Make It Stick Book Summary, by Peter C. Brown, Henry L. Roediger III, Mark A. McDaniel

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Full Summary of Make It Stick

Overview

In the book, Make It Stick, the authors suggest that most people are not good at learning. They provide strategies for making it easier to learn by using cognitive science principles and examples. The brain is designed for neuroplasticity, which means that it can change over time with conscious effort on an individual’s part. The authors believe in adopting specific strategies to make the best use of this ability.

Many students and teachers believe that repetition and intense focus are essential components of any learning strategy. However, this is a false assumption because it yields results in the short term, giving both teachers and students the impression that information has been deeply absorbed. There’s no shortcut to deep learning; effective strategies for producing enduring results take time. Effort, patience, discipline are required to achieve long-term gains.

One of the most persistent myths is that learning involves mass practice. That means studying in large chunks, like cramming for a test. In fact, it’s better to space out your study time and take quizzes on what you’ve learned. It’s more effective to review information over time than to simply reread it and try to memorize it all at once. Focusing on recall leads to deeper understanding than when you just read something without trying to remember it later.

Another myth is the consistency of information. It’s better to shuffle things around by alternating and varying different types of related problems, rather than focusing on one set of problems before moving onto another.

When you review information that you learned in the past, it takes a lot of effort to remember. By reviewing material from time to time, your mind has to work harder than if you just reviewed it once. This helps solidify what you learned and makes connections between different pieces of information. When you rapidly expose yourself to new ideas, they become more meaningful because your mind is forced to make connections between them and other things that are related or different.

When we learn something new, it is stored as a short-term memory. The mind will then connect the knowledge to more recently acquired knowledge and recall it from memory. Mnemonic devices can help us access complex knowledge and make it easier to recall. If that knowledge is recalled frequently, embedded in our minds deeply, and becomes second nature for us, we’ll be able to use that information easily.

Learning takes time. You have to work at it and make mistakes along the way. For example, you can learn something by using flashcards or trying out different ways of doing something until you get it right. Also, sometimes people who are good at what they do can tell you if your performance is correct just like a mentor would in music class.

Learning is a process of trial and error, so failure is inevitable. However, if learners truly understand this concept, they can change their attitude towards learning.

If learners are willing to go through the hard work of learning and trust research over popular assumptions about learning, they will be on their way to mastering a subject.

Key Point 1: Conventional assumptions about learning are deeply flawed.

When you learn new things, your mind believes that it has learned more than it actually does. As a result, conventional learning strategies don’t lead to long-term retention of information. Many traditional learning strategies are not backed by rigorous research and instead rely on common wisdom. These strategies include reading something repeatedly until you get it and focusing on one subject at a time rather than trying to master several subjects simultaneously.

In many countries, schools still use the traditional methods of teaching. For example, in December 2017, France was ranked last out of all European countries when it came to education and school systems. The country’s minister for education reacted by asking his teachers to give students daily dictations as a way to improve their grammar and penmanship. Dictations have been used in French schools since the nineteenth century because they were believed to help perfect language skills like syntax, conjugation, and penmanship. Students are told what words or phrases to write down while copying a text that is dictated by their teacher. It’s assumed that this method helps students learn better because they’re able to study a passage more thoroughly than if they had read it on their own time. But this isn’t true—students aren’t given enough time during dictations to think about what they’ve written down; therefore, they don’t really understand the meaning behind what was said or written.

Key Point 2: Remembered knowledge is embedded in the mind more deeply than knowledge that is simply read over and over again.

It’s been proven that people learn more efficiently by recalling information than by reading it. Regular quizzing is often more effective than poring over study notes. By exercising their memories, they connect the knowledge to other things they already know about and build a coherent mental map of all the information they have learned. Not only does effortful memorizing anchor new knowledge into long-term memory by connecting it with previous knowledge, but also stimulates future capacity for embedding new material into a larger context.

Stress can interfere with the process of remembering. Anyone who has had to deliver under pressure knows how tricky it can suddenly become to focus on the task at hand when the body begins to panic. In one study, researchers found that injecting cortisol (a hormone released by stress) into rodents after a memory was activated caused disruption in its recollection later on.

Stress can make it harder to learn, so you need to minimize stress. This is true not only because stress makes it hard to remember new information, but also because stress itself becomes part of what’s learned. One way of doing this is through conversations with other people. These are informal and fun ways of testing yourself by keeping up with what people say and incorporating that into your memory. For example, a woman may talk about current events in order to broaden her knowledge by connecting the topics she hears with what she already knows.

