How We Learn

Course No. 1691
Professor Monisha Pasupathi, Ph.D.
University of Utah
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Course No. 1691
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Course Overview

Learning is a lifelong adventure. It starts in your mother's womb, accelerates to high speed in infancy and childhood, and continues through every age, whether you're actively engaged in mastering a new skill, intuitively discovering an unfamiliar place, or just sleeping, which is fundamental to helping you consolidate and hold on to what you've learned. You are truly born to learn around the clock.

But few of us know how we learn, which is the key to learning and studying more effectively. For example, you may be surprised by the following:

  • People tend to misjudge what they have learned well, what they don't yet know, and what they do and do not need to practice.
  • Moments of confusion, frustration, uncertainty, and lack of confidence are part of the process of acquiring new skills and new knowledge.
  • Humans and animals explore their worlds for the sake of learning, regardless of rewards and punishment connected with success.
  • You can teach an old dog new tricks. In fact, older learners have the benefit of prior knowledge and critical skills—two advantages in learning.

Shedding light on what's going on when we learn and dispelling common myths about the subject, How We Learn introduces you to this practical and accessible science in 24 half-hour lectures presented by Professor Monisha Pasupathi of the University of Utah, an award-winning psychology teacher and expert on how people of all ages learn.

A Course about You

Customers of The Great Courses are already devoted to lifelong learning and may be surprised at how complicated the process of learning is. We have a single word for it—learn—but it occurs in a fascinating variety of ways, which Professor Pasupathi recounts in detail. She describes a wide range of experiments that may strike a familiar chord as you recognize something about yourself or others:

  • Scripts: We have trouble recalling specific events until we have first learned scripts for those events. Young children are prodigious learners of scripts, but so are first-time parents, college freshmen, foreign travelers, and new employees.
  • Variable ratio reinforcement: Children whining for candy are usually refused, but the few occasions when parents give in encourage maximal display of the behavior. The same principle is behind the success of slot machines and other unpredictable rewards.
  • Storytelling: Telling stories is fundamentally an act of learning about ourselves. The way we recount experiences, usually shortly after the event, has lasting effects on the way we remember those experiences and what we learn from them.
  • Sleeper effect: Have you ever heard something from an unreliable source and later found yourself believing it? Over time, we tend to remember information but forget the source. Paradoxically, this effect is stronger when the source is less credible.

Dr. Pasupathi's many examples cover the modern history of research on learning—from behaviorist theory in the early 20th century to the most recent debates about whether IQ can be separated from achievement, or whether a spectrum of different learning styles and multiple intelligences really exist.

What You Will Learn

You start by examining 10 myths about learning. These can get in the way of making the fullest use of the extraordinary capacity for learning and include widespread beliefs, such as that college-educated people already know how to maximize learning or that a person must be interested in a subject in order to learn it.

Professor Pasupathi then covers mistaken theories of learning, such as that lab animals and humans learn in the same way or that the brain is a tabula rasa, a blank slate that can absorb information without preparation. Babies might seem to be a counterexample, showing that you can learn from scratch. However, you examine what newborns must know at birth in order for them to learn so much, so quickly.

Next you explore in depth how humans master different tasks, from learning a native language or a second language, to becoming adept at a sport or a musical instrument, to learning a new city or a problem-solving strategy, to grasping the distinctive style of thinking required in mathematics and science. Then you look inside the learning process itself, where many factors come into play, including what is being learned and the context, along with the emotions, motivations, and goals of the learner. You close by considering individual differences. Some people seem to learn without effort. How do they do it?

Tips on Learning

Along the way, Professor Pasupathi offers frequent advice on how to excel in many different learning situations:

  • Mastering material: Testing yourself is a very effective strategy for mastering difficult material. Try taking a blank sheet of paper and writing down everything you can recall about the subject. Then go back and review the material. Next, try another blank sheet of paper.
  • Second-language learning: Becoming fluent in a second language in adulthood is difficult because your brain is tuned to your native language and misses important clues in the new language. To overcome this obstacle, immerse yourself among native speakers of the new language.
  • Motivating a child: When trying to motivate a schoolchild to learn, avoid controlling language, create opportunities to give the child a sense of choice, and be careful about excessive praise and other forms of rewards, which can actually undermine learning.
  • Maintaining a learning edge: Middle-aged and older adults can preserve their learning aptitude by exercising to maintain cardiovascular health, staying mentally active, and periodically trying a new challenge, such as learning to draw or studying new dance steps.

