How to Make Learning Stick

How well do you retain what you learn? Workshops, classes, books and podcasts are great sources of information, but without application and practice it will likely not make a lasting impact. How do you make sure that your investment in learning leads to lasting change?

  • Challenge yourself! Peter Brown outlines what cognitive science tells us about the science of learning in his book Make it Stick and emphasizes that struggle is necessary. If we aren’t challenged when taking in new information, we don’t retain it. The process of building connections to what we already know through trial and error (and practice!) is what allows us to master new skills.
  • Learn with others. There are benefits to collaborative learning in a cohort or peer group. Research proves that learning with others improves both collaboration and communication skills, keeps learners more engaged with the topic, results in a deeper understanding of the subject and increases long-term retention benefits.
  • Share what you learn. Studies have repeatedly shown that we retain more information when we teach the concepts to someone else. Learners who were preparing to teach spent more time thinking about how they would explain topics or concepts. This, in turn, improved their overall understanding.
  • Live it out. The most brilliant theories or revolutionary concepts won’t impact your life unless you apply your new knowledge to your lived experience and allow the information to change you. Take your highlights and notes and make a plan for how you will practice what you’ve learned through your actions.

Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn. —Chinese Confucian philosopher Xunzi (312-230 BC)

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