Pursue What Matters
Episode 10: Why Learning is Hard and Why That’s a Good Thing
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Dr. Melissa Smith 0:00
For many of you, it’s summer when you take a break from school and formal learning, so why on earth am I talking about learning today? Well, now is actually the perfect time to do a learning reset. And that’s exactly what we’re going to do. So join me as I talk about why learning is hard. And why that is a very good thing. Let’s dive in.
Dr. Melissa Smith 0:23
Hi, I’m Dr. Melissa Smith, welcome to the Pursue What Matters podcast where we focus on what it takes to thrive in love and work. Today, we’re talking all about the science of learning. But before you hit the snooze button, just hear me out. This is really fascinating stuff. Now, I do admit that I am a self declared geek when it comes to all things related to learning. But think about it. We’re all learners, whether we are in a formal educational setting, and many of us or parents, or we’re guiding teams at work. And yet, the hard truth is that most of us are going about learning completely wrong. That’s, that’s really sad. So don’t believe me keep listening. I’ll teach you about how most of us get learning wrong. And I’ll give you some great solutions for accelerating learning, so that you can actually retain what you learn. That would be nice, wouldn’t it?
Dr. Melissa Smith 1:38
Okay, so let’s start with the basics of how we learn. Once we understand the three step process of learning, then we’ll talk about how most of us get it horribly wrong. But first, the three step process of learning includes first in coding, second concern, consolidation, and third retrieval. So encoding of information is held in short term working memory before consolidated into a cohesive representation of knowledge in long term memory. So that’s the first step of learning. And then second consolidation reorganizes, and stabilizes memory traces, gives them meaning, and makes connections to past experiences, and to other knowledge already stored in long term memory. So consolidation really pulls all of the information together and makes the connecting links. And then third is retrieval, retrieval, updates learning and enables you to apply it as needed. So that’s the three step process to learning. So learning really builds on our existing fund of knowledge and our long term memory. This is really cool, our long, our long term memory is virtually limitless. So assuming you can encode, consolidate and retrieve your capacity for learning and new knowledge is really limitless. And I love that like, I think that is the coolest thing ever. But of course, your ability to learn and retain new knowledge really depends on your ability to hone these three steps of learning. And that’s exactly what we’re going to focus on today. So now that you have a sense for the process of learning, let’s turn our attention to how learning most often goes off the rails. And the truth is, it does go off the rails for most of us, most of us learn pretty, ineffectively. And it’s it’s sad because we don’t have all this extra time to be relearning information. So I want to talk about some of the problems with learning for most of us. So Problem number one, you resist effortful learning, this is a problem, because in order to be effective, learning requires effort, it is a sad truth. It’s something that I tell my teenagers all the time, learning is hard. And you’ve got to learn to accept that. And of course, most of us just don’t like that.
Dr. Melissa Smith 4:12
When it comes to studying, we do what comes easy, we avoid more active forms of learning in favor of things that are comfortable. And so as a result, our learning becomes really ineffective. I certainly have been guilty of this in my years as a student. So think about how this might show up for you. It’s a lot easier to review a list of vocabulary terms and say, yeah, I’ve got it, then to actually force yourself to recall the vocabulary terms using flashcards and like forcing yourself to come up with the definition, right, it’s a lot easier just to review the definition rather than like forcing yourself to identify a definition. So when learning is effortful, or hard When it requires effort, our confidence really takes a hit. And we don’t feel like we’re learning. So instead of sticking with the task, we avoid the effortful learning, and rely on the passive learning that makes us feel better about ourselves, but which is much less effective. So studying also forces us to find answers. And it’s messy, and it’s uncomfortable. And it really points out the gaps in your learning, which it’s designed to do. I mean, that’s exactly why you’re learning. But we don’t like this because it, it really knocks our confidence. Of course, it is the best way to learn. But most of us cheat ourselves by checking the answers in the back, rather than working out problems and committing to a process. And so let me give you an example of this.