Key Point 3: Effective learning demands hard work and requires time.

Research shows that the best way to learn is through trial and error, which conflicts with conventional wisdom. As a result, people who try learning new things often get frustrated. However, the research-backed methods lead to deeper understanding than memorization or studying does.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb developed the concept of antifragility, which is closely related to trial and error. In his book Antifragile, he explains that there are three types of people: those who can withstand life’s unexpected events without growing from them; those who avoid volatile situations altogether for fear of being undone by them; and those who learn from volatility. The last category consists of individuals who constantly face risks and grow stronger as a result. Those people have learned techniques that don’t follow an unbending roadmap but instead allow room for mistakes so they can improve on their next attempt.

Key Point 4: Partial forgetting is integral to efficient learning.

When you learn something, it’s better to do so in a context rather than as an isolated fact. To learn in a deeper way, there should be some time between learning and recalling the information. That lapse of time allows you to forget the information just enough that when you try to recall it, your mind will connect what you’re trying to remember with what else is already stored in your memory bank.

It is easy to understand that knowledge isn’t always completely lost, but it’s harder to grasp that forgetting can be a gift in disguise. The cognitive effort of recalling information or skills once forgotten forces the learner’s mind to develop connections. The poet Hart Crane encapsulated this paradoxical fact when he wrote, “I can remember much forgetfulness.”

A phrase from a poet can be interpreted in different ways. For example, we can interpret it as an insight on how remembering is linked to forgetting. A study conducted by Cambridge University supports this interpretation with empirical evidence that shows that learners prioritize certain memories and forget others. This phenomenon applies to neural networks, which are forms of technology that self-train through complex algorithms so they learn particular tasks. Neural networks often undergo catastrophic forgetting when they assimilate new information about a different task and thus forget the previous one.

Key Point 5: Studying different information or skills in quick succession results in more efficient knowledge.

Alternating your studies will make you more knowledgeable in the long run. This is because it trains you to differentiate between different things, rather than just learning one thing at a time. It also helps you understand how everything fits together or relates to each other within a larger context. The information becomes more durable if it’s learned in this way because there are so many connections that link all of the pieces of knowledge together. In 2008, researchers found that people who were exposed to different artists’ styles had an easier time distinguishing between paintings later on than those who studied only one artist at a time.

A quick survey of our surroundings might help us understand one reason why people should alternate between different types of knowledge. The world around us is varied and irregular, which means that we have to learn how to deal with it from a young age. We do this by learning about the things in our environment (for example, how to use cutlery). This type of learning comes naturally to humans because they are exposed to variety at a very early stage in their lives. Adults can also improve their ability to learn when they embed new information within an existing mental structure.

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Key Point 6: The brain is mutable. People control their abilities more than they think.

Genes and the environment both play a role in determining one’s intelligence. However, the brain is not static; it has the capacity to grow and develop over time. The ability to learn improves with hard work, which increases myelin production (a substance that coats neurons). Once myelin is increased through hard work, knowledge becomes more automatic and less conscious. Additionally, neuroplasticity allows new neurons to be generated throughout life in the hippocampus (the center of memory). It also suggests that people can maximize their potential by learning how to develop their skills through practice and experience.

The nurture vs. nature debate has been going on for centuries, and it’s not likely to be settled soon. John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau were proponents of the blank slate theory, which says that people come into the world as empty slates who are shaped by their environment. In contrast, Sartre believed that people can choose their own paths in life because they’re born free individuals with no predetermined purpose or meaning.

The second school of thought argues that people are born with certain traits. Innatism says we have knowledge before experiencing anything in the world. A study at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne found evidence for this, claiming to uncover fundamental knowledge made up of a small cluster of several dozen neurons in the neocortex. These neural structures might explain how people can similarly perceive sense data or build meaning with language.

Learning is based on science, not tradition. There are two schools of thought about learning: people either learn what they’re born with or they can expand their knowledge and skills by learning new things. Cognitive science proves that people can develop beyond their natural abilities if they work hard enough at it.

Key Point 7: Failure is key to success.

People often believe they are limited in their abilities, so they avoid failure and don’t take risks. This impedes success. However, when people understand that they have control over their abilities, then they will try harder to succeed. Instead of seeing failure as a sign of limitations, learners see it as an opportunity for growth and learning strategies such as remembering alternate solutions to problems become more important than avoiding mistakes.

