Polly Husmann, Associate Professor of Anatomy, Cell Biology & Physiology for the Indiana University School of Medicine
Martin Bloomer, Professor, Department of Classics at the University of Notre Dame
Beth Rogowsky, Professor at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania
Jim Kwik, brain coach, podcaster, writer, and entrepreneur
Jason Feifer: This is Build For Tomorrow, a podcast about the smartest solutions to our most misunderstood problems. I’m Jason Feifer, and in each episode, I take something that seems concerning or confusing today and figure out where it came from, what important things we’re missing, and how we can create more opportunity tomorrow. What style of learner are you? Chances are you actually have an answer to that question, and that’s because when you were in school, you were likely introduced to the concept of learning styles. It’s been around for decades, and it basically says every individual person is a specific kind of learner. One of the most popular models for this is called the VARK model, which you probably are familiar with even if you don’t know the name VARK.
It says that everyone is one of four kinds of learners. They are either a visual learner, an oral learner, a reading/writing learner, or a kinesthetic learner, which is to say that you either learn best by seeing something, by hearing something, by reading and writing something, or by doing a physical activity. And I bet that as I say these words, you are thinking to yourself which style of learner you are, and I bet it feels true to you. I bet you have a lifetime of experience to back that up, and you rely on this insight today whenever you want to absorb new information, I do it too. I know exactly what style of learner I am. Now, try to learn this. Everything you just heard is wrong. I know. Seems impossible.
Polly Husmann: It has been so ingrained in our educational system.
Jason Feifer: This is Polly Husmann, an associate professor of anatomy, cell biology, and physiology for the Indiana University School of Medicine who also does educational research largely focused on factors outside the classroom that affect education, and that includes studying learning styles.
Polly Husmann: Starts super early. I was surprised when my kids started school. They start hearing about it in kindergarten or first grade, or maybe even in preschool.
Jason Feifer: And that’s because these concepts are decades old, and they’ve been widely accepted, even considered foundational in the educational community. By one count, published in the journal Nature, 90% of teachers in countries around the world believed in learning styles, and Polly believed it herself. She had no reason not to. But then in the early 2000s, some researchers started studying learning styles more closely. For example, they started tracking test scores based on whether a student’s learning style was accommodated or not.
Polly Husmann: They would see, “Okay, so I’ve got a class that’s almost all auditory learners, so we’re going to buy all of these new things, new equipment, new training for our teachers to focus on that style.” And then they didn’t see any outcomes. Those students did not perform better on any of their testing, on any of their objectives, than students who didn’t have all of those additional resources in the teacher training.
Jason Feifer: These early studies and critiques got a lot of attention in the education industry, and a lot of people started to say, “Hey, maybe this whole learning style thing is wrong. But when Polly saw that, she said no. No, that can’t be.”
Polly Husmann: My colleague that I’ve worked with on it, Valerie O’Loughlin. She and I were having a conversation where we didn’t buy it either, where we were saying, “I think they’re throwing the baby out with the bathwater a little bit here. I think we’ve got to look at this more.” And that was what prompted some of our work.
Jason Feifer: They thought these studies are all focused on the classroom, but maybe the classroom isn’t the only place where people learn. So let’s look outside the classroom and see how students study at home. Because what happens if a student goes home and studies in their preferred learning style versus a student who doesn’t use their preferred learning style?
Polly Husmann: That’s where the difference is made. If they put it into their preferred learning style, then it should produce better outcomes. So that was where we took it and still saw no improvement in the outcomes, even if they were using those study strategies that were assigned to their learning style.
Jason Feifer: Polly and her colleague were surprised, but they published their results, and then they started getting a lot of attention for it. Articles started coming out like one in 2018 in The Atlantic called The Myth of Learning Styles, and then the backlash began.
Polly Husmann: We’ve gotten pushback from people that are like, “No, I don’t agree with you. You’re wrong.”
