Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning

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. 

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 comes from testing oneself, 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. In other words, the most productive practices are ones that feel slow and unrewarding and are seldom adopted by learners.

Henry Roediger and Mark McDaniel are cognitive scientists who have dedicated their careers to the study of learning and memory. Peter Brown is a story-teller. They have teamed up to explain how learning and memory work by telling the stories of people who have who found their way to mastery of complex knowledge and skills–stories that illuminate the principles of learning that empirical research shows are highly effective.

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.

About the Author

Mark McDaniel (Ph.D., University of Colorado) is a Professor of Psychology at Washington University in St. Louis. He is one of the most influential researchers of prospective memory (i.e., remembering to perform an action in the future), and is also well known for other research topics in learning and memory, cognitive aging, as well as applying cognitive psychology to enhance educational practices. Among his many accomplishments, Dr. McDaniel was a past president of the American Psychological Association (APA; Division 3) and the Rocky Mountain Psychological Association. He is a fellow of the APA, Association for Psychological Science (APS), and the Society of Experimental Psychologists, and has served as associate or consulting editor of many of the top scientific journals in learning, memory, and education.

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Our Story

In 2015, Cameron Broumand, an entrepreneur and father of three living in Los Angeles, stumbled upon a media article on the science of learning. After reading the piece, he realized that the valuable research findings in cognitive psychology and the learning sciences were almost entirely unknown to the public and, more surprisingly, to teachers. How could this be?! Broumand decided to find out, so he called Dr. Robert Bjork, a distinguished research professor at UCLA and one of the world’s leading experts in human learning and memory. After an insightful conversation with Dr. Bjork about the disconnect between research and practice, Broumand recognized an opportunity to improve our educational system. Shortly thereafter, he—along with Clement Mok, an award-winning designer and digital pioneer—founded the company, Lasting Learning. The goal of the company? To provide information to the public about how the science of learning can help transform and improve the way people teach and learn. Broumand asked learning scientists, Dr. Nick Soderstrom and Saskia Giebl, M.Sc. (both of whom were in Bjork’s lab at the time), to join the team. They happily agreed and, with the help of Carri O’Neill, have been giving talks, workshops, and webinars around the country ever since. The UCLA-Lasting Learning team has had the privilege to talk with thousands of teachers, coaches, parents, students, and athletes about how they can leverage the science of learning to enhance their educational practices. We look forward to talking with many more!