Adventures in Learning

Winner of prestigious teaching awards from her university's chapter of Psi Chi, the National Honor Society in Psychology, Dr. Pasupathi brings today's exciting field of learning research alive. Her descriptions of ongoing work in her field, in which she is a prominent participant, are vivid and insightful, allowing you to put yourself into a given experiment and ask, "How would I react under these circumstances? What does this tell me about my own approach to learning?"

By the time How We Learn ends, you will appreciate the incredible breadth of what we learn in our lifetimes, understand the commonality and diversity of human learning experiences, and come away with strategies for enhancing your own adventures in learning.

"Learning is a human birthright," says Professor Pasupathi. "Everything about us is built for lifelong learning—from our unusually long childhood and our large prefrontal cortex to our interest in novelty and challenge." And she finds reason for optimism about the future of humanity due to our almost miraculous capacity to learn.

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24 lectures
 |  Average 29 minutes each
  • 1
    Myths about Learning
    Explore what it means to learn, and consider 10 myths about learning—for example, that learning must be purposeful or that emotions get in the way of learning. None of these or eight other widely held views is accurate, as you discover in depth in this course. x
  • 2
    Why No Single Learning Theory Works
    Take a historical tour of early work on learning, which was deeply influenced by classical conditioning, made famous by Ivan Pavlov. Learn that in the effort to avoid anything that wasn't directly observable, researchers left out key unobservable factors, such as the attitudes of the subjects. x
  • 3
    Learning as Information Processing
    Investigate the information processing approach to learning, which holds that learning occurs as people encounter information, connect it to what they already know, and as a result, see changes in their knowledge or ability to do specific tasks. x
  • 4
    Creating Representations
    How do you create representations of categories and events in your mind? Explore two aspects of this process. First, you seldom, if ever, learn passively; instead, learning occurs in the context of purposeful action. Second, what you already know changes your experiences in learning. x
  • 5
    Categories, Rules, and Scripts
    Whether you realize it, you acquire new knowledge by organizing experiences into categories, searching for rules within those categories, and establishing scripts—or patterns—that serve as guides for predicting what happens next in an unfamiliar activity or interaction. Find out how in this lecture. x
  • 6
    What Babies Know
    Newborns are not a blank slate on which parents can dictate whatever they want their children to know. Instead, babies come prepackaged to develop in certain ways. Investigate how babies manage an overwhelming amount of learning and what this tells us about how grownups learn. x
  • 7
    Learning Your Native Tongue
    Developing humans progress from no words to about 60,000 words by adulthood, while also mastering complex syntax and grammar. Probe the mechanisms that permit babies to absorb the language they hear around them and make it their native tongue. x
  • 8
    Learning a Second Language
    If learning a native language occurs almost without effort, why is it so hard to learn a second language, particularly after childhood? Examine this question in light of experiments to teach human language to other species, which provide intriguing clues for the difficulties adult language learners face. x
  • 9
    Learning How to Move
    Focus on four questions central to learning a new motor skill: What should you pay attention to while learning the skill? Can verbalizing the skill help with mastering it? What about learning by watching versus learning by doing? Does imagining the movement provide any benefits? x
  • 10
    Learning Our Way Around
    Investigate how you learn to navigate through the world, a skill we share with all other mobile creatures. Find that while spatial learning has a conscious component, we often don't know that we have a cognitive map of a particular place until we have to use it. x
  • 11
    Learning to Tell Stories
    Storytelling is a crucial way that you connect with other people and also learn about yourself. Discover how you learn to narrate your experiences in a way that is ordered in time, communicates the essential details of what happened, and makes clear to the audience why they should listen. x
  • 12
    Learning Approaches in Math and Science