Jason Feifer: I’ve seen this myself, by the way. I found that that Atlantic piece that I just mentioned a few months ago, and wrote a newsletter about it, and then got a flood of angry emails from people telling me… Well, here is one email from a guy named Danny. He writes, “This is so wrong. You must have never been a coach or a teacher. There are different learning styles, and I see it every day as a teacher and a coach. Most students or athletes are visual learners.” And look, I don’t think that Danny is wrong about what he’s seeing, and neither does Polly. The story of learning and learning styles is actually much more complicated than saying that this theory of education is wrong, and that everyone should stop doing it, and that’s that.
Instead, Polly says, “The story is this. In our quest to help people learn better, what we’ve actually done is cut off a lot of other avenues for learning because when we told people that they learn in one way, they started limiting themselves to learning in that one way. But our brains are a lot more flexible than we give them credit for. We can learn in many ways, and yet, we often don’t, because of a story we have told ourselves about how we learn, and therefore how we do not.
Polly Husmann: So what I see with my own students is I have students that come into my class and they’re like, “I just can’t do this. I’m a visual learner,” and they totally use it as a crutch, use it as an explanation for why I can’t possibly change, why I can’t possibly do better.
Jason Feifer: So how can we change? How can we do better? It starts by understanding the way we really learn, and then how we can teach that to others. That’s what this episode of Build For Tomorrow is all about. We are dispensing with the myth of learning styles and discovering how we really learn, and how we can learn to learn even better. Coming up after the break.
All right, we’re back. So we just talked about learning styles and why they’re not quite as magical as we think they are, but before we totally dismantle them and figure out what’s next, let’s back up to see where they even came from and how we once thought that people learned. And just for fun, let’s back up pretty far.
Martin Bloomer: How did they teach back in Greece and Rome, not just in Greece and Rome, but across the ancient Mediterranean and in many places today. Some of those teaching techniques would probably make you very unhappy.
Jason Feifer: This is Martin.
Martin Bloomer: I’m Martin Bloomer, and I’m a professor of classics at the University of Notre Dame.
Jason Feifer: And in particular, he studies the history of education of which there is a very long history. We have school texts that have survived for centuries, dating back to the earliest days of writing to the Sumerians, which gives us a good sense of what school would’ve been like.
Martin Bloomer: Just get your boys and girls to sit down and read syllables. I mean stuff like go ba, be, bi, bo, bu. Take a consonant out of vowel, and go through the alphabet that way, and then close the syllables, Bob, buck, bad. And this sort of technique went on for millennia. So you say, “Hey, that’s kind of mechanical and slow.” And I would say to you, “Yes, it’s not democratic, it’s not egalitarian, it’s not interested in getting a large group of a society, literate, and in effect into the source of power that literacy brings with it. It’s about producing an elite.
Jason Feifer: Because for a long, long time, that was really the purpose of school.
Martin Bloomer: There was a need for a trained… Doesn’t it sound dreadful? A trained bureaucracy.
Jason Feifer: Because someone needed to run the empire. And you could make an argument that this is still basically education today. Because, yes, public school is available to all, but the funding to operate good public schools is certainly not available to all. Same for the affordability of higher education. And there are other parallels between then and now as well. For example…
Martin Bloomer: People are educating their children to do what they think is important.
Jason Feifer: In some cultures, that meant school focused on debate and discussion, or politics, or how to sing and pray. And of course, people fought over this back then just as they do now with our modern book bands and school board fights, and aspiring presidential candidates deciding what can and cannot be taught in schools for reasons that have nothing to do with education. And Martin says this fighting didn’t just happen outside of the schools, it also happened inside the schools among educators.
Martin Bloomer: Education has almost this built-in competitive aspect. “Come to my university, not his university. Learn my method, not his method.”
Jason Feifer: I’d wondered how people were taught in ancient times, but the answer, according to Martin, is that there was no one theory of education at all, even in a particular time and place. Plato, for example, was busy saying that people must learn through complicated metaphysical concepts. And the great Roman theorist, Quintilian, was very concerned with whether children want to learn. Everyone was trying different techniques. Memorize this poem, give this speech, write this over and over and over again. And also, the structure of schooling was just totally different from what we’d think of today. A lot of schools just came and went.
Martin Bloomer: Think of it as a fluid, more oral place tied to one teacher. And when that teacher died, the school might pass away.
