Reflect and Iterate

23.09.2018 |

Episode #10 of the course The science of learning by Benjamin Keep


Welcome to our final lesson!

Before concluding here, I recommend taking a few minutes to yourself to try to remember and synthesize what we have learned so far. You can refer back to the lessons to check your understanding. As we learned in Lesson 4, this free recall exercise is a good way of solidifying your memories.

This lesson covers two important aspects of continuing to improve how you learn: mindsets and proper reflection.


The Mindset of a Learner

Adopting the proper mindset is a critical component for effective learning. We touched upon this when we discussed feedback a few lessons ago.

Mindsets determine how you attribute the mistakes you make and what you decide to do after making a mistake. A fixed mindset reflects the belief that knowledge and skills are largely innate—you either got the talent for it or you don’t. No amount of extra effort, no different approach can turn untalented into talented. A growth mindset reflects the belief that knowledge and skills are the result of effort. Guess which one is more productive for learning? (Hint: It starts with a “G” and ends with a “-rowth.”)

When someone with a growth mindset makes a mistake, they see the mistake as an opportunity to learn. The mistake reveals something about the performance, something about their problem-solving that could be improved. Then they put in the effort to improve it because they believe that they can learn through effort.

Growth mindsets also happen to be true. Decades of research support the idea that talent plays little role in the development of expertise. Proper practice (and not innate talent) is what distinguishes experts from non-experts.

People can have damaging mindsets for specific disciplines. Many people, for example, believe that they lack innate math ability (“I’m just not a math person”). This kind of belief hurts the learning process: “When I make a mistake in a math problem, it’s further evidence that I’m just not a math person.”

Changing your mindset is not an easy thing, but the more that you see yourself accomplishing learning goals, the easier it is to see a growth mindset in action.


Going Meta

The previous nine lessons have covered a lot of ground, but they have only gotten us half of the way to becoming a more effective learner. As we talked about last lesson, knowing the principle is one thing; being able to apply it effectively is another.

Learning effectively is a skill, just like playing basketball or speaking another language or solving math problems. It’s a skill that we can improve in just the same way that we’ve talked about in this course. This means tracking your own learning, evaluating the results, and trying to improve.

Revise your learning goals. Revise your learning approaches. It’s this process of continuing to improve that is most important. It doesn’t mean becoming obsessed with every part of the learning process—too much reflection can be paralyzing. It just means regularly taking time to think about what could be improved and taking action to improve it.

Thanks for joining me on this journey through the learning sciences literature. Now keep improving!



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Recommended book

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck


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