review science but rather mindset advice.
The source in one sentence: By distinguishing between a fixed and a growth mindset, Dweck shows how success in school, work, sports, the arts, and almost every area of human endeavor is influenced by how we think about our talents and abilities.
Why you should read it: This book is a must-read for every person looking for growth. After reading this book, you’ll be able to integrate a growth mindset into your life. For example, you’ll see mistakes as valuable learning opportunities. Studying this book can empower any educator to make positive changes in the classroom environment.
Time Commitment: 320 pages, 6.5 hours to read it
Content Sneak Peek: Mindsets shape whether we believe we can or can’t learn, change, and grow. People with a fixed mindset seek approval, while those with a growth mindset seek development. Role models from our childhood strongly influence our attitudes and ideas, yet we can change our mindset even in adulthood.
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