    Math and science require learning both facts about the world and a special process—the "how" used to identify and solve new problems. Survey different approaches to teaching math and science. Some work for building a knowledge of facts, others for instilling an understanding of process. x
  • 13
    Learning as Theory Testing
    Scientists engage in theory testing to evaluate their own work and that of their colleagues. But is it realistic to expect nonscientists to develop similar habits of mind? Examine the problems people have in overcoming natural biases that inhibit scientifically rigorous thinking and learning. x
  • 14
    Integrating Different Domains of Learning
    Survey some common factors that apply to many learning situations, focusing on both intuitive and conscious processes. Tips for learning include spacing your rehearsals, varying the context, drawing on connections to things you know, learning the same way you'll use your learning, and sleeping on it! x
  • 15
    Cognitive Constraints on Learning
    Delve into three constraints on learning: attention, working memory, and executive function. Consider the evidence for the importance of these capacities in supporting or limiting learning. Close by investigating how they can be improved to enhance learning abilities over your lifespan. x
  • 16
    Choosing Learning Strategies
    Monitoring progress in learning can help develop a more effective learning strategy. Examine research showing how easy it is to misjudge success or lack of success at learning a skill or subject. Then look at approaches that let you increase retrieval and retention of learning. x
  • 17
    Source Knowledge and Learning
    Often it's important to know not only a piece of information but also its source, especially in today's information-rich culture with many different sources to be weighed for accuracy. Learn how to combat the common tendency to forget the source before anything else. x
  • 18
    The Role of Emotion in Learning
    How does it affect learning when you feel happy or sad? Examine the role of emotions in learning, discovering that some moods are better for some tasks. For example, mild anxiety in studying for a test might actually enhance performance by focusing attention. x
  • 19
    Cultivating a Desire to Learn
    Consider how to foster the kinds of motivation that will help support learning rather than undermine it. Rewards such as good grades can backfire by reducing a student's desire to learn about a topic and willingness to persist on that topic. But what is a more effective motivation? x
  • 20
    Intelligence and Learning
    Do IQ scores predict the ability to learn? Or are they simply a measure of what has previously been learned, giving a person a leg up on subsequent learning? Use the statistical concept of correlation to shed light on the long-running debate over the nature of intelligence and its role in learning. x
  • 21
    Are Learning Styles Real?
    An influential contemporary view holds that we're all good at some things but not others, and that we may each differ in the way we like to learn. Probe the arguments for and against these ideas of multiple intelligences and differing learning styles. x
  • 22
    Different People, Different Interests
    Trace the origins and growth of the different interests that people naturally have. Interest stimulates the development of initially higher knowledge, which then facilitates further learning and further interest. Then consider an interest-related personality trait that is likely to be shared by the audience for this course. x
  • 23
    Learning across the Lifespan
    Focus on the role of age in learning by reviewing four principles presented earlier in the course and exploring how they relate to different age groups. Close by examining a variety of strategies for preserving information-processing abilities into late life. x
  • 24
    Making the Most of How We Learn
    Conclude your exploration of how we learn with a look at today's frontiers of learning research. Then revisit the myths of learning from Lecture 1, review optimal approaches to learning, and consider what educators can do to make best use of our new understanding of this vital process. x

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Your professor

Monisha Pasupathi

About Your Professor

Monisha Pasupathi, Ph.D.
University of Utah
Dr. Monisha Pasupathi is Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Utah. She holds a Ph.D. in Psychology from Stanford University. She joined the faculty at Utah in 1999 after completing a postdoctoral fellowship at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Germany. Professor Pasupathi has been honored multiple times for her teaching. She was named Best Psychology Professor by her university's chapter of...
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Reviews