Jason Feifer: But over time, Martin says patterns emerge, institutions develop. People don’t want an ever-changing menu of new teaching styles. They want what seems tried and true, which means that education becomes more risk-averse. And when an idea does stick, it sticks for a long time.
Martin Bloomer: Education is a conservative business. People seem to think that what our grandparents learned. That was the real stuff. So almost every generation looking back sees that perhaps there is a lore and wisdom just over the edge, and that’s what we should be getting back to.
Jason Feifer: Which, again, is reflective of now. Because here, we have a concept, the idea of different learning styles that are so widely accepted and defended throughout education, in part because they’ve already been widely accepted and defended. It’s like once you’re in, you’re in. So now, time for our more modern history lesson. How did we get the idea of learning styles in the first place?
Beth Rogowsky: So it became this really big business without any scientific proof for research that it works.
Jason Feifer: This is Beth.
Beth Rogowsky: My name is Beth Rogowsky, and I am a professor at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania.
Jason Feifer: Beth started her career as a middle school teacher, then did a postdoc in neuroscience, and discovered that the techniques she’d been using as a teacher weren’t supported by brain science. So that prompted her to start investigating the concept of learning styles. She’s also written a book called Uncommon Sense Teaching. And to appreciate exactly where learning styles come from, Beth says you need to start with what they were in reaction to, which is what you had up through the 1950s and into the ’60s.
Beth Rogowsky: We were doing a lot of what they call drill and kill, and that repetition.
Jason Feifer: So in other words, not dissimilar to how students were learning thousands of years ago with their…
Martin Bloomer: Ba, be, bi, bo, bu.
Jason Feifer: But by the ’60s and ’70s, the self-esteem movement was growing, and people are starting to think differently about how to raise children. And people start to think every student is different, but they’re all being taught the same way. So maybe what we need is to identify their differences. By the ’80s and ’90s, seemingly, everyone had a theory about how to do exactly that.
Beth Rogowsky: We had Mumford and Honey, and Kolb, and Neil Fleming with the VARK, and they all had their own styles.
Jason Feifer: Which meant that they could all sell their own style manuals. It’s not exactly clear why the public education system adopted the idea of learning styles or Neil Fleming’s VARK model in particular. But the best guest seems to be, well, teachers want each of their students to thrive, and they were attracted to the idea of customizing education to them. But whatever the reason, the concept took hold. And for decades after that, teachers were taught how to identify and cater to their students’ learning styles, and students were taught that they had individual learning styles, and that they should really lean into them. But there was just one problem. Nobody seemed to be tracking the results of this.
Beth Rogowsky: I drank that Kool-Aid for many years, and I wasn’t seeing results in my students that I thought I should have seen, and it just wasn’t working out.
Jason Feifer: Which is, more or less, how we get to where we are now. So let’s reset the stage that you heard at the beginning of the episode. Learning styles become an unquestioned truth in education. Teachers are helping their students identify their learning styles, and then having those students learn and study using only those learning styles, and then studies start to pick the theory apart. For example, in the British Journal of Psychology, researchers sorted students by whether they preferred to learn visually or verbally. Then those students studied in different ways, and researchers found absolutely no correlation between how the students studied and what they remembered later.
In another study, this one in the Journal of Educational Psychology, researchers found zero correlation between someone’s learning style preference and their performance on reading or listening comprehension tests. Although here’s a funny wrinkle, in this study, the, quote, unquote, “visual learners” actually performed best on all kinds of tests, and there’s a lot more research like this all basically showing the same thing. Now, like I said, a lot of people push back on this kind of research. Remember Polly Husmann, one of the professors whose research helped debunk learning styles? Well, Polly’s mom was a middle school math teacher. So when Polly told her mom about the research she had done.
Polly Husmann: She looked at me and went, “Well, I don’t agree with that. That’s just wrong.” And I was like, “Well, that’s fine. You don’t have to agree with it.”
