Wednesday, October 8, 2014

How We Learn by Benedict Carey

I've been a student for 15 years (excluding Kindergarten) and counting. So I should be an old hand at learning right? Wrong. Through lots of trial and error, I've only managed to learn how to struggle through my papers - sailing through them is but a pipe dream.

So this book excited me. If it can give me a hint as to how to study more effectively, then I'm all for it. And yes, I've tried the mind-maps thing - for some reason, they don't work very well for me.

This book is divided into four parts. Here's a quick summary and my thoughts on the four parts:

Part 1: On memory and learning. This is a quick introduction to neuroscience, and how it relates to learning. Not many techniques here, but it was an interesting read.

Part 2: How your learning environment affects you, how to effectively space your study sessions and are practice tests any good? This is where the book gets interesting. I learnt that changing your environment may help you learn (good thing I found one alternative study spot, so I alternate between that and my home). It's too late to practice the timed study sessions, but I realised that the reason why I enjoy Indonesian classes is because the study method I use utilises Space Repitition System, which makes it fun and effective. And as for practice tests, well, now I need to go find some practice tests to do.

Part 3: Distraction, Stopping mid-way and Block practice vs Mixed (interleaving) practice. I found the Distraction and Stop Early chapters to be interesting, and the distraction chapter, in particular, was comforting. It makes me less stressed to know that a break every now and then is actually helpful. The blocked practice thing was something that I actually learned from psychology last year. It's a good reminder to actually carry it out (for golf perhaps?)

Part 4: Perceptual learning and the relation between sleep and learning. Perceptual learning is interesting, and if it's true, then I need to find a way to familiarise myself with the different types of questions, and fast. And sleep as a learning aid? Sign me up!

To be honest, I'm not sure why the four parts are grouped the way they are. I don't see the link, so if you do, please let me know!

All in all, this is a fantastic book. I learnt a lot, and have a lot more ways that I can use when learning. I am definitely buying a hard copy of this book to have on hand from now on.

Disclaimer: I got a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a free and honest review.

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