Dr. Melissa Smith 5:55
So my accounting professor in my MBA program was a great example of making us put in effort with learning. And I did not like it at all. But it was super effective. And I really have a great deal of respect for him. And I really appreciated his approach. And he was always very transparent, about why he did what he did, and helped us to really understand why it was in our best interest. So it was awesome. It was a great thing, and it was hard. So two things, you got to kind of got a hold both of those realities. But when he taught us a new concept, he would then give us a problem, throw it up there on the on the screen, and we would all have to work it out on our own, and then commit to our answers. So there would there was nowhere to look to find the answer. There was no quote unquote, back of the book, to see if we were on the right track, we couldn’t check with someone else, we really had to commit to a process and test out our thinking. So we had to really see if we individually knew how to solve the problem. And it was really painful, because you know, this was new material, we were just learning it. And so of course, there were gaps in our learning. Of course, we didn’t always get it right, very rarely. So it was painful, I did not like it, I often felt like I would never learn the material. But slowly, I began to see my mistakes. And I started to see some of the consistent errors that I was making. And I definitely never would have discovered them had I not been forced to work out those blasted problems again, and again, with no exit strategy. And so this approach to learning, absolutely made me a better student. And you know, it earned me an A in a very challenging course, which, you know, I’m very grateful for because I use that learning every single day in my work. So I’m very grateful for that. So another way to think about this is also with handwritten notes. So handwritten notes kind of be a pain in the neck, but they can prove much more effective for retaining material, then does typing notes, or of course, not keeping any notes at all. So it definitely requires more effort, that you will retain the information. So again, in my MBA program, I earned quite a reputation for my handwritten notes. So people marveled at my copious notes for each lecture. And when I got to Econ, my note taking reached an entirely new level, as you would expect when the lectures included dozens of demand curves and other fun graph graphs. So I would say it was like just left of obsessive it was, it was pretty obsessive, believe me, I know.
Dr. Melissa Smith 8:54
So in addition to getting a lot of teasing about my notes, I also got plenty of requests by classmates to photocopy my notes, which of course, I was always happy to do. But being the psychologist that I was, I also told them that the notes would be less effective for them because they didn’t write them themselves. And that they needed to be writing their own notes if they wanted to retain the information. And this is for a couple of reasons. So first of all, the effort required in determining what is important to write is actually an act of synthesis. So that’s part of that consolidation process. So when you’re note taking you’re not just writing verbatim what’s on the board, but you should be synthesizing points, underlining main points, or identifying key understandings that you are making. And all this requires effort and will help you retain information better later. And then second benefit of this note taking is the act of handwriting your notes also proves to be more effective for retaining information. So getting it locked down into your long term memory, then does typing notes even more so than typing notes. So the act of handwriting, so of course, I’d explain all of this to my classmates, in my super annoying psychologist way, hopefully it wasn’t too annoying, and most of them would would shrug and they’d still request my notes, which I’d still give to them.