Jason Feifer: And it’s worth taking these skeptics seriously for a moment, because these aren’t people who are just defending some system because they happen to grow up with it and they can’t imagine anything else. These are people who… I mean, they’re probably a lot like you who has thus far been listening to this episode, and I’m sure you’ve been thinking, “But wait, I learn better in one particular way. What are you talking about?” And I’m also sure you’re thinking, “It isn’t because some teacher told me I learned that way. It’s because I have experienced it in my entire life, because it is the normal way I operate.” This is totally what you’re thinking to which Polly says, yes, that’s probably true. You probably do have a specific learning style, a way in which you absorb information more easily. But as I alluded to at the beginning of the episode, it’s not for the reasons you think. What we have here is…
Polly Husmann: The nature versus nurture debate.
Jason Feifer: But nature versus nurture, as it is applied, two learning styles. Most people think this is nature, which is to say your brain just happened to be programmed with a specific learning style, and once you identified what that was, you could play to it. But Polly says this is really a nurture issue, which is to say that someone decided you have a learning style, and then that was the way you were taught for a long, long time.
Polly Husmann: So you really strengthened those neural pathways so that they are particularly strong.
Jason Feifer: So like I said, that’s what I referenced at the beginning of the episode. Learning styles became a self-fulfilling prophecy. You were told you were a visual learner and then you spent a lifetime learning visually, and then you became a visual learner. And maybe this doesn’t sound like a problem. Like, “Okay, whatever. Maybe she’s born with it. Maybe it’s strengthened neural pathways.” Either way, now this so-called visual learner has a good way to learn. So what’s wrong with that? And the answer is…
Polly Husmann: It’s really that putting somebody in a neat little box of this is how you learn. That’s concerning.
Jason Feifer: Because here’s the thing, Polly says the human brain is incredibly flexible. It has the capacity to absorb information in many ways, but when we become convinced that there is only one way to learn, we start to limit what we believe is possible. We will try to learn something in one way, in what we think think of as our way. And if it doesn’t work or if it’s too hard, then we give up. We think, “Ah, this just isn’t something I can learn. This is beyond my ability. It’s not my learning style.” Polly says she sees this all the time.
Polly Husmann: When you go out in the world, there are going to be problems you need to solve. Things you need to figure out and learn for your job, to run your household, to do whatever. And so the more tools you can have in your belt, the more different ways you can figure something out, the better.
Jason Feifer: So what is a better way to learn? That is no small question. It is what we’ll learn about next in verbal form, but you don’t have to be a verbal listener to learn it. And that’s all coming up after the break.
All right, we’re back. And now it is time to pay off on that teeny-tiny, totally easy to answer question that I teed up a minute ago, which is how do we learn? So caveat to start, this is an evolving area of study and there is a lot to say, and I cannot and will not even attempt to do comprehensive justice to it in the next 10 or so minutes. Instead, what I’ll do is share some interesting insights into how we learn and how we can become better learners, and how we can teach learning better too. And I’m going to start with me, because just as you have surely listened to this and thought about your own learning style, I was thinking a lot about my own learning style as I did this research.
I can’t honestly remember a teacher ever telling me that I was a specific style of learner, but I have found that, as an adult, I learned best through a very specific process. And it goes like this. If I just read something or listen to something, or watch something, or hear someone say something, I will almost certainly forget it, just like in and out, gone. But because I have a job where I interview people, and then I make things out of what they say like podcasts and magazine articles, and books, and whatever else, I have discovered something about myself. I learn best when I receive information from someone else, and then process that information into some kind of communication product. Basically, I learn best by taking new information and then figuring out how to teach that information myself. So I asked Polly what she made of that, and she told me this really interesting thing.
Polly Husmann: So there’s a concept in educational research called desirable difficulties. And desirable difficulties are, basically, if things are harder for you, you tend to remember them better, and you tend to go through the process to really understand them better because they were difficult. Now the caveat to that is they can’t be so difficult that you can’t do it, that you give up. But if there’s a desirable amount of difficulty that actually helps you to process and remember things better, that’s a plus. That is a desirable thing.
Jason Feifer: And to be clear, this does not mean you need to be a podcaster to remember things. Polly gave me a more real world example too.
Polly Husmann: Let’s go with something very basic like how to get from point A to point B. And I tell you in a way that makes perfect sense to you. Three days from now, you probably aren’t going to remember that.
