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How We Learn: The Surprising Truth about When, Where, and Why It Happens Hardcover – 9 Sep 2014


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 254 pages
  • Publisher: Random House (9 Sept. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812993888
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812993882
  • Product Dimensions: 16.1 x 2.2 x 24.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 380,489 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Benedict Carey has been an award-winning science reporter at the New York Times since 2004 and previously worked at the Los Angeles Times. His 2010 article on study habits was the most emailed New York Times piece ever in a single day. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
As Benedict Carey explains, "this book is not about some golden future. The persistent, annoying, amusing, ear-scratching present is the space we want to occupy. The tools in this book are solid, they work in real time, and using them will bring you more in tune with the beautiful, if eccentric, learning machine that is your brain."

Ironically, perhaps paradoxically, Carey invites his readers to use their minds to think about their minds in new ways. He examines an emerging theory that accounts for new ideas about when, where, and why learning happens: The New Theory of Disuse. "It's an overhaul, recasting forgetting as the best friend of learning, rather than its rival."

There really is a "science of learning" and it requires the same rigor and focus that the study of physics or calculus does. His research and analysis of others' research invalidate some assumptions about learning, validate others. When asked, "How much does quizzing oneself like with flashcards help?" here is Carey's response:

"A lot, actually. Self-testing is one of the strongest study techniques there is. Old-fashioned flashcards work fine; so does a friend, work colleague, or classmate putting you through your paces. The best self-quizzers do two things: They force you to [begin italics] chose [end italics] the right answer from several possibilities; and they give you immediate feedback, right or wrong. As laid out in Chapter 5, self-examination improves retention and comprehension for more than an equal amount of review timer. It can take many forms as well. Reciting a passage from memory, either in front of a colleague or a mirror, is a form of testing. So is explaining it to yourself while pacing the kitchen, or to a work colleague or friend over lunch.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By S. D. Spicer TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 16 Oct. 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I wasn't quite sure if I was reading a self-help book or a book for educators. In the end I felt it in some ways it filled both categories. It's a book full of interesting insights, written in a tone that is easy to read, and as an educator myself; easy to apply to classroom situations. Perhaps a little too anecdotal in style in places, it is nevertheless fully researched with an impressive bibliography.
His chapter on the positive uses of distraction in learning - i.e. taking a break to allow a subject to incubate was a revelation to me. The pencils question was an easy solve (but then I teach a creative subject) and the student's 'break the rules' answer was a good one. Certainly it gave food for thought in a classroom situation where there are constant distractions and how they could be used in a positive manner.
Carey's view of learning differs from main stream learning theory. Carey's learning is quite linear, as opposed to Kolb et al and cycles of learning. Whether or not this is the birth of a new science, time will tell. Until then he has some good ideas and reflections on the stage of education and how things should change.
Overall I think this is book that teachers, parents and students who want to maximise their learning or the effectiveness of their teaching should take time to read. It's a approachable, has unique insights and practical application.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By R. WEST-SOLEY TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 20 Sept. 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Carey has done his research - this is a really excellent overview of studies, stretching back over hundred years, into learning and memory. All the old favourites are there - if you're familiar with classic psychology examples like Ebbinghaus' work on memory, you'll find them all in this book - but he's also disinterred some lesser-known studies from obscurity, blending them expertly with the mainstream stuff to build a fascinating (and quite counter-intuitive) handbook to learning.

At first, it seems that the book doesn't quite know whether it's a study help guide or a pop psych effort - I'd say it's more the latter, and certainly a helpful roundup of some very interesting and useful learning research. However, if you stick with it, you'll find much by way of hints and tips to improve your own learning habits - and learn some psychology along the way. I'm currently preparing for exams myself, and found the advice on pre-testing a brilliant addition to my routine.

Written with journalistic bounce, even if you're already familiar with a lot of studies and material on offer, the narrative brings them to life. As such, it would be a great companion to a psychology primer / foundation course, providing some handy background reading on memory research.

Teachers will find it packed with inspiration to transform retention of material in students; this goes beyond the mere learning-by-rote, such as American tutor Diveley's experience in getting students to think critically.

It's a fresh evaluation of the topic with some gems for educators, students and psychology buffs alike. Fascinating, and with a potentially huge appeal to all types of people with an investment in learning.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Zipster Zeus on 10 Oct. 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is an intriguing enough book but too often when reading it, I got the feeling it was missing the mark somewhat.

Don't expect a step-by-step guide here on how to learn effectively- it's a much more fluid narrative than that, and that in itself is no bad thing. There is though an over-emphasis to my mind on learning memorising techniques to enhance your learning capabilities and although it seems obvious, this book often seems to ignore a simple fact of life- memorising things does not necessarily mean you learn about them.

The true nature of our brain is still barely understood despite the bluster of neuroscientists and of all the parts of that mysterious brain we perhaps understand the least about, it is memory. To give it such an important part in the learning process is therefore a big leap into the unknown, and to embed a learning process so deeply into memorisation techniques is, to my mind anyway, a little risky. Whatever, I do like a number of the authors points, notably that 'learning to forget' can actually be a useful tool to hone. The book is also well organised and although the narrative is sometimes dense, it is well researched and easy to navigate yourself through. Worth a look, particularly if you are an educationalist.
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