Dr. Melissa Smith 10:25
So let’s move on to problem two. So the first problem that we talked about was you resist effortful learning, and that is a big problem. So problem two, you believe you have a specific learning style. Most of us really do believe this theory of learning style, which is that each of us have a distinct learning style. And that if we don’t learn material in that style, we are somehow at a disadvantage. So we believe it because this is a theory that is so pervasive in our educational system. But the reality is, there is no strong foundation for this theory, how many of you have heard someone say, I’m a visual learner, or I’m a hands on learner, like, I can’t learn anything unless I’m hands on. So that the research does not back this up. So it’s not true that if you don’t learn in this style, that you’re at a disadvantage. But what does seem to be true is that we do have learning preferences. But we can absolutely learn in varied settings, and that there’s no disadvantage, if we don’t learn in our preferred style. So don’t limit yourself by saying, Oh, I’m a visual learner learner. So I won’t be able to learn from these lectures. It’s just not so accept that you’ve made it. So so we want you to understand your learning preference, but don’t be ruled by it. So you know, I have five college degrees, and 13 years of post secondary education. So I think it’s fair to say that I’ve been a student of learning most of my life, I mean, I should get a hobby, that’s what I’ve decided I seriously need to have because that’s a problem. What I’ve come to understand, though, about my own learning preference, is that I do better if I have some time with the material by myself in advance of working with the team. So this gives me a level of understanding and familiarity, that then prepares me for more active learning with the group. And that if I don’t have that foundational time, then what I’ve learned for myself is that the group time tends to be less effective for me, and I just have less to contribute. So I think there is a lot to be said, For kind of understanding some of your preferences, but also recognizing that we can learn, regardless of the setting, regardless of how the material is being presented to us. So don’t limit yourself in that. So the cognitive psychologists and authors of the excellent book Make It Stick which I will reference in the show notes, argue that though these learning preferences exist, you do not necessarily learn better when the instruction matches these preferences. So of course, the reality is that we’re learnin that we can learn in many varied settings if we are willing. And that’s really the key that we need to be willing. So instead, they discuss other differences that actually do matter. So let’s talk about those. If you believe you can’t learn, you’re probably correct. How you see yourself and your abilities makes a huge difference. self talk really matters. When you face difficulties. Do you label yourself stupid? Or do you recognize the ways that you take on challenges? Till the maximum? Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right, is really true here. The difference really alludes to the difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset, which I will totally be talking about in an upcoming podcast. So if you’re not familiar with these concepts of fixed or growth mindset, stay tuned because I have a whole podcast dedicated to that topic. It’s a really important topic. So stay tuned to that.
Dr. Melissa Smith 14:08
So problem four, you don’t read regularly, reading ability makes a big difference in your ability to learn. And I’ve actually just recently addressed this. So if you didn’t catch my recent podcast on leaders are readers go back and take a listen to that podcast, you might kind of fall in love with reading, if you listen to it, so I kind of hope you will. But in there, I talk about all of the great benefits of reading and how reading makes a huge difference in our ability to learn. So for our purposes here, I’ll just say that impacts vocabulary, memory, analytical thinking skills, comprehension, writing, empathy, fund of knowledge, you know, the list goes on and on and on. So if you want to help yourself, be a better learner, make sense? You’re reading consistently.
Dr. Melissa Smith 15:02
Okay, and problem five, you don’t respect the material you are learning. And this is another really big one. As already discussed, there’s no evidence to support that we have different learning styles. But what is clear is that learning is most effective when the teaching and the learning matches the nature of the content. Okay, so that’s really important. So a quick example of this is, if you are learning math, but the only nature of learning that you’re doing is they’re having you read a textbook, and you’re not doing any math problems, that learning is probably going to be incredibly ineffective. Because in order to learn math, effectively, you need to learn to do math problems. So respect the material you are learning. And that may require a different approach than you would prefer. And so you got to be willing to shift your approach so that you can be successful with the material you are trying to learn. So during most of my undergrad and graduate studies, which were all in the psychological sciences, I could be really successful by reading and writing, because that was really what was asked of me. And that’s pretty much what I did for 11 years straight, I did a lot of reading, and I did a lot of writing, and I got really good at it. Not so in my MBA program. So my MBA program was very different. And I would say, certainly, when I got to the Graduate Studies in psychological sciences, so my master’s degree in psychological sciences, and then also my PhD, I definitely had quite a bit of statistics. And so it wasn’t all reading and writing. So I definitely had plenty of statistics there. But in general, I did a lot of reading and writing. And then, as I got to the MBA program, I learned very quickly that the material required a very different sort of studying. So yes, there was still you know, plenty of reading, and some writing. So no one wrapped case studies and executive summaries, like I did, like I had that totally pinned down and not a problem at all. But mostly, I spent hours and hours with spreadsheets, accounting problems, demand curves, and currency exchanges, it was not uncommon to spend eight hours straight doing accounting problems. So I’m still recovering from that. So if I had tried to approach the MBA content, the same way I approached all of my other graduate studies could have claimed kind of somewhat arrogantly like, I know how to do graduate school like I can do this, then Honestly, I would have failed miserably in that program. So learning is not so much about being smart, as it is about being smart about learning. And I think that’s a really key insight to pay attention to when it comes to learning. So I’ll have more to say about that one. And at that. But for now, I want to move into providing you with some solutions. So right, we’ve talked about what learning is, and we’ve talked about some of the problems in terms of how we get tripped up, and how our learning becomes less effective than it could be.
