Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning
by Peter C. Brown, Henry L. Roediger III, and Mark A. McDaniel
336 pages, Belknap Press, April 2014

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I wasn’t going to do a book club this summer. When I found Make it Stick, I changed my mind. It looks rich and interesting and perfect for the teacher nerd. The authors dig into the research behind what makes people learn, examining specific practices that make a big difference and showing us why a lot of what we do now just doesn’t work. What I expect to come away with is a deeper understanding of how to structure learning more efficiently, so we don’t spend so much time hammering away at things that have no impact. If you are a person who likes to analyze the why of learning, if you want your teaching practices to line up with cognitive science, and if you want to help your students become capable, independent learners, this looks like it will be a great addition to your library.


Here’s the book description:

To most of us, learning something “the hard way” implies wasted time and effort. Good teaching, we believe, should be creatively tailored to the different learning styles of students and should use strategies that make learning easier. Make It Stick turns fashionable ideas like these on their head. Drawing on recent discoveries in cognitive psychology and other disciplines, the authors offer concrete techniques for becoming more productive learners.

Memory plays a central role in our ability to carry out complex cognitive tasks, such as applying knowledge to problems never before encountered and drawing inferences from facts already known. New insights into how memory is encoded, consolidated, and later retrieved have led to a better understanding of how we learn. Grappling with the impediments that make learning challenging leads both to more complex mastery and better retention of what was learned.

Many common study habits and practice routines turn out to be counterproductive. Underlining and highlighting, rereading, cramming, and single-minded repetition of new skills create the illusion of mastery, but gains fade quickly. More complex and durable learning come from self-testing, introducing certain difficulties in practice, waiting to re-study new material until a little forgetting has set in, and interleaving the practice of one skill or topic with another. Speaking most urgently to students, teachers, trainers, and athletes, Make It Stick will appeal to all those interested in the challenge of lifelong learning and self-improvement.


And two reviews that convinced me:

“Many educators are interested in making use of recent findings about the human brain and how we learn… Make It Stick [is] the single best work I have encountered on the subject. Anyone with an interest in teaching or learning will benefit from reading this book, which not only presents thoroughly grounded research but does so in an eminently readable way that is accessible even to students.”

~ James M. LangChronicle of Higher Education

“If I could, I would assign all professors charged with teaching undergraduates one book: Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning… It lays out what we know about the science of learning in clear, accessible prose. Every educator―and parent, and student, and professional―ought to have it on their own personal syllabus.”

~ Annie Murphy PaulThe Brilliant Blog

Want to join me?

So if you want to read Make it Stick with me this summer, get yourself a copy, then come back here on July 15, when I will be reviewing the book and opening up the floor for discussion.

Update: The review is ready! Click here to read my full review of Make It Stick.

Until then, while I’m reading, I will post a few video reflections of my own. I’d love to hear your thoughts, so share in the comments below!


Chapters 1 and 2:


Chapter 3:


Chapter 4:


Chapter 5:


Chapter 6:


Chapter 7 and 8 are coming soon!