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Week 4 - Course Notes - How to become a better learner

Course: Learning how to learn by Dr. Barbara Oakley, Dr. Terrence Sejnowski Course claim: Learn more effectively and with less frustration Week 4: How to become a better learner

How to become a better learner

  • best gift is physical exercise
    • exercise/sports helps new neurons to survive (as practicing does too)
  • when the brain is prepared, practice is perfect
    • book: [[Fixing my Gaze - Susan R Barry]] - fix how we see in 3 dimensions

Renaissance Learning

  • Learn using metaphors and analogy
  • Work profitably with teammates

There are times of restructuring the understanding, that might feel like hitting the wall during learning. One needs to sustain that period. Afterwards our knowledge base will take a surprising leap forward.

Create a lively visual metaphor or analogy

Metaphor - e.g. visualize electrical currency as flowing water through a pipe. See something in your minds eyes.

Example of a metaphor for electrical currency

Example: To memorize a Cation, think of a cat 🐈 - a cat that makes you positive.

  • Analogy - discover similarities between 2 ideas.
  • Stories - help to easily retain what we learned
  • people learn by trying to make sense out of the information thy perceive
  • deliberate practice on the toughest parts of your material can lift our brains a lot

    The imposter syndrome

    The thinking of not being knowledgable enough to meaningfully contribute.

Is it really imposter syndrome? Guide with Temi

Change your thoughts, change your life

How we think matters.

  • Look at a problem with your unique perspective (and don’t just follow blindly a lecture)
  • Linking to [[Mindset]]
  • remove from people that undercut your efforts in learning and understanding

The value of teamwork - avoiding overconfidence

It is important to zoom out on a topic and look at it from a big picture perspective. This then also involves the right brain hemisphere and provides the devil’s advocate to question our thinking To question status quo and look for global inconsistencies.

Deep in focus mode, we might make minor mistakes in assumptions/calculations. We need to catch that early on, to not build to much of new knowledge on top of that.

  • Brainstorm and with fellow persons/teammates/friends, working on a similar topic - this helps catch, what you missed. Important for group work:
    • start sessions in time
    • keep attention on the subject
    • have preparation work done

A Test checklist to access if your test preparation is on target

developed by Richard Felder

  • testing is a powerful learning exercise
  • testing concentrates the mind

Aim to answer yes to the following questions:

  • Did I make a serious effort to understand the text?
  • Did I work with classmates on homework problems?
  • Did I attempt to outline every homework problem solution?
  • Did I participate actively in homework group discussions?
  • Did I consult with the instructor?
  • Did I understand all the homework solutions (when provided)?
    • Did I ask for explanations of problem solutions that weren’t clear to me?
  • Did I run through the study guide?
  • Did I attempt to outline lots of problem solutions quickly?
  • Did I go over the study guide and problems with classmates and quiz one another?
  • Did I attend the review session?
  • Did I get a reasonable night’s sleep before the test?

Strategies for taking tests

Hard Start - jump to easy

Don’t start with the easy to solve problems first. Instead start with the tough ones and quickly jump to the easy one.

So, pull yourself from the tough ones within 1-2 minutes when you got stuck. Load your brain in short focus mode. Then you switch away from it and the problem goes to be processed in diffused mode.

It ensures also that one gets a little work done on several topics. And it avoids getting stuck on the wrong approach. By switching one gets the chance to look at the problem from different perspectives.

Stress - The story you tell yourself about a test makes the difference

It’s how you interpret a situation and the story you tell yourself about why you are stressed that makes the difference.

  • Rewire: This test has made me excited.
  • Take deep breaths.
  • Face your fears! And have a plan B
  • Multiple choice - cover up/hide answers and first try and recall the answers from your brain
  • Don’t push the brain too hard with learning the day before the test
  • Take big picture perspective to check your answers


Interview with Dr. Richard Felder and Dr. Rebecca Brent - How to take a test (and how not too)

  • Instead of reading material like a novel, also your homework, one needs to work the problems. Pick out adjacent problems and work it. Don’t waste time on the easy stuff (e.g. doing the simple algebra, once you found the solution already)
  • Work in a study group

Learning something new

  • Big picture skim through a topic, start to make sense of it
  • Learn by doing it:
    • Read
    • Explain
    • Use
    • Teach with examples and clear explanations
  • Work in groups and figure something out together
  • Use all the resources available and dare to ask questions

Imposter syndrome and dealing with procrastination

  • many have imposter feeling often - the power is in naming it
  • work with yourself - I’ve mastered challenges before
  • make tasks less overwhelming & get it started
  • break a topic up in small pieces
  • set easy targets for yourself & make appointments with yourself
  • add some form of accountability e.g. with a friend

Writer John Maquire - Putting objects in your writing


Deep dive: readablewriting.com - the Readability Method

  • think about object more than writing about ideas
  • what objects can I use to express my ideas
  • idea words end with -ion and -tion
    • make things abstract and blurry
    • What is being said?
  • use the ladder of abstractions
    • ideas are highly abstract, objects/things are lowest abstract
    • e.g. nutrition is an abstract idea. vs. apple, bread are concrete things
  • make sure to write with enough things/objects
  • Chose a good style. Decide what words you gonna work with.
  • put in active verbs - verbs that make something happen on the page
  • put in people, by naming them
  • use short words instead of long
  • use short sentences instead of long
  • favor the plain style, make it clear and simple - clarity first
  • separate the writing from the editing
    • writing is about getting things down rapidly
    • editing is about taking decisions
  • recommendation to edit on paper (maybe Remarkable?)
  • read closely the people you admire
    • what openings are used
    • underline words to consider
    • study sentence length (when short or long)
    • what are outstanding sentences
  • What am I trying to say?
  • What must I not leave out?
  • Book: College writing guide

Writers and switching between focussed and diffused mode

  • diffused - talk about a writing with your fiends
  • diffused - do some reading, look up material
  • writing in sitting and standing positions
  • take a walk/sleep


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