Book Review: Make it Stick

10 second summary

Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning by Henry Roediger tells us why the study strategy we have been taught and employed is wrong and what to do instead. Everything he presents is backed by scientific research and academic papers.

Why this book is important

At some point everyone will have had to learn something new and commit new learnings to memory, be it at work or university. Learning how to retain information more effectively in less time is a game changer. Seriously. I have spent hours studying following ineffective and useless study tips that I was taught in school – hours of my life that I will never get back. Now, after reading this book and using other resources, I have revamped my study technique which has allowed more time for other projects – like this blog. After all, who wouldn’t want to get more time back?

Main takeaways

There are two main things I took away from this book were effortful learning and interleaving.

Effortful learning is the idea that for learning to be successful it requires effort, your brain has to be switched on and actively in use. Passive forms of learning like rereading, whilst easy, are ineffective for learning a new skill or committing something to memory. If you want to learn well then you need it to be hard. Effortful learning can take the form of active questions, retrieval, or trying to solve the problem before you are taught how to do it.

From the book:

“retrieval practice – recalling facts or concepts or events from memory – is a more effective learning strategy than reviewing by rereading”

“trying to solve a problem before being taught the solution leads to better learning, even when errors are made in the attempt”

“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”

Interleaving is the idea that instead of studying subject A for an hour, you should instead study subject A for 20 minutes, subject B for 20 minutes, and subject C for 20 minutes and then return to subject A. The idea is that by switching between tasks you make your learning more effortful and avoid becoming “too familiar” with a subject. It also keeps your study fresh and exciting rather than dull and boring.

From the book:

“if they interleave the study of different topics, they learn each better than if they had studied them one at a time in sequence”

“interleaving can also help you develop your ability to discriminate later between different kinds of problems and select the right tool from your growing toolkit of solutions”

After reading this, I am excited to get back to studying and apply these strategies to see how much of a difference they make to my learning and experience.

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