Dr. Melissa Smith 18:32
So now I want to talk about some solutions to help you make your learning more effective. And the cool thing about this is, this can be helpful for you, as an adult in your learning whether you’re you know, reading up on leadership books, or just your personal development, or in your role at work, whether you’re leading a team at work and want them to really make some important connections for learning material, whether this is in your role as a parent and helping your kiddos these solutions can be helpful in all of these areas. So I hope that you can apply them in lots of different settings. solution, one, become your own professor. Don’t be a passive learner. So be curious and take charge of learning and get after it. And that’s something you know, I’ve spent most of my life in school. And that’s something that I would say, that I have seen to make actually probably the most difference between those who are successful, and those who are not very successful with learning is the difference between being an active learner and really taking responsibility for learning versus being a passive learner and kind of putting that responsibility on others whether that’s professors, whether that’s a boss, whether That someone else. So become your own Professor be curious and take charge of learning and get after it. mastery is a quest, not something bestowed by anyone else. If you want to become good at something, you need to become your own teacher. And, you know, I found this, certainly very early on in my career, I had a passion in a specialty area in in the psychological sciences. And so even in my first graduate program, I started developing this specialty. so that by the time I got done with my doctoral degree, I was a recognized specialist in this field, which is really very rare coming out of a doctoral program to be recognized as a specialist. And, you know, like, I still had a lot of development to do. But that was a result of me really taking responsibility and looking for opportunities to learn and to grow and to strengthen my skills. And that, you know, certainly continued with my first position, and, you know, has continued through the years, where that has helped to set me apart from others in this field. So really becoming your own professor and taking responsibility for your own learning.
Dr. Melissa Smith 20:26
So my guy friend is also actually a really great example of this. So he’s one of the smartest guys I know. And he’s always learning and one of the things that I really admire about him, and I admire a lot about him, but I really admire the way that he takes charge of his own learning. He’s a very active learner, he’s definitely like a hands on learner. He’s a total hobby guy, and is always learning about something. So whether it’s the ballistics of a specific ammunition, or how to pick a lock in less than 30 seconds, yes, for real, he has fun with that, or deep learning related to wilderness medicine. When he gets curious about something he gets after it and becomes a pretty competent topic expert over time. So it’s been kind of fun to, to watch that and in him and see the ways that his curiosity has led to that learning and that growth solution to go wide when it comes to learning. So we have different ways of learning, and different components that make up our intelligence. So again, from the book that I mentioned earlier, make it stick, describe what you want to know, do or accomplish. So that’s what you want to start with. And then list the competencies required, what you need to learn and where you can find the knowledge or skill, and then alluding to solution one, then go get it. So consider your expertise to be in a state of continuing development, discover your weaknesses and focus on improving yourself. And so when we think about going wide, we want to think about a kind of doing an assessment of like, Where do I stand now relative to these skills? And where are the gaps and what’s required? And how can I start closing these gaps, and recognizing that there are lots of opportunities for growth, and you can’t do it all at once and you can’t do it all, you might not want to do all of it. But you want to kind of get the lay of the land. And so taking a look at that is important so that you can be intentional about how you approach your learning.
