Make It Stick

The Science of Successful Learning
by Peter C. Brown, Henry L. Roediger and Mark A. McDaniel | Belknap Press © 2014 · 336 pages

Want to learn about the science of successful learning? Then this is the book for you. Written by a story-teller and two of the world’s leading cognitive scientists who have dedicated their careers to mastering memory + learning, the book is packed with wisdom on what works and what doesn’t. Big Ideas we explore include mastery vs. fluency, the power of active retrieval (aka “the testing effect”), explaining stuff in your own words and the wisdom in the adage that whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.

Learning is deeper and more durable when it’s effortful. Learning that’s easy is like writing in sand, here today and gone tomorrow.
Peter C. Brown

“People generally are going about learning the wrong ways. Empirical research into how we learn and remember shows that much of what we take for gospel about how to learn turns out to be largely wasted effort. Even college and medical students—whose main job is learning—rely on study techniques that are far from optimal. At the same time, this field of research, which goes back 125 years but has been particularly fruitful in recent years, has yielded a body of insights that constitute a growing science of learning: highly effective, evidence-based strategies to replace less effective but widely accepted practices that are rooted in theory, lore, and intuition. But there’s a catch: the most effective learning strategies are not intuitive. …

This is a book about what people can do for themselves right now in order to learn better and remember longer. …

We write for students and teachers, of course, and for all readers for whom effective learning is a high priority: for trainers in business, industry, and the military; for leaders of professional associations offering in-service training to their members; and for coaches. We also write for lifelong learners nearing middle age or older who want to hone their skills so as to stay in the game.

While much remains to be known about learning and its neural underpinnings, a large body of research has yielded principles and practical strategies that can be put to work immediately, at no cost, and to great effect.”

~ Peter Brown, Henry Roediger, Mark McDaniel from Make It Stick

Want to learn about the science of successful learning?

Then this is the book for you. Make It Stick is written by story-teller Peter Brown and two leading cognitive scientists who have spent their careers studying learning and memory: Henry Roediger and Mark McDaniel. (Get a copy here.)

It’s a fascinating exploration of what science says about the most effective learning techniques—shining light on the techniques that actually work and those that do not work—even though we may think they do!

Hint: Rereading, massed “practice-practice-practice” sessions, and cramming are not wise strategies. Active retrieval, interleaving, spaced repetition, reflection, elaboration, getting your mind right and practicing like an expert, on the other hand, are very good strategies.

The book is packed with Big Ideas and I’m excited to share some of my favorites we can apply to learning in general and to optimizing our lives in particular so let’s jump straight in!

… We’ll start by taking a quick look at what *doesn’t* work then dive a little deeper into some strategies that do work!

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About the authors


Peter C. Brown

Writer and retired management consultant.

Henry L. Roediger

James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor of Psychology.

Mark A. McDaniel

Psychology researcher in the area of human learning and memory.