Resources for learning to learn more effectively?
June 23, 2013 9:22 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for resources for evidence-based processes, tips, hacks, improvements, ideas, etc., for learning more effectively.

I want to learn new fields of study on my own, but am discovering my aging brain is slow, my habits are unproductive, and my time is a lot more limited than it was when I was in college. So I'm looking for ideas for how to learn more effectively. This could be blogs, books, websites, journals, anything, but with the caveat that the resources should be as scientifically sound as possible. (So, e.g., a site like Lifehacker is mostly good for providing a lot of random tips but bad in that there are a lot of ungrounded ideas. I don't have time to do background checking on everything, so am looking for resources that hopefully have done more of that for me.)
posted by StrawberryPie to Education (11 answers total) 72 users marked this as a favorite
From Bakadesuyo, which is a blog that does lit review, basically. If you search Eric's site for "learning", some additional good posts should come up.
posted by emkelley at 9:56 AM on June 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have not had a chance to read it yet, but I recently heard about the book "The First 20 Hours" via Boing Boing, where they interviewed the author. The description is "a systematic approach to rapid skill acquisition: how to learn any new skill as quickly as possible... how to deconstruct complex skills, maximize productive practice, and remove common learning barriers," but I can't attest to how scientific the approach is.
posted by txsebastien at 10:15 AM on June 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Spaced repetition with Anki. Plenty of academic references in the Wikipedia article.
posted by djb at 10:27 AM on June 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

Cal Newport's Study Hacks blog seems to be fairly evidence-oriented. (For example, in the post The Single Number that Best Predicts Professor Tenure: A Case Study in Quantitative Career Planning he discusses trying the answer the question "How do people succeed in academia?" empirically, not based on gut feeling or insight.)
posted by Lexica at 10:49 AM on June 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

Improving Students' Learning with Effective Learning Techniques. This article, published in January 2013 in the journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest, evaluates ten individual learning techniques. There is a brief explanation of each technique along with an assessment of each technique's effectiveness.
posted by Jade Horning at 12:09 PM on June 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Prosoner of Trebekistan is more of a memoir, but is about a guy studying to be on Jeopardy, and summarizes a lot of research on how we learn. I've read the book, and it's also a fun read.
posted by cupcake1337 at 5:22 PM on June 23, 2013

This is Josh Kaufman's TedTalk (The First Twenty Hours author):
posted by rakaidan at 7:33 PM on June 23, 2013

Cognitive therapists are trained to help with brain plasticity. A few sessions and you will learn exercises and techniques. If you have health insurance, you can get screened, because there may be an issue if you are having difficulty learning new things.
posted by valentinepig at 9:02 PM on June 23, 2013

I really like Study Hacks and pretty much everything by Cal Newport.
posted by lotusmish at 7:44 AM on June 24, 2013

Spaced repetition has been a lifesaver for this adult learner. I use Mnemosyne.
posted by dfan at 7:11 AM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you all for some very excellent suggestions. There are some here I hadn't come across before, like Bakadesuyo, and I'm investigating them further.

A couple of other items others might be interested in:
  • The critical role of retrieval practice in long-term retention, an article from 2011 that addresses a lot of questions about effective learning. (Note: if you don't have access to the journal, you can Google around and easily find a copy of the full-text article.)
  • Gwern Branwen's blog of self-experiments on nootropics is nothing short of breathtaking in its level of detail. I don't necessarily want to try chemical enhancements, but this page makes for fascinating reading and provides a lot of ideas for logging and analyzing what you're doing.

posted by StrawberryPie at 6:40 PM on June 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

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