How We Learn is rated 4.2 out of 5 by 40.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating and beautifully taught I recently heard Professor Polk’s newly released course “The learning brain” and enjoyed it tremendously. That course dealt primarily with neurological aspects of learning in the brain, but it made me interested in understanding learning in general – so I decided to hear the current course. The course was wonderful… Professor Pasupathi was very thorough in providing a survey of the many aspects of learning that have been investigated to date. The lectures are always scientifically oriented, and she points the audience to many land-mark research papers. I found the first lectures concerning how babies and very young children learn, and what they know even on the day they were born particularly fascinating. Much of that was totally new to me. Overall her coverage was enthusiastic, particularly clear, well structured, and most importantly – absolutely fascinating. I enjoyed the course immensely and I am eager to hear future courses that she will record for TGC.
Date published: 2018-08-02
Rated 1 out of 5 by from I was hoping to get some advice about how to learn better. This was nothing but hour after hour of psychobabble. Very disappointing.
Date published: 2018-07-16
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Fair lecture on English history Reciting the names of historical figures, places and dates can be fatal to a lecture if too much of it occurs at one time. While this series does employ some pause and interesting reflective analysis, it sometimes overwhelms the listener with details. Otherwise the story is quite enlightening.
Date published: 2018-06-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Where do I start? You've changed my life I know it sounds dramatic, but it is true. I bought a course for my mother a while back and now I'm hooked. I own over 80 courses now. Not long ago I choose a new path for my life and your courses have given me the knowledge and the insight to excel at everything that I have sought out to accomplish. I feel invincible. Thank you so much for your attention to detail and your commitment to education. I tell everyone that I see playing on their phones or waiting for something to happen "you know, you could be learning something amazing right now, Have you heard of the great courses ?" Keep up the great work. I look forward to every mailer.
Date published: 2018-03-01
Rated 1 out of 5 by from I returned this course I decided to bail from this course about half way through. I found it too remote, and perhaps highbrow. There were plenty of seemingly abstract terms plucked from the air..."the emotional landscape" and worse ones, that left you feeling distant from the subject. Simplistic toothpaste-commercial style images of smiling mums and children punctuated a very brown show; brown studio (mostly) brown clothing of the presenter...the touch of humour and colour was missing, and left me struggling to stay interested. Perhaps I misunderstood the aim of the course; I wanted to learn how to learn; note taking, memory tricks, revision planning etc. At least I am learning how TGC return system works. Buy this if you want to, but take a forensic look at what it actually is; I didn't, and regretted it.
Date published: 2017-11-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Learning about learning I enjoyed the professor's energy and explanations of the subjects covered and I gained quite an insight into the types and styles of learning. I got the DVD as I seem to follow things better if I can see or read them since I don't hear quite as good anymore. I also have the new French language course and I thought watching this before tackling the other would be a good idea, and Professor Pasupathi covers quite a lot of subjects. This was enjoyable for me and I will look for any other courses by this professor .
Date published: 2017-07-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent introductory survey of important topics I've owned this course for several years and have listened to it at least half a dozen times. I'm a retired public school teacher, have worked as a tutor and as an essay reader in the standardized testing industry and am currently tutoring home-schooled students online. I encourage students who are planning to go into education at all levels to listen to these lectures as a source of enrichment to their teacher training. It provides a very nice introductory survey of a wide range of important topics beginning with learning in infants and extending throughout the lifespan. It also demonstrates the validity and limitations of multiple approaches to learning from behaviorist theory to cognitive processing theory. Professor Pasupathi presents and illustrates research findings through concrete examples, omitting unnecessary jargon, and through a well-organized and direct sequence of ideas. Throughout her lectures, Professor Pasupathi avoids faddish enthusiasms and partisan proselytizing and offers many insights from which listeners may derive practical principles to improve their own learning and to guide the process of structuring lessons for others. Of course, there are limits to the amount of ground one can cover in 12 hours. I would have loved to hear Professor Pasupathi speak about the neurobiology of learning. (Professor Robert Sapolski's Biology and Human Behavior is an excellent introductory source for information on that topic.) Whether one is a student, a prospective teacher or a parent interested in fostering their own children's learning, Professor Pasupathi's course is well worth the time spent listening.
