In this episode of the Leading Learning podcast, Celisa interviews Peter C. Brown, co-author of Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning.
Make It Stick is an Emphatically Recommended Reading™ for the Leading Learning Symposium. We think it is one of the best books available to explain research about how people learn with implications for how we can create better, more impactful learning experiences. It is also written in a way that makes it easy and fun to read.
Celisa and Peter chat about a variety of topics, from the role he played as a co-author to advice for how organizations in the business of lifelong learning can apply the research and strategies highlighted in the book.
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Read the Show Notes
[00:18] – A reminder to check out the upcoming Leading Learning event, Learning • Technology • Design to be held May 18-19, 2016 in Arlington, VA. The event is designed specifically to help professionals in the business of continuing education and professional development find new and better ways to engage learners and create lasting impact through the effective use of technology. A special thanks to YM Learning (formerly Digital Ignite), one of the sponsors of the event.
[02:00] – A preview of what will be covered in this episode where Celisa Steele interviews Peter C. Brown, co-author of Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning, an Emphatically Recommended Reading from the 2015 Leading Learning Symposium.
[05:12] – Introduction to Peter and some background information about himself and how he got involved in co-writing the book.
[07:42] – One of the recurring themes in the book is that how we think we learn is not often how we learn best and that we’re often poor judges of our own level of understanding. What advice, or empirical evidence do you have to help us know when to doubt our intuition and when to go with it (specifically where there is more room for interpretation as to a right answer and wrong answer)? Peter explains that first you need to try to calibrate your judgment of what you know and don’t know by putting yourself in a variety of situations where you must apply the knowledge /skill. He explains that in areas of leadership, persuasion, salesmanship, etc., one of the best ways to assess your effectiveness is through feedback from others.
[11:34] – Do you have any advice about how organizations might be able to approach the marketing of learning (in order to also address motivation)? Peter says that from a broad standpoint, the research shows that when you struggle to solve a problem and then persist, that is one of the best ways to learn and build new connections. He references Dr. Carol Dweck’s research, which has shown that when people understand that effort builds mental capacity, they have a greater motivation to persist (i.e. a growth mindset rather than fixed mindset). He explains that our ability to acquire new skills and broaden our depth of knowledge benefits us across multiple sectors.
[15:54] – A further discussion about how the struggle/effort of learning is actually beneficial to you as a learner and that it can affect you in other areas and give you a richer, wider life. Peter talks about his role in writing the book and the challenges he faced to make the science of learning easy to understand for the reader without oversimplifying the science itself. He makes the point that effort is useful toward an end.
[18:29] – Peter talks about the revelation he had about how the brain learns and stores information. He explains the difference between things we do which seem to affect short-term memory (fluency, repetition, etc.) versus those that strengthen long-term memory (recall, mixed and spaced practice, elaboration, etc.).
[20:48] – A strategy highlighted in the book and that can be useful to lifelong learners involves starting with the questions and then reading for the answers. What does this mean/how can this be adapted for those providing the learning (i.e. organizations in the business of lifelong learning)? Peter explains that the teacher should try to engage the learner and pose questions that require the learner to step out of their current knowledge level to practice at the next level of learning. He shares an example about Mary Pat Wenderoth, a biology professor at University of Washington who uses the science of learning in her teaching by asking her students to think about the answer before referencing their notes. He explains that a teacher should coach and facilitate thinking and discussion.
[26:28] – Celisa and Peter further discuss the role of the teacher vs. the role of the learner.
[27:35] – What’s has happened in the learning space since the publication of the book that is exciting or interesting to you? Peter shares that he isn’t really tuned into what’s occurring in that space but that they are getting a lot of interest and people wanting to know more about how to apply the information in various settings. He says that even though he’s not involved in the teaching and learning environment, he’s excited that their research is making an impact.
[30:48] – What was the experience like to collaborate on the book? Peter shares that it was a very positive experience and that all three had a great amount of respect for each other’s expertise and style. He explains that co-authors, Henry L. Roediger III and Mark A. McDaniel had the scientific knowledge but that his role was to represent/advocate for the reader and make the information enjoyable and easy to understand.
[35:52] – How do you approach your own personal learning? Peter says that he likes to start with the question and read for the answer and explains how he utilizes this process as a writer. He reveals that he looks for questions/topics he is interested in and that is what motivates him to learn more.
[38:30] – Do you think you are a better learner now that you’ve written the book? Peter says yes because he understands what is productive for learning and how to retrieve information.
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[39:38] – Wrap-Up
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[41:58] – Sign off
P.S. – Here’s an earlier video about five key concepts from Make It Stick.