Dr. Melissa Smith 23:26
Solution three. And this is really where we get into the details, use active learning strategies. So I know you probably do not want to hear this, but you got to make it hurt a little or even a lot. So you want to use retrieval practice and spacing. I’ll say a little bit more about that in a minute. But you want to be pretty aggressive with yourself, be willing to frustrate and stress yourself in the pursuit of learning. So in order to learn retrieve information, so you got to make yourself stretch. So you want to use Quizlet I don’t know if you’ve heard of Quizlet before Quizlet something that I discovered during my MBA program. I love it. So it’s a it’s an app and it’s like an online software program. That’s basically flashcards but you can do all sorts of things with it matching games. So it’s a way of reviewing and retrieving information. It’s a it’s a very useful tool and I used it a lot during my MBA program. My kids use it all the time in school. So when when I first discovered it in my MBA program, I came home I was like so excited. I’m like, Oh guys heard of Quizlet they’re like mom, we use it every day. So they didn’t like let me in on that secret. They were using Quizlet and they apparently have been using it for quite some time and I didn’t know so they use it at school, but it’s a really great resource for learning, but you want to use tools that force you to retrieve so retrieval means self quizzing and forcing yourself to retrieve or recall in information from memory. So right, this can hurt. And it should, it should require effort and stretch your ability. So you’ll probably feel like you’re not mastering the material. And it will feel frustrating and awkward and unproductive and just know that this is normal as the brain is stretching to master the material. So every time you work hard to recall a memory, you actually strengthen the memory. So it doesn’t feel great, but it is actually quite effective. And I think just this understanding, can be so incredibly helpful to be able to reframe that sense of distress. And that discomfort, because for most of us, when you when we feel that discomfort, we’re like, oh, something’s wrong, we start to panic, it must be ineffective, we’re doing something wrong. But to be able to recognize now, this is my brain stretching, I’m on the right track I’m going to stick with it can make all of the difference.
Dr. Melissa Smith 26:02
So I think this is where information is really very powerful when you have a sound understanding of how learning works, then when it gets hard, and you’re stretching, and you’re having a difficult time with the material, you don’t need to panic and you can recognize, okay, this is part of the process. And I’m just going to stick with it. And it’s going to be okay, so right, it doesn’t feel great, but it is actually quite effective. So if you re study something after failing to recall it, you will actually learn it better than if you had not tried to recall it. So see, learning should be effortful. So when it feels hard, and your confidence is taking a hit, just tell yourself that this effort is a good sign that your brain is working hard to retain information. It’s true. And this should be your primary strategy over rereading material. Don’t reread material, that is just a waste of time. When you are studying, pause periodically and self quiz. So ask yourself questions about the terms you’ve come across. So far, test yourself on a concept to assess if you really understand this. So do this as you progress through the material. So what are the key ideas? What are the main points? How would you explain this concept to a colleague? So right? If you’re reading a chapter, stop partway through and say, Okay, what were the three concepts that the author just talked about, and force yourself to recall them, force yourself to explain them, like, if I had to explain these to someone right now, could I and then force yourself to do it. So that is what retrieval is all about. And those are the moments when you’re encoding that information, and really laying it down in that long term memory. And that’s really essential to effective learning.
Dr. Melissa Smith 27:59
Okay, solution four: take study breaks. So this is a good one, right, because we like take study breaks, and space your studying. So once you begin retrieving, delaying that retrieval becomes even more potent, so becomes more effective. So it’s important to give yourself time to forget, that’s really important to remember, because right, we’re laying down this information in your long term memory. And so you’ve got to space, that retrieval process, so that your brain has some time to forget. So then you’re forcing your brain to recall that information. So you’ve got to space it, so you can give yourself time to forget. So then you can do the work of retrieving. So this will help you retain the information, better spacing study sessions forces you to reload the material from the long term memory, which then of course embeds that learning even more effectively. So this really makes the case for study breaks, and no cramming. So with that repeated, repeated retrieval is essential. So you want to continue spacing it, the benefits of retrieval are long term. So when you are consistent with your retrieval, and you’re doing that consistently with the material throughout, then you will reap the benefits of that retrieval long term. So what that means is, you’ll remember that material, well beyond the final exam or whatever, like you’ll remember that years down the road, because once it’s in long term memory, it’s there, you’ve got the benefits there.
