Learning to Learn

I used to be a poor learner. It wasn’t because
I was lazy or unmotivated. I was a poor learner because I didn’t know how to learn effectively.
I thought I was learning when I wrote out the information I was trying to learn–over
and over. I thought I was learning when I memorized facts on flash cards the night before
the test. I thought I was learning when I stayed up half the night studying for the
exam. But I was not learning.
I was getting by. And despite very good grades. I didn’t retain
much. Now, after all these years I have learned
how to learn. Research shows that sleep and exercise are
important for creativity and learning. Now, instead of staying up half the night studying,
I get plenty of rest. I study for about 25 minutes, then I take a break and walk around
the block or do jumping jacks by my desk. Although rest is important to learning, so
is being focused. I turn off my email and other distractions while I am trying to learn.
Research shows that a distracted mind is not actually focused and multitasking is a fallacy.
(Who knew?) I used to highlight areas I wanted to remember.
Now I know that if I highlight more than a sentence for each paragraph, I am kidding
myself. I should only highlight the most important concepts from the text. Highlighting doesn’t
help me learn. Recalling the important concepts and key ideas helps me learn.
Speaking of recall, instead of passively reading the material I am trying to learn, I recall
or teach myself what I have just read—out loud. Or I write it down as if I am explaining
it to someone else, like I am doing here. If I can explain the material to others or
to myself, I am on my way to learning the material. I learned that cramming doesn’t work! I now know to start early, and practice for
several days-just like an athlete building muscles. Those muscles didn’t appear the
day before the competition! Research shows that repetition hardwires our brain and helps
us remember. But to take hold in my brain, I must spread out my learning over several
days. Our brains can only take so much at one time, especially mine.
I can’t expect to learn something new by trying to grasp everything at once. The path
to learning a new skill or subject happens little by little. Learning requires me to
chunk information. A chunk is an amount of information pieced together through meaning
or use. So if I want to learn how to become a chef, I need to know how do many things,
slicing and dicing vegetables is one of them. Once I have mastered slicing and dicing, I
have learned a chunk required to becoming a chef.
Chunking the information is great for bits and pieces, but to be able to bring all the
chunks together, research shows I will learn better if I try more than one technique in
order to thoroughly understand the information. This is called interleaving. For example,
If I wanted to learn a specific style of painting, I may read books by experts, travel to the
museum, watch videos, and take a class. Learning isn’t just for the rising stars.
Learning is for everyone. And now that I have learned how to learn, Learning is for me.


  1. Alesha R. Adamson

    August 27, 2014 at 5:06 pm

    Great job! 

  2. Jeni Marty

    August 27, 2014 at 6:27 pm

    Well done! I love it!!!

  3. Raymond Siwale Jr

    August 27, 2014 at 8:12 pm

    wow.. you are awesome. cant believe this. so so good

  4. Marvin Powell

    August 27, 2014 at 8:50 pm

    Great job MaryAnne.  I'll be sharing this one with all of my friends :-)!!!  You husband is a great cartoonist.

  5. Rolando Alfaro

    August 27, 2014 at 9:41 pm

    Mary Anne, congratulations, It is very useful and very expresive

  6. Nicole charest

    August 28, 2014 at 3:49 pm

    Mary Anne, what a beautiful and powerful piece – kudo – and beyond fulfilling the assignment, your product has a life on its own.  I love the way youpictured yourself – it is a prime example of a creative product : new, elegant and useful

  7. Barbara Oakley

    August 29, 2014 at 1:31 am

    This is absolutely fantastic work!!!!

  8. Sandy Moses

    August 29, 2014 at 8:41 pm

    I have placed this in our course, and given the students 10 extra credit points to tell me one thing in this video they will attempt to do to become a better learner. I think this is marvelous. At our College convocation the President of Valencia College explained we need to rethink why we exist, and that is to Teach our Students How to Learn, because anyone can Learn. I can't wait to take the MOOC and Learn more. Great video MaryAnne.

  9. 5starorchid

    August 30, 2014 at 1:01 am

    Great video! How many hours did it took you to finish this Coursera project?

  10. Hello from Turning Points

    August 30, 2014 at 7:16 pm

    I teach and my students may very soon see your video.  Thank you for such an engaging and well-organized presentation.  I loved your husband's illustrations too. 

  11. LaWanda Dunn

    September 1, 2014 at 1:11 am

    This is great! This is exactly what I had in mind to do for my video, (Windows Movie Maker). I still plan to complete my project later. I had spent many hours over a two week period, I was running out of time, plus drained. Thanks for sharing this with us.  😀

  12. Ana de Armas y Villada

    September 1, 2014 at 2:44 pm

    I like a lot your video, Mary Anne! And your husband is a great illustrator! Congratulations for you both!

  13. Stéphanie Tschanz

    February 7, 2015 at 9:17 pm

    Gee, MaryAnne! What a wunderful piece! I love explainity movies but this one is the neatest one I've seen so far! Thank you very much!

  14. Qwe Asd

    September 7, 2016 at 1:27 am

    Amazing video, thank you so much!
    I just didn't understand when to chunk and when to interleave a subject, can someone explain better this part?

  15. Qayoom Ali

    March 9, 2017 at 6:44 pm

    MaryAnne ma'am such a nice informative video your shared and the way you presented and illustrated it, really its amazing!. i like it. i'll share it.

  16. Jack Fellows

    March 22, 2017 at 7:43 am

    Amazing! I think it's so important to continue learning throughout life and will definitely be taking on board your tips MaryAnne. We had a class at school called learning to learn and at the time I ridiculed it but now I'm teaching myself how to learn better… How times and people change!

  17. meta

    August 26, 2017 at 11:33 am

    great illustrations

  18. Isabella Wang

    October 8, 2017 at 8:36 am

    great job! this is my favourite course of Coursera which totally changes my learning habits! Thank you for sharing this great video. Be a happy learner! 🙂

  19. John Gray

    November 1, 2018 at 12:47 am

    Glad to have come across this video. Trying to overcome a life long challenge. Apparently my previous Psych-ED & Psych-Vocational tests haven't identified any learning disabilities, even though I've been diagnosed with adult ADHD & poor Working Memory some 13 years ago at the age of 46. Instead these tests show my I.Q. as being somewhat above average despite failing and quiting high school in grade nine. Struggling with managing, processing, organizing information and thoughts all of my life, seeing psychologists and psychiatrists to deal with life crises, anxiety, and depression for over a decade, I'm very curious to know what exactly what is wrong and/or different with me. My issues can't be unique. My brain can't be the only one that operates this way. There must be a name for this condition and if I can find a way to identify it, I could apply the necessary corrections / adjustments / methods to compensate.

    So all that to finally ask a question. What would be the first step; where would one go to determine the brain type or learning style or learning disability one has?

  20. Anmol Iqra

    November 11, 2018 at 3:15 pm

    Nice video

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