The idea that people can learn from their failures has become commonplace. However, failure is still a stigma in the educational field because of the pressure to get into elite universities. As a result, students are often unprepared for failure and don’t know how to deal with it. There have been many initiatives started by schools such as Harvard and Stanford to help alleviate this problem by making failure more acceptable. One initiative at Smith College focuses on helping students understand that failure is natural and should not be feared or stigmatized. They’ve developed workshops in order to teach them that failing isn’t something they need to avoid but instead embrace so they can grow from it and develop resilience toward setbacks.

Key Point 8: Surface memory is a portal to deeper knowledge.

Some people are against learning by rote, but mnemonic devices can be useful after knowledge has been deeply learned. Mnemonic devices help you recall complex and abstract information that you have deeply learned.

Mnemonic devices have been used for thousands of years. They were developed by the ancient Greeks, yet they can also be found in oral traditions from many other cultures. Anthropologist Per Hage reported that navigators on Puluwat Island use mnemonic devices to learn a lot of information quickly and accurately. The process of becoming a navigator is very secretive and prestigious. It involves using complex mnemonic devices grouped into different categories, which are cues that unlock deeper knowledge about their culture.

The Puluwatese people used the world around them to help memorize information. This is an ancient technique that has been used for centuries. Some of these techniques are described in classical literature, such as Cicero’s De Oratore and Rhetorica ad Herennium and Quintilian’s Institutio Oratoria.

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Key Point 9: Learners can internalize information in order to become experts in a field.

People become experts by transforming deeply learned information into habits. If learners are hard-working and believe in their capacity to grow, they will eventually reach the point where acquired knowledge is no longer something merely remembered, but an integral part of who they are: a mastered habit. It’s not uncommon for these experts to exhibit a particular acuity for their chosen field in their old age, even as other faculties have visibly deteriorated. One example of this can be seen in virtuoso musicians such as Ida Haendel and Vladimir Horowitz. Both musicians played well into their seventies, fingers flying across the fingerboard or keys with mind-blowing dexterity. These artists turned what they had worked so hard on over many years into physical habits through regular practice and playing from memory. They gradually built up a map that allowed them to retrieve what they needed quickly without having to consciously remember it all at once. This process helped them assimilate more and more of what they learned, which then allowed them to expand further still. Eventually, this made them experts in their fields.

In the same way, some people have a very good understanding of complex ideas. However, there are also others who have an acquired knowledge that is hard to grasp by most people. This acquired knowledge can be seen in experienced plumbers who know how to fix plumbing problems with ease and proficiency. They’ve been doing it for years so they’re able to identify what’s wrong right away.

Book Structure

This book was written by a novelist who used his experience as a consultant to help him understand the science behind learning. The author uses examples from everyday life and scientific experiments to explain how people learn best. He also makes the information relatable, so that readers can apply it in their own lives. While this book is intended for teachers, trainers and lifelong learners, it’s written in such an engaging way that anyone will enjoy reading it.

The book is structured and written in a way that keeps the reader engaged. The authors use anecdotes to illustrate their points, which makes it easy for readers to remember what they’ve read. Each chapter covers a different aspect of learning, and each one includes stories about the authors’ experiments with students. The final chapter offers advice on how you can apply those lessons in your own life.

About the Author

Peter C. Brown, Henry L. McDaniel and Mark A. Roediger collaborated on a project that involved cognitive science and education for 10 years. They wrote this book as part of that project, with the primary focus on how learning works in real-life situations by acknowledging teachers and researchers who influenced their work.

McDaniel and Roediger wanted to publish a book that was not just filled with data, but also told an interesting story. Brown is a freelance consultant and writer who has published two books about his experiences in consulting as well as one historical novel set in Alaska. His varied interests are reflected throughout the book, which uses anecdotes from different sources to illustrate McDaniel’s and Roediger’s arguments about learning strategies.

The authors want to break down the various assumptions that people have about certain things.

This book is about learning how to learn. It focuses on teachers, students, and lifelong learners who want to improve their knowledge of a subject. The authors don’t question the importance of success in the first place; instead they accentuate ways for achieving excellence. They also stress that failure is important as long as you use it to grow and succeed later on.

Make It Stick Book Summary, by Peter C. Brown, Henry L. Roediger III, Mark A. McDaniel
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