Evidence-Based Strategies to Better Remember What You Learn

Practical takeaways from the science of successful learning

Eva Keiffenheim
Ascent Publication
Published in
5 min readNov 7, 2020

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Many people waste their time relying on outdated learning techniques. They use ineffective strategies like rereading and highlighting. By following these techniques, learning becomes pointless entertainment.

A research group around neuroscientist Henry Roediger and psychologist Mark McDaniel spent ten years exploring learning strategies. Their goal was to bridge the gap between cognitive science and educational science. The result of their work is ‘Make it stick.’

Reading more than 15 books on learning, I’ve noticed a recurring pattern:
it’s less important what kind of brain you have — what matters is how you use it.

Or, as the researchers of ‘Make it Stick’ put it:

“Elements that shape your intellectual ability lie to a surprising extent within your own control.”

How we learn changes our brain’s neural network. This concept, neuroplasticity, is the enabler for lifelong-learning. Whether you’re a life-long learner, a trainer, teacher, student, or a parent who wants to best help your kids, effective learning strategies can make new knowledge stick.

Here are five evidence-based strategies that help you learn better and store new knowledge in your long-term memory.

1.) Retrieval Practice

With retrieval, you try to recall something you’ve learned in the past from your memory. For example, you might ask yourself what you remembered from the book you finished two weeks ago.

The more time has gone since your information consumption, the more difficult time you’ll have to retrieve it. Naturally, a few days after we learn something, forgetting sets in. And that’s why retrieval is so powerful. In the words of the authors:

“Retrieval strengthens the memory and interrupts forgetting.”

While retrieval practice can take many forms — take a test, write an essay, do a multiple-choice test, practice with flashcards — some forms are better than others:

“While any kind of retrieval practice generally…

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Eva Keiffenheim
Ascent Publication

Learning enthusiast, TEDx speaker, and writer with +3M views | Elevate your love for learning with my free, weekly Learn Letter: http://bit.ly/learnletter