Date published: 2016-12-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from How we Learn I really enjoyed this course. It wasn't particularly set up for great amounts of knowledge, but more as a generalized learning course. It was one of those courses you can sit back and say "now I am going to learn something" and not necessarily have paper in hand and pencil ready, pause button being hit every 2 minutes while you frantically scribble notes. I think I would call this course an "easy to learn, enjoyable course". The professor was pleasant to listen to, she had enough emphasis in speech, enthusiasm, and a few diagrams to keep you enjoying it and she touched enough personal points to keep you on your toes. I think for anyone working in significantly higher learning situations, this course might not be difficult enough, but for general knowledge it was great. Please note, I have had 7+ years of Univ....but not in that field. What can I say, I really liked the course and would likely take another course offered by this professor, she had a very nice way of presenting information.
Date published: 2015-05-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from impressive learning IF ANYONE WANTS REALLY GOOD ADVANTAGE FOR ANY LEARNING EXPIRIENCE THAN USE THIS COURSE TO UPDATE YOUR UNDERSTANDING OF HOW TO MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR TIME ON A COURSE. THIS INFORMATION WILL BE EFFECTIVE FOR THE REST OF A PERSONS LIFE IN ANY EDUCATION FORMAT BY ALLOWING A LEARNER TO KNOW ALL THIER OWN STRENGTHS BEFORE COMMITING . I HIGHLY RECOMMEND ONE THAT WANTS TO REALLY ENJOY A LEARNING EXPERIENCE TO INVEST THEMSLVES IN UNDERSTANDING HOW WE LEARN OUR ENTIRE LIFETIME. THANK YOU FOR READING MY COMMENTS.
Date published: 2015-02-01
Rated 1 out of 5 by from offers few practical tips to improve learning I bought this set hoping to improve my own learning. I am very disappointed, because these 24 lectures offer little in that direction. Instead, I find lots of multi-syllabollic psychology terms, which are psuedo-scientific language and not well defined.
Date published: 2014-08-24
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Metalearning? (CD review) I would call learning about learning "metalearning," though I see that others have used term to mean other things. Regardless, I consider myself a lifelong learner and I have often been a teacher in several different areas. As such I was excited to listen to this course and had high hopes. The course met some of my expectations however it fell short on many. On the positive side, the professor was passionate and knowledgeable with regard to the field. She covered a wide range of types of learning (e.g. language, movement and testing). Unfortunately she went into unnecessary detail about studies (naming those who did the study and where) which distracted me from the findings. This approach would lend itself more to graduate students in that field rather than "lay" students. She also had a persistent, distracting habit of beginning an inordinate number of sentences with the word "now." Her final lecture would have been more useful to me if she had omitted the miscellaneous tidbits that she chose to include (on the basis that they didn't really fit anywhere else in the course) and focused more on wrapping up her conclusions. While I would ultimately recommend this to anyone interested in learning, I think it is geared more toward college students studying this field. For students wanting to learn how to learn more effectively or teachers seeking to teach more effectively (and I fall into both groups) I think it falls short.
Date published: 2014-06-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A fascinating journey of how we learn I am a professor and so I am always interested in learning more about how to best teach and engage with my students. This course offers a very nice review of the topic and provides a lot of thought for how we can improve the learning of our students as well as our own learning. I enjoyed the lecture on Integrating Different Domains of Learning because it sets the stage for the insight that it is the diversity of learning situations that contributes to a well-rounded learning experience. I also enjoyed the section on confirmation biases in the lecture on Learning as Theory Testing and even more so the lecture on Source Knowledge and Learning. I am still trying to understand how so many people can be in denial of climate change given the evidence and these topics helped me think about the mental mechanics of this denial. The psychology behind this denial is a different matter. It was also interesting to learn that personalities that seek novel experiences are better learners overall and that much of what we call intelligence is essentially a reflection of a long history of being trained well in a school setting. Overall, a greatly enjoyable course.
Date published: 2013-10-02
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good course, but not for everyone Overall this course is well-done and helpful. Professor Pasupathi explains concepts clearly, delivers the information well, and adds just the right amount of personal experience to enrich the content. The course includes concrete information about how to learn more effectively. Yet the course falls short of seeming excellent, perhaps in part because the topic is somewhat subjective. For example, a study of emotions' effects on learning asserts that highly emotional experiences tend to be remembered more clearly. Likely a true statement, but the rationale presented didn't make that case. People remembered more detail about pictures that were intended to evoke emotion, but the experiment seemed to do nothing to distinguish the perceived emotional content from the mere fact that such pictures were different than the others, and so could have readily stood out just due to their differences. I recommend the course to those with a stronger than casual interest in this topic.
Date published: 2013-06-16
Rated 4 out of 5 by from THOUGHTFUL, INFORMATIVE This