Dr. Melissa Smith 29:39
So when you’re first learning the material, you want that spacing to be pretty short, because you want to get that material into your long term memory. And then as you have that material more into the long term memory, you want to start spacing, that retrieval process a little bit more. So you have to give yourself a little more time to forget and then come back and retrieve.
Dr. Melissa Smith 30:01
Solution five, mix up your practice. So you want to practice in varied situations as it requires your brain to discriminate among conditions. So with this, you want to practice different terms so that your brain is forced to move between different concepts that require different solutions. So an example of this is most textbooks or most materials are kind of set up, according to one topic theme. And they don’t really mix up different situations. But what you want to do is you actually kind of want to mix things up, because it forces you to discriminate and make differences in comparison, so that you can start to tell the differences between the material. So if you were studying math, for instance, you would want to work with two or three different math concepts, so that you can start to discriminate and look at Okay, when would I use this math problem versus this other math problem? Or when statistics when would I use multiple regression versus another statistical approach. And so that’s what we’re talking about, when we think about mixing up the practice, it’s harder, right? It’s definitely requires more effort. But that’s actually very important because it forces your brain to discriminate and you’re gonna learn that material in finer detail and in in greater nuance, which is what you want to do.
Dr. Melissa Smith 31:35
Solution six, don’t cram. So cramming or studying all at once for an exam or something like that is like binge eating and purging behavior with eating, which that’s this from my clinical life. That’s work I’m really familiar with, but you want retain it. And so my guy friend is a physician. And he said, a lot of his exams in medical school, it was like binging and purging, you would just cram this information in, and then you’d go in, and you’d purge it on the exam. And it’s like, we hope something is going to stick. And the research shows that a lot of it doesn’t, which we’re grateful that the training for medical school is long and intensive, because usually during that long and intensive training, you will retain it even if you didn’t on the exam. But instead, you really want to focus on those consistent retrieval practices that I talked about just a few minutes ago, such as every few days every week at the end of each chapter. And if you’re doing retrieval consistently, there’s really no need for cramming. And there’s very little need for extra studying in preparation for exams. So it’s a much smarter way to study. So an example of this is like, if you’re doing a course, you would, you would review your notes every day for a few minutes, or you would review your notes every couple of days for a few minutes. And if you’re doing that consistently, or reviewing flashcards, every couple of days, then you’re consistently retrieving that information. And so when you get to that exam or the paper or whatever, there’s there’s actually no need for cramming, because you’ve got that information already stored in long term memory, allow space between practice. So your brain has some time to forget, right? I talked about that. This forces it to stretch and strengthen the connections during subsequent practice. So the spacing really is essential. And it helps them memory to consolidate, which is one of those steps of learning. So we don’t want to miss that step. But don’t have so much spacing that you have to relearn the material. So, if you remember what I said, when you’re when you’re first learning the material, you want that spacing to be shorter, and then as you learn the material, new habit, learned more effectively, you can start to space it a little bit more. solution, seven use study AIDS. So flashcards are an excellent example of this Quizlet. I already mentioned that quizlets like my favorite, I’m a big fan of that, that use study aids, they can be really useful. One of the things I loved about Quizlet is I could use it on my laptop, which is often how I would put in the information. But then I could also use it on my phone. So anytime I was sitting around and waiting, whether it was waiting, carpool or in a waiting room or anything like that, I could take a couple minutes and go through my material. And so I had this kind of natural spacing that was already happening that I could use. And so it was very, very convenient in that way and it was just it was always there and always ready to go when I had a couple of minutes and actually use that a lot at the gym. When I was doing my cardio like if I was on the exercise bike or something, because I could use that on my phone really easily, and you could do load matching games, you could just do the flashcards, they have an audio version where they can read the terms to you. So it’s very user friendly. And now I’m not getting any money from Quizlet. But I would like some I take some from them, oh, give it to me. Okay, solution eight, stop rereading information and drop the highlighter. So those though these practices feel good and seem like they’re productive, they’re actually pretty ineffective when it comes to actually learning information. I love my highlighter, I love it like it feels very productive, especially when you look back and like look at all that information I highlighted I was being super productive. So this approach actually creates an illusion of learning without the actual mastery of the material. So again, focus on retrieval and the self quizzing, read the material, for sure, read the material, but don’t ever go back and reread the material, it’s just going to be very ineffective. Solution nine, read every day, no excuses. So read something every day, it will make you a better learner without a doubt.
