How do we “Make it Stick?”

For most of my childhood and adult learning, I DID IT, as Frank Sinatra says, MY WAY!  As I’ve come to learn it was more appropriately, THE HARD WAY; the wrong strategy for me to learn!!  After reading the book, Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning, Brown, Roediger, & McDaniel (2014), I have come to the realization that a lot of wasted time and effort was put into the way I learned.

From my years as a 5th grade teacher I realized I screwed up, after reading the shocking revelation that the concept of tailoring to different learning styles has no basis in the new research being done…  From recent discoveries in cognitive psychology, we now have concrete ways to become more productive learners, and teachers, as a result. The big thing is our MEMORY and how it plays a central role in our ability to learn and retain what we learn.

I learned so much from the author’s use of stories about folks who’ve mastered really complex knowledge: Matt, the pilot who’s responding to a hydraulic failure in a flight simulator discovers real fast whether he’s on top of the corrective procedures or not (pg 5), Ebersold, the neurosurgeon who saved many lives by leaning on techniques he developed from previous surgeries he performed (pg 25), and Bonnie the gardener whose blundering is the real key to success at accumulating knowledge and “making it stick”(pg. 94).

These examples show that when you’re focused on learning something specific, you can miss a lot of little discoveries along the way. If you’re afraid of blundering, you might not discover what you would by being open to what Bonnie the gardener refers to as “trial and error.”  Bonnie’s habit of jumping into projects before properly researching the how-to part, help her retain what she learned.  So forget the “how to” books!

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