Jason Feifer: Why not? Well, because the information was too easily attained. It didn’t challenge you in any way. And I’m not just talking about experiencing the information because… Yeah, you’d remember the directions a lot more if you had to actually drive from point A to point B. But Polly says that learning is more subtle than that. For example, let’s say that someone tells you verbally how to drive from point A to point B. And let’s say you are not actually very good at learning information verbally.
Polly Husmann: If you have a harder time processing things that are auditory for you, for example, then when you’re doing that, you have to focus really hard on it and pay attention, and really map it out in your head.
Jason Feifer: And that is a desirable difficulty. By accessing information in a way that is not your preferred learning style, you actually do a better job of learning it, which, yes, is completely counter to the concept of learning styles, but also, this provides us a useful way forward in thinking about how to learn. Because instead of feeling limited by our own means of learning, Polly says we should actually be constantly aware of and experimenting with how we learn. This is part of what’s called metacognition.
Polly Husmann: Metacognition is basically the idea of thinking about how you think and how you learn.
Jason Feifer: So let’s say you want to learn a new thing. How can metacognition help you? Well, Polly gave me an example of learning how to change the oil in your car. Do you know how to do that? I will admit I do not. I have absolutely no idea how to change the oil in my car. I pay someone else to do that. But, okay, how could I learn it? Well, the obvious answer would be, I could have someone show me and that could be useful. But let’s not forget what we just learned about desirable difficulty. When someone shows us something, we aren’t really being challenged, which means that we may not actually remember it. And here’s another problem with getting information too easily. When someone shows us something, we typically learn that information specifically. We’ll only learn how to change the oil in one particular kind of car because that was the only car where we saw the oil get changed.
But then if we look at another car, and one thing is different from the car we were looking at before, it’s just if you look at it and you’re like, “I don’t immediately know where the oil goes in.” Well then, we don’t know what to do. We had learned to copy, but we had not gained an actual understanding of what we were doing. So, is there a better way? That’s what we should ask ourselves as we work to learn new things and then start testing it like, “All right, what are some other ways to learn how to change the oil?”
Polly Husmann: So I am going to read about it and write out some answers, and da, da, da, da. Okay, now after I’ve done that, do I actually know any better how to change the oil in my car, or I’m going to make a concept map. Here’s the main idea. I need to change the oil in my car. Here are the steps to that. Okay, now I did it that way. Did that work?
Jason Feifer: And the point here is you are testing all these different ways of learning, which contrary to learning styles are all available to you and you’re figuring out which works best for you given certain circumstances. Then, you can learn from your efforts to learn and refine for the future. But you know what would really help you change the oil in your car? It’s this, knowing some other stuff about cars. Researchers like Polly called this scaffolding, and it’s key to how we learn, remember, and use information.
Polly Husmann: The idea of scaffolding is that there is a basic structure of knowledge stored in your brain, and for you to really understand and process new information, you’ve got to plug it into that scaffold somewhere.
Jason Feifer: The world-renowned brain coach, Jim Kwik, has a really catchy way of explaining this.
Jim Kwik: All of learning is connecting something you don’t know to something you do know.
Jason Feifer: Jim is just a student of learning. He also has an amazing bestselling book called Limitless, which can help you become a better learner. Anyway, totally check it out. I first met Jim a few years ago when I interviewed him for the cover of Entrepreneur magazine, and the audio of him in this episode comes from that interview. So anyway, let’s reflect on what he just said there. All of learning is connecting something you don’t know to something you do know. The problem Jim says is that we often do the opposite of that. We try to connect something we don’t know to something we don’t know. For example, you might listen to a podcast about an ancient civilization and it is totally fascinating, but then you cannot remember any damn part of it the next day. You know why? That’s because you didn’t know anything about ancient civilizations. There was no existing base of knowledge for this new information to attach itself to.
Polly Husmann: Individual nuggets of knowledge are very quickly lost. I mean, ultimately, it hits your body’s cost-benefit analysis, and that you only have so much energy. And so if you don’t use something, some piece of information, then your brain is basically going to say, “Okay, that’s not that important.”