Dr. Melissa Smith 36:19
Solution 10. Watch your watch your self-talk. So we want you to adopt a growth mindset. And of course, stay tuned to the upcoming Podcast, where I’m going to talk all about mindset. And you can learn bit a bit more about that. But your self talk really makes a big difference when it comes to learning. So your belief in your ability to learn will make a big difference.
Dr. Melissa Smith 36:45
Solution 11. Take handwritten notes and put your phone away. And of course, other distractions when you’re trying to learn. We are lousy multitaskers. The research is really clear on this, we are not good multitaskers we think we are but we’re not. So you really want to get rid of distractions. When you’re taking notes, you want to take handwritten notes, you want to focus on synthesis, you don’t want to focus on getting everything down verbatim in most most lectures, you can usually get full copies of the slides. So it’d be pointless to be copying verbatim what’s already on the slides. But when you think about handwritten notes, you want to think about insights that you’re making mental connections, memories that you’re connecting to that help you to sink that memory into long term memory. So that’s really the point of the handwritten notes for you, when you’re listening to a lecture or continuing education or something like that.
Dr. Melissa Smith 37:49
And then solution 12, is check out the great book, Make it Stick not to be confused with the also excellent book, which is Made to Stick which is by the Heath brothers. that’s a book related to marketing. And that’s not the book I’m talking about. I’m talking about make M A K E, make it stick and it’s the cover is blue, it’s got a gold star on it. And it’s all about learning. And of course, if you check out my show notes, I will have a link to it and all the information on that book. But of course, it documents all of the research on learning. But in the back of the book, it’s got some excellent tips for students, teachers, trainers, so if you’re in an organizational setting, and you’re leading, and you’re training people in a work setting, it’s got a lot of great tips for that setting. And then, of course, for lifelong learners, for most of us, I hope we’re all lifelong learners. And so it’s got some excellent resources there.
Dr. Melissa Smith 38:48
So finally, I just want to end with an example from my own life that hopefully helps to drive home this point about learning. So as I said earlier, learning is not so much about being smart, as it is about being smart about learning. Of course, you need to have a basic foundation of intelligence for learning, we know that that is true. And if you’re listening to this podcast and understanding it, then you certainly have that foundation. But then beyond that, how you approach learning accounts for so much of the gap between potential and actual achievement. And I think that’s, that’s actually really encouraging because we are so much more capable than we give ourselves credit for. And I think that’s a really important message for those we lead, whether it’s at home, whether it’s at work that our potential is virtually limitless when it comes to learning and when it comes to this long term memory. And so though the way we approach learning can make a huge difference and that it is It’s much less about this native intelligence, this fixed intelligence. And it’s much more about the process of learning and how we approach that. And so I want to tell you a little story about that.
