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Q&A: How do humans learn? That's up for debate

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  • dmarkUT Logan, UT
    May 16, 2017 7:28 p.m.

    I get really uncomfortable when an "expert" says that something 'is". There are a lot of misconceptions about learning. Including Mr. Boser's shortened remarks.

    Doesn't it kind of depend on what you want to learn? It seems to me that the interviewee assumes that learning means the accumulation of factoids.

    What about "learning" to be a self-directed learner? In that case it's the absence of prior knowledge that can prompt a learner to find out what they don't now know and thus develop the skill.

    Further, repeatedly connecting knowledge to "triggers" that one expects to encounter in the future, promotes recall. What good is knowledge accumulation that can't be recalled? A Dr., who has accumulated tons of factoids, but can't use them, doesn't seem to me to be a useful Dr.

    I think he is talking about Dr. Richard Clark at USC, cognitive task analysis. The surgeon example seems pretty convenient, since among all the medical specialties, surgical procedures are highly task-oriented. What about a GP? The analogy doesn't hold too well there does it? It's not only what, but how you learn something that makes it useful, durable.

    Seems there's more to learning than meets the eye.

  • geekusprimus Little Elm, TX
    May 16, 2017 2:55 p.m.

    I had a physics professor that assigned us excerpts of "Make it Stick," a book dedicated to this very subject. The results corroborate Boser's words very well:
    1. Space out your study. You will forget parts of it, but the process of trying to recall it when you study it again helps you remember it better the next time.
    2. Quiz yourself frequently and consistently to test your ability to apply and recall information.
    3. When presented with a new problem, try to reason it out and apply your own knowledge before immediately jumping to the textbook.
    4. Interleave your study with different concepts or even subjects. It can help you draw analogies and make connections while refreshing your memory.
    5. Repetition. The more you do something, the easier it becomes.

    I might add that I learned that material very, very well.