Brain Health,
Sci + Society,
50 MINS

#229: Learning to Learn

June 08, 2018
MP3

The Most Valuable Thing You’ll Ever Learn

It’s been said that “Courage is the most important virtue because it ensures all the others.”

It might also be said that “learning how to learn is the most important thing you can learn.”  Putting it that way sounds a bit Dr. Seuss…but the logic is self-evident.

A few years ago, a group of cognitive psychological scientists took their shared interest in educational research and the science of learning and began providing a bridge to the non-academic world for whom learning is more of a practical necessity: students and teachers.

At first, it was just a Twitter feed.

Since then, it has expanded into an active and resource-dense blog, and, in late 2017, a podcast — both called The Learning Scientists.

“We’ve found there’s a big disconnect between the research on how people learn best, and how educators actually teach.”
– Dr. Megan Sumeracki

Dr. Megan Sumeracki (formerly Megan Smith) is an Assistant Professor at Rhode Island College, where her focus is on human learning and memory and applying the science of learning in educational contexts.  Her research program examines retrieval-based learning strategies, and how activities promoting retrieval can improve learning in real-world classrooms.

Dr. Cindy Nebel (formerly Cindy Wooldridge) is an Assistant Professor at Washburn University.  She became a Learning Scientist Collaborator in 2016, and now she writes a monthly blog and digest, answers questions, and provides on-site oversight to the Washburn Science of Learning Intervention Research Project.

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How to Put a Plug-In Your Second Ear

Nobody wants to be the victim of “in one ear and out the other” syndrome.  Much of learning comes down to effective memory – capturing and then being able to retrieve information.  The Learning Scientists have identified six Key Strategies for Effective Learning, which we cover in Episode #229.  (Spoiler: Not on the list – last-minute, stimulant-fueled cramming.)

The Six Strategies

  • Spaced Practice
  • Retrieval Practice
  • Interleaving
  • Elaboration
  • Concrete Examples
  • Dual Coding

We’ll cover each of these in broad strokes during the double-interview, and The Learning Scientists’ website features downloadable materials related to each strategy.  Take a peek.

One of the two podcast-hosts for The Learning Scientists, Dr. Yana Weinstein wasn’t available for this interview, but I wanted to hat-tip her as well; if you check out their podcast, she’ll be the unfamiliar voice.
Show Notes
  • 00:00:31

    Episode introduction: Learning to Learn.

  • 00:01:51

    This Week In Neuroscience: Motivation and performance on intelligence tests.

  • 00:05:05

    5-Star review shoutouts.

  • 00:05:43

    SDS news and updates.

  • 00:07:18

    Guest introductions: Dr. Megan Sumeracki and Dr. Cindy Nebel.

  • 00:08:39

    Interview begins; How the Learning Scientists got started.

  • 00:10:45

    Communication between the scientific community and educators.

  • 00:13:08

    Research participant demographics.

  • 00:14:42

    Areas of education that are having the most challenges.

  • 00:16:02

    Competing demands.

  • 00:17:31

    The myth of learning styles.

  • 00:20:21

    Language learning.

  • 00:23:23

    The Six Strategies for Effective Learning.

  • 00:24:36

    Retrieval Practice.

  • 00:25:36

    Spaced Practice.

  • 00:26:30

    Concrete Examples.

  • 00:28:00

    Learning abstract ideas.

  • 00:31:25

    Elaboration and Interleaving.

  • 00:33:53

    Dual Coding.

  • 00:34:30

    Explaining and teaching others as a method of learning.

  • 00:38:08

    Covert Retrieval Practice.

  • 00:39:40

    Problems with collaborative learning strategies.

  • 00:42:25

    Areas that have received pushback.

  • 00:44:46

    Interview wrap-up.

  • 00:45:33

    Ruthless Listener Retention Gimmick: How the presence of research scientists affects mice.

  • 00:48:40

    Episode wrap-up.

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