In order to do a better job putting together my thoughts and knowledge on the subject, I precommitted myself to giving a presentation on learning. My specific goal for the presentation is to inform audience members about how humans actually learn and teach them how to leverage this knowledge to efficiently learn and maintain factual and procedural knowledge and create desired habits.

I will be focusing a little on background neuroscience, borrowing especially from A Crash Course in the Neuroscience of Human Motivation. I will heavily discuss spaced repetition, and I will also talk about the relevance of System 1 and System 2 thinking. I will not be talking about research, or about how to discover what to learn; for the purposes of my presentation, people already know what they want or need to learn, and have a fairly accurate picture of what that knowledge or those behaviors look like.

Given that I will only have an hour to speak, I will be unable to explore everything I might like to in depth. Less Wrong (both the site and the community) are my most valuable resource here, so I am asking two things:

  1. In one hour, what would you cover if you earnestly wanted to improve people's ability to learn?
  2. What background material do I need to ensure fluency with? This should be material that I need to have adequate familiarity with or else risk presenting an error, even if I don't need to present the material itself in any depth.
The audience will be students and faculty in a Computer Science department. In decreasing order of number of members, the audience will be Masters students, seniors, Ph.D candidates, professors; no Junior or lower-level undergraduates, so I will probably use computing analogies that wouldn't make sense in other contexts. Because of the audience, I'm also comfortable giving a fairly information-dense presentation, but since I intend to persuade as well as inform the presentation will not be a report.

 

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[-][anonymous]11y 2

The two most important things you need to cover is first to convince them that they really can learn without teachers - after 12 years or more of being on the receiving end of "professional education" this can sometimes be pretty hard. Next, they need to develop a doable and believable (they need to believe in it) plan to achieve whatever their goals are (see the Study Hacks thread on "deep procrastination", especially this one). Cal says that deep procrastination tends to strike relatively late in a college career, but that is because college students' motivation has external, social supports (most of their friends are also students, grades, and threat of failure) that aren't applicable to independent learners. So independent learners tend to have more motivational problems, which start earlier, than college students do.

Study techniques, especially structured review (including spaced repetition), are probably the most important "how-to", but they don't do any good without getting their motivation un-blocked.

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