Dr. Melissa Smith 40:14
Okay, so my Guy Friend and I have been together a long time. And we’ve, we’ve pretty much done all of our schooling together. So when we, when we were married, I had like one year of college done, and he had probably like less than that, and he had some college, but it was like, pretty ineffective. So I don’t know that any of those credits counted. But really, we’ve done all of our schooling together. And I have 13 years of schooling, and he has 11, I think he has 11 years, maybe 12 years of schooling. So a lot like we’ve done a lot of schooling together. And so that there’s been a lot of opportunity to kind of to understand our development of learning over that time. And early, early in our relationship, I was always the better student, like I always did much better than he did. And what, what I kind of noticed about that is, is there was a big difference in our approach to learning, I was a very diligent student, and I was very organized. And I was very organized with my time. And I was very consistent in my study bordering on obsessive, right, that’s kind of how I lean. And so I was super consistent, and I cared about the material and, and worked hard, and all that sort of thing. And I did very well in school, and he was not near as organized as me, and I think he cared about the material. But he was also just a little more casual about it. And so very early in his education, he just didn’t do quite as well. And then I think over time, he started connecting more with like purpose, and also having a desire to, you know, kind of this curiosity and this active learning and, and I would say he also probably developed some of these tips and skills from me, and became a much better student, right. So he started developing some really consistent, practices started kind of becoming a little bit more organized with his studying and everything like that. And over time, of course, he became a really excellent student. I mean, he academically did very well, and lots of achievement, lots of lots of success in the academic setting. And so it was always interesting to me. And so what was also interesting is during my doctoral program, as part of my training, I had to do IQ testing on like, all of these people, as part of the training, and so I did IQ testing on him. And so I knew how smart he was. And he’s like, wicked smart, like, really, really, really smart. And I’m quite certain his IQ is higher than mine, I don’t know, because I have not had mine tested. And that would be fun. That would be fun to have in your relationship, right. But I know his is really high.
Dr. Melissa Smith 43:19
And yet, if you look at his IQ, and you look at those first couple years of his college career, you they were there would be a big mismatch. And, like, I think that it just really makes the point, that IQ will only get you so far, if you don’t have those other skills in terms of taking responsibility for your education, and really having a curiosity for learning. And really having these this approach in terms of Do you know how to study? Do you know how to approach the material? Are you using effective study strategies? Like is, is your learning effortful? And that really what I saw for him is that as he started adopting some of those strategies, that will certainly we’ve been talking about here today, then his achievement in an educational setting, really started to line up with his IQ and what we knew was there in terms of that potential.
Dr. Melissa Smith 44:29
And so that was really very cool to see because it’s like yes, like that, of course that’s there. But it I think it really is important to keep in mind that learning is not so much about being smart, as it is about being smart about how you learn. And so I hope that you I hope that you understand that today and and certainly hope that you can convey that to those you You influence and that you lead, whether that’s at home, I think at home is one of the most important places that we can convey this information because to help, especially those who are in school to understand that their potential is there, and that their willingness to be diligent, and to approach things in a way that’s going to be effective can make all of the difference.
Dr. Melissa Smith 45:24
So I want to share just a couple of quotes. So first of all, this is from the authors of Make It Stick, they say, “and it comes down to the simple fact that the path to complex mastery, or expert performance does not necessarily start from exceptional genes. But it most certainly entails self discipline, grit and persistence. With these qualities in healthy measure. If you want to become an expert, you probably can.” So they really reinforce this point about the way we approach learning really makes all the difference. And finally, I just want to share one more quote from Calvin Coolidge. I just love this quote, and I think it really applies to this topic.
Dr. Melissa Smith 46:11
He said, “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not. Nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not, the world is full of educated derelicts. persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”
Dr. Melissa Smith 46:37
So thank you so much for joining me today, I hope you really see the benefit of learning, and that you really are willing to power through learning and embrace, embrace the suck, embrace the hard, embrace the effort and recognize that that those are the moments that you know that you are really learning and that that’s a really great thing. So make sure to head on over to my website, to check out the show notes with all of the great resources for this episode at www.drmelissasmith.com/episode-10, that’s www.drmelissasmith.com/episode-10 so at the show notes, I’ve got the book that I talked about, and then also some great show notes for you. So make sure you check it out. And if you liked this episode, please head on over to iTunes and give us a review so other people can find us as well. I sure appreciate that. I’m Dr. Melissa Smith. Remember love and work, work and love. That’s all there is. Until next time, take good care.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai