The first chapter highlights the collection of research findings that will be discussed in more detail throughout the book. Th purpose of this chapter is to addresses many of the common misunderstandings about learning and education. Specifically, it outlines the misconceptions surrounding common study strategies, effortful learning, and the memorization. I will discuss these three topics in more detail below.
The most useful study method is retrieval practice, also know as quizzing or self-testing. Despite these findings, roughly 80% of college students report that their primary study technique was rereading. According to the research re-reading notes and textbooks is one of the least productive and time-consuming study strategies. Because students are using ineffective study methods, they often do not see exam results increase to reflect the time they have with the material, and they often become frustrated with studying.
Effort is Essential
The authors address the misconceptions that learning should be easy for the student and that ‘good’ teachers make learning as effortless as possible by spoon feeding information to their students. The research demonstrates that most meaningful learning requires direct student effort because durable knowledge creates new pathways in the brain. Reshaping the brain requires energy and focused effort. Teachers should help students put forth effort while modeling the and scaffolding the learning process so that they can actively learn how to learn.
Sophisticated and advanced levels of thinking build on a student’s mastery of foundational materials. The authors present evidence that memorization and deep familiarity with core knowledge is an essential building block to higher level thinking. The research illustrated that every stage of learning and development allows students to expand their foundational skills and increase their creativity by combining new and old information. Skipping foundational steps, that are often mastered through retrieval practice, is not a shortcut to deep thinking and in fact undercuts the process and leaves students without the necessary information to build their new ideas.