5 reasons why you should read ‘Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning’

Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning by Peter. C. Brown, Henry. L Roediger and Mark. A McDaniel is one of my best professional reading finds of 2017. Roediger and McDaniel are cognitive scientists with specialisations in learning and memory. Brown is a novelist. Together, they have made the research and principles behind good learning easily accessible and easily digestible. The book highlights why some of the most tried-and-tested learning habits are actually the least effective and provides a compelling manifesto on why learners need to adopt more complex and robust strategies if they are to seize the challenge of successful lifelong learning.

There are five reasons why you should read ‘Make it Stick’:

  1. Make it Stick relies on academic findings rather than conjecture or anecdote. It is packed with empirical, academic, peer-reviewed cognitive science research that directly relates to the process of learning. The strategies in this book are proven effective.
  2. Make it Stick is very readable. Roediger and McDaniel have the cognitive science know-how and Brown tells a good yarn. Together, they make a winning combination. Each chapter begins with a real life example of learning that illustrates the strategy discussed, with further examples and tips that relate to the research. Having such examples brings the research to life and makes the book accessible to learners.
  3. Make it Stick corrects common misconceptions that teachers and students have about learning, the biggest of which is this: that rereading, highlighting and massed practice are the most effective learning strategies. The authors replace the misconceptions with learning strategies that are proven to make learning stick.
  4.  Make it Stick has practical application. Each chapter focuses on a learning strategy that will actually work. The research behind each learning strategy is broken down into practical explanations and there are plenty of tips for applying these strategies to curriculum planning and learning settings. Educators and learners alike can take these strategies directly from the book and start applying them today.
  5. Make it Stick contains one big home truth: if it feels easy, you are probably doing it wrong. The right kind of activity, done effortfully, will yield great results. Importantly (and for some, this is counterintuitive), you will learn and remember better when you try to bring the material out of your brain rather than cram more in; and you are doing yourself a favour if you introduce difficulties and variety into this process.

On a final note, the official website for Make it Stick has a page containing thought-provoking discussion questions about the book. Educators who read the book for professional learning could use these questions as part of their reflective practice. Collaborative professional networks or book clubs could use these questions to stimulate face to face discussion about the book. They can be found here: http://makeitstick.net/discussion.php

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