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Despite the many theories about how we learn, most people study for exams using what they assume is "the right way." Yet the learning sciences field has recently made major discoveries about how the brain learns, and some of them are downright counterintuitive. Have we been spending too much time on ineffective ways to learn?

In this report, author Connie Missimer (Critical Thinking at Work) explores three main areas: mapping what you want to learn (using two different methods), finding ways to locate the best-supported information, and learning how to evaluate the information. You'll also look at ways to present what you've learned using approaches to persuade your listeners.

  • Take a quick pretest to discover your assumptions about effective learning
  • Find out why Lazy Laura's study habits are more effective than those used by Griselda the Grinder
  • Understand focused and diffused thinking and quiz yourself on the differences
  • Practice two powerful learning techniques: associations and the Zeigarnik effect
  • Be positive with the truth when presenting and learn the value of procrastinating as you prepare
  • Channel Lazy Laura and take a whirlwind tour through counterintuitive findings

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. 1. A Pre-Quiz to Help You Learn
    1. What the Data Says
    2. Don’t! Keep Rereading the Material
    3. Don’t! Keep Studying and Putting Off Breaks
    4. Don’t! Just Take the Material Step-by-Step 
    5. Do! Pose Questions About the Material to Yourself
    6. Don’t! Assume That Your Memory of the Material Will Degrade
    7. Don’t! Narrow Your Focus on Each Element Until a Bigger Picture Emerges
    8. Do! Make Many Associations, Even Nonsensical Ones
    9. Don’t! Try to Use Learning Styles
    10. Do! Take a Pre-Quiz Even If You Think You’ll Make Wrong Guesses
    11. Do! Go to Different Rooms/Places to Study
    12. Do! Mix Different Things Rather Than Studying One Thing at a Time
    13. Summary
  3. 2. Old Ways, New Learning Styles: Meet Laura, Griselda, and Your Brain
    1. Griselda and Laura, a Study in Contrasts
    2. The Amazing Power of Mnemonics
    3. Back to That Crazy Sentence
    4. Summary
  4. 3. From Precise to Fuzzy Learning, and Quizzing Yourself
    1. Focused and Diffuse, Precise and Fuzzy
    2. Quizzing Myself on Focused vs. Diffuse
    3. Quizzing Myself More to Remember More
    4. Brain Teaser for Today
    5. Summary
  5. 4. Associations and Unfinished Business
    1. Crazy Connections
    2. Up Your Association Game
    3. Make Some Unfinished Business
    4. Summary
  6. 5. Keep Friends and Influence Others When Presenting What You Learned
    1. Positive and Truthful Spin
    2. Um…Procrastinate
    3. Summary
  7. 6. Learn and Evaluate by Channeling Laura Squared
    1. Going Full Laura
    2. Our “Test” Subject: Scarcity
    3. The Main Idea
    4. How Would You Tackle Learning This?
    5. Evaluating for Likelihood
    6. Summary
  8. Afterword and Quiz
    1. Are the following learning strategies good or ill-advised, according to recent evidence?
  9. A. Answers to Quiz
    1. Bibliography