Learning is a lifelong adventure.
It starts in your mother's womb, accelerates to high speed in infancy and childhood, and continues through every age. Whether you're actively engaged in mastering a new skill, intuitively discovering an unfamiliar place, or even sleeping - which is fundamental to helping you consolidate and hold on to what you've learned - you are truly born to learn around the clock. But few of us know how we learn, which is the key to learning and studying more effectively.
This series of 24 vibrant and accessible lectures has been designed to change that. Designed by an award-winning psychology teacher and expert on how people of all ages master new skills and information, it sheds light on what's going on when we learn and dispels common myths about the subject.
Professor Pasupathi's many examples cover the modern history of research on learning, from behaviorist theory in the early 20th century to the most recent debates about whether IQ can be separated from achievement - and even whether a spectrum of different learning styles and multiple intelligences really exists.
The lectures are also a rich source of readily implemented tips on how to excel in many different learning situations, including mastering difficult material, motivating children to learn, and preserving learning aptitude as we grow older.
Disclaimer: Please note that this recording may include references to supplemental texts or print references that are not essential to the program and not supplied with your purchase.
©2012 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2012 The Great Courses
College English professor who loves classic literature, psychology, neurology and hates pop trash like Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey.
I have been devouring the Great Courses series on mind and brain of late (see my other reviews of same), and I have found that they very often dovetail in remarkable ways and have a scientific and educational consistency which makes them highly recommendable. Monisha Pasupathi's set of lectures fits in nicely with the other lecture series I have covered on the mind, the brain, perception and how humans interact with the environment to maximize living. Pasupathi's lectures are broad in that they cover a wide range of theories about learning and give us lots of different angles from which to approach the idea of how we take on new information, sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously, how we adapt--and why we sometimes misadapt. A minor caveat might be that I find she sometimes invokes little semantic twists which, to my thinking, needlessly complicate the idea she is presenting. For example: when she is discussing one of her 10 "myths about learning" she tells us that "reward and punishment are not a foundation for learning--" when, of course, reward and punishment are VERY important to the process of learning, but her idea here seems to be that "the nails are not the house" sort of thing, that learning is something in and of itself and not simply a mechanic, robotic process for acquiring treats (true enough), but she presents it in such a way as it could be easily misconstrued as a rejection of aspects of behaviorism which are demonstrably true; another was "how smart you are does not affect how well you learn," after which she goes on to clarify that lots of previous knowledge helps to acquire new knowledge, leading one to ask, "but isn't 'having lots of previous knowledge' what 'smart' means in most cases (as opposed to "native intelligence," which I assume is she meant)?" But outside of these little things, this is still a fine university level course from which anyone can greatly benefit.
I've really enjoyed several of The Great Courses, so I was particularly disappointed in this one given that I've come to expect so much from them.
Most of the course (about 90%) has to do with categorizing every single nuance of the study of learning and assigning every nuance a vocabulary term that the listener will most likely never hear or use again in their lifetime. Of the remaining 10%, 5% dealt with scientific studies that just made me think, "Wow, it's amazing what some scientists get paid to study."
The remaining 5% that was actually useful information can be summed up as follows:
1. Test yourself frequently in the process of studying. Don't wait to test yourself until you think you know the material. The more frequently you test yourself on whatever you're studying, the more likely you will retain the information. (This was from chapter 12)
2. Test yourself continually, not only on the information you don't know, but also on the information that you believe you've learned. That's because you can actually teach yourself to forget that information by ignoring it in the review process. (This was from chapter 12)
3. Foreign language learning can be greatly enhanced by listening to anything in that language in the background on a routine basis. Basically, when you do this, you are faking immersion, but your brain senses the immersion experience as being real and absorbs more than you think even if you don't understand what's being said. (I've forgotten the chapter for this, but I think it was around chapter 10 or so.)
4. Your brain is always expandable at any time at any age. Forget your IQ, forget the way you think you learn best (by hearing, by seeing, by doing), and forget your past experiences with learning a particular topic. Just do it. It has been proven that the aquisition of a new language, in particular, prevents mental decline as we age. (From chapter 24)
The only people who might find this course fascinating for more than what is listed above are teachers or parents what are interested in educational theory. As far as personal practical application goes, this course leaves a lot to be desired.
HOW WE LEARN is not a book (in the conventional sense) but rather a collection of 30 minute lectures provided by THE GREAT COURSES series and delivered by Monica Pasupathi.
On balance, HOW WE LEARN, is an incredibly cogent synopsis of the scientific literature on human learning, from classical and operant conditioning through the validity of IQ measures and The Theory of Learning Styles. Dr. Pasupathi covers all included topics in a casual, engaging, but scientifically skillful way, calling attention to distinctions between causal and correlative relationships.
There are some notable omissions from the course that (while understandable when considering the course's intended audience) fail to provide a complete picture of human learning. Virtually no lecture time is dedicated either to formal studies of human memory or recent discovers in neuroscience. These omissions were made presumably to simplify the lectures themselves and to reduce prerequisite knowledge needed to appreciate the course as a whole, but ultimately have the effect of simplifying a jigsaw puzzle by taking away some of the pieces: True there now are fewer bits to assemble, but the resulting picture will be left incomplete.
Despite its omissions, however, HOW WE LEARN remains the best introduction to human learning that I have thus far had the good pleasure to encounter, and I recommend it heartily to everyone, scientists and layfolk alike.
Dr. Pasupathi's delivery is charming, accessible, and delightful. However, there are times when her speech can feel a bit slow, and given the relative sparsity of concrete information, this can be occasionally frustrating. I recommend playing these lectures at accelerated speed (2x, 2.5x, or 3x if you can still follow) to improve the pacing of what are plainly top notch and marvelous lectures.
I started this course because after a long break after acquiring a psych BA I've been considering going back to grad school and wanted to make sure I knew how to use the best learning strategies. The information provided in this lecture series was mostly the findings of studies I had heard of before, but they were organized differently and presented clearer. I may listen to it again later on as it was a good refresher and probably slightly better than some of the original lectures I had taken in school.
I had just finished The Great Courses: Practicing Mindfulness before starting this series. Both are performed by well-trained lecturers and organized in a similar manner to college-level courses. I am pleased by the quality of the material and how well it is conveyed to the listener.
Originally I thought the course would be more about effective learning strategies and less about an overview on the the psychology of learning. While she does give a few strategies that are proven to work, I was hoping she would provide more. I am pleased with the course overall, however.
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