The most recent blog post discussed the book Make it Stick, the Science of Successful Learning, by Henry L. Roediger III, Mark A. McDaniel, and Peter C. Brown. The authors’ intent is to replace the theory, lore, and intuition that underlies much current learning theory with scientifically tested facts.
The problem with current learning theory is that it encourages unproductive practices. For example, massed practice, re-reading texts, and teaching in students’ preferred learning styles simply do not work well, according to the authors.
What does work?
Fortunately, the authors provide several solutions to improve learning that are based on scientific research. Here are just a few of the key ideas.
- Retrieval practice, such as flashcards, is more effective than re-reading.
- Periodic practice is more effective than massed practice.
- Interleaving topics is more effective than focusing on one topic at a time.
- Attempting to solve problems before being taught the solution is helpful.
- Frequent, low-stakes testing helps calibrate the learner’s judgment about learning effectiveness.
- Learners should be encouraged to elaborate on what they are learning, using their own words and connecting the new material to existing knowledge.
There is much more to the book than these two blog posts can contain, and the structure of the book itself uses many of the techniques that the authors advocate. Teachers and students of all ages should read this book and use its key ideas to improve learning outcomes.