May 22, 2017

Learn Better – book notes

Posted in Behaviour at 05:25 by graham

Learn Better, by Ulrich Bosner is an interesting, valuable book, that is too long. The information would fit comfortably into 50 pages, but you can’t sell a book that short. Amazon is fixing this, but I have a strong preference for paper books over e-books. Anyway, here are my notes.

The core ideas

There are two big ideas in Learn Better:

I. Learning is a skill which you can improve at

Carol Dweck’s Mindset claims that individuals who believe this (versus thinking the ability to learn is fixed and innate) live “a more successful life”. If you picked up a book called “Learn Better”, I’m guessing you already think you can learn better, so hey, you’re half way there already.

In noticed the same viewpoint in a large study of high-school valedictorians: “The top students readily identified themselves as ‘school smart’. Academic talent, to them, meant the ability to excel at academic learning and school tasks such as note taking, memorization, and testing. Many of them clearly attributed their success primarily to effort rather than ability.”

II. Learning is a generative activity

You don’t learn by loading information from somewhere into your brain. You have to create it. To learn, you must do.

Tangent: I found this interesting because of the similarities with memory. We often think of memory as a video camera, yet recalling a memory is a creative activity. I’d highly recommend Elizabeth Loftus’s The myth of repressed memory which explains this very well.

What does “generative” mean here? What kind of activities must you do to learn?

  • Take notes in your own words as you read (I’m doing it now!).
  • Summarize.
  • Tell other people what you learned (even imaginary other people); this is what we do in programming with the rubber duck.
  • Take practice quizzes.

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