Jason Feifer: It’s a filtering mechanism, which means that if you want to really remember something, the best thing to do is build a foundation of knowledge. Start with the basics and work your way up. And Jim says that if you’re going to do that, you really need to clear out the time to focus on whatever you’re learning. This isn’t easy to do, of course. People are busy. I’m busy, you are busy. If you’re not in school, it’s pretty hard to carve out time to just learn something, but you need to, because you cannot multitask your way into learning anything.
Jim Kwik: Multitasking is a myth. In actuality, the research shows we’re not multitasking because the human brain cannot do multiple parallel processes, cognitive processes at once. So what they’re really doing is something more accurately described as task switching. They’re going from one task to another. They’re going from Zoom to Slack, to social, to email, to everything. And the challenge is you could take anywhere from five to 10 minutes just to regain your focus.
Jason Feifer: But, okay. It’s one thing to say build a foundation of knowledge, but that’s often not practical. What if you just need to learn how to do some stuff and you don’t want to or don’t have time to study the whole subject? When I was talking to Polly, I gave her this real life example that I’m going through right now. I said, “Okay, my family and I just moved into a new house and we have never owned a house before. We were always in apartments before that, which means we now have to do all these house things.” I don’t know how to do these house things, which is why before we officially moved in, we asked for help.
The previous owner walked us through and showed us all this stuff that we’re supposed to do, and I basically took a video of him doing all this because it was like, I’m never going to remember how to do that, how to turn the water off so that the pipes don’t freeze. I already don’t remember how to do it, but I took a video of it. How am I supposed to remember how to do this stuff without the foundational knowledge that this is going to attach to?
Polly Husmann: That’s a challenge. So if you don’t have the foundational knowledge, then that’s where basically people do rely on memory tricks of every time you walk past that room and see that knob forcing yourself to recall, “Okay, how do I do that again?”
Jason Feifer: For example, to build off of what she’s saying there, there’s something called reminders by association introduced by Todd Rogers of Harvard Kennedy School and Katy Milkman of Wharton. And it basically turns everyday objects into memory cues. It’s a two-step process. First, you identify what they call a distinctive cue or an object that will capture your attention at the exact moment you need to remember to do a thing. And then second, you need to mentally associate that cue with the thing you want to remember. In their paper, Todd and Katy gave the example of someone falling asleep in bed, and then just before they fall asleep, they remember, “Ah, there’s an important application buried under some papers on my desk and I need to submit that in the morning. How am I going to remember to do that?” The answer is you think about something distinctive around your desk, like say, some new flowers you just put there, and now, mentally associate the flowers with the application. Flowers, application, flowers, application.
This is now your reminder by association. And their study found that it works well because you’re attaching new information like the need to mail the application to the existing information, which is the flowers that you already knew were there. So, okay. That’s all pretty interesting, and I’ll speak for myself, at least. As I learned about all this, I started to get a much fuller understanding of the way in which I learn. Remember I told you a few minutes ago about how I learn best? It’s when I interview someone and then write an article or make a podcast about what they said. That is a desirable difficulty. But it’s more than that too. In the process of writing the article or making the podcast, I am taking the thing that I learned and I am attaching it to my existing understanding of the world. Every episode of this podcast I make is not just me repeating information, it is me taking new information and then applying it to existing theories that I have about change or human action, or whatever.
I mean, this episode is the product of hours and hours of talking to people. But what I have selected for you to hear was the stuff that I was able to piece together into a coherent audio narrative, but that also was connected to existing insights that I had about my own style of learning or things that I’d heard, or concepts I was familiar with, or whatever. That’s scaffolding. That’s it. That’s what I’m doing. I’m processing the information. I’m finding ways to attach it to what I already know. That’s what we need to do. It is, as Jim Kwik called it, connecting something you don’t know to something you do know. That is why I remember this stuff.
Because I’m going through the process of figuring out how new applies to old, and now that I know that, I can be more aware of my learning abilities, metacognition. It’s a pretty awesome revelation. So the final question is how can we make this kind of revelatory learning available to everyone? Well, this episode is all about education. So let’s go back to the classroom as it currently exists. A classroom that is oriented around learning styles, a classroom that is about delivering the maximum amount of information ideally in formats that cater to students’ learning styles. And yet, despite all that, what are students actually getting there as their means of receiving new information?
Beth Rogowsky: Lecture.
Jason Feifer: This is Beth again from Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania.
Beth Rogowsky: And lecture is when someone like myself, a professor, a teacher, stands up in front of a crowd and talks for an hour. And, yes. We can be highly entertaining, but when we asked for the students to give us that information back to us, they can’t. Because we’ve just entertained them for an hour and they probably remember 5% of what we even discussed.
Jason Feifer: Why? Because even if a student has been told that they’re an auditory learner, a lecture contains no desirable difficulty. It is not designed with scaffolding in mind. So what can a teacher do?
Beth Rogowsky: So that’s where direct instruction comes in. I present for five or 10 minutes, then I ask a question, I review the material, I have them review the material, I do a think-pair-share, I do a quickwrite, and then once I feel comfortable they’ve learned that information, I can build more information onto it. So, yes. It does take longer. But if learning achievement, if achievement is our end result, then we’re going to get that if we’re having them practice and recall, and doing that drill.
Jason Feifer: And in the process, she’s exposing students to as many different learning styles as possible so they can learn… Well, all the ways to learn. Now, like I said at the beginning, there are a lot of ideas about how to teach, and I’m not here to summarize all them or to advocate for any particular ones or even to pretend to you that I just gave you a coherent and comprehensive understanding of learning. But what I am here to say is that the nature of learning is clearly a lot more complicated than an unproven system we’ve been using for decades. And that the conversation we hear about learning often doesn’t seem to have that in mind. And yet, frustrating as that can be, I come away from all this encouraged. Because to me, the big lesson is how our brains are built for learning. We can learn more, we can become better learners.
The thing stopping us isn’t our ability to learn, but rather our approach to learning or our frustration at not learning. And we can now know that challenges aren’t an impediment to learning. They are literally the best way to learn. And forgetfulness isn’t a matter of not being able to remember. It’s a matter of not building a foundation of knowledge first. I’ll tell you what, since reporting this episode, I have thought a lot about scaffolding, about the scaffolding of information in my head and about what it takes to attach more to it. This reporting has added to that scaffolding. It has created new scaffolding for future information to attach itself to. And that’s not me, that’s not me being special. That’s just me being a human being because we are builders, all of us, builders of knowledge, and it made me realize something. Building knowledge. Well, that is a pretty good learning style, and that’s our episode.
Did you find it convincing? I know a lot of people won’t. I’m going to share one of those reasons in a moment. But first, something in your life is changing right now. Because in times like ours, nothing stays the same for long. Maybe it’s a new job or just changes at your current job, or something shifting in your personal life. And I am here to tell you, this could be the greatest opportunity of your life if only you’re willing to see it that way. And my new book, Build for Tomorrow, named just like This podcast, can help build for tomorrow. The book combines lessons from this show with lessons from the smartest entrepreneurs of today and provides a step-by-step action plan for how you can thrive in changing times and start your next great adventure. It’s available in hardcover, audiobook, and ebook. Just go wherever you find books or go to jasonfeifer.com/book.
And I have even more for you. I also have a newsletter called One Thing Better, which each week offers one way to improve your work so you can build a company or career you love. Find it by going to jasonfeifer.com/newsletter. You can also get in touch with me directly at my website, jasonfeiffer.com, or follow me on Twitter or Instagram. I am @heyfeifer. This episode was reported and written by me with additional reporting by Adam Soccolich, sound editing by Alec Baylis. Our theme music is by Caspar Babypants. Learn more at babypantsmusic.com.
All right. Now as promised, will people find this episode convincing? Well, maybe some will. I hope you did. But as I learned from the people who have done the actual research, no amount of peer-reviewed studies and recent discussions with peers can change all minds. Here, for example, is Beth.
Beth Rogowsky: Now that I’m a teacher of teachers, I’m constantly reviewing textbooks, and Pearson is obviously a number one textbook provider. It really just was shocking to me how Pearson are still advocating for teachers to know the learning styles of their students in order to be able to teach them.
Jason Feifer: But, hey. We’ll keep pushing for change because what else can we do? One day, maybe they’ll learn. Thanks for listening. I’m Jason Feifer and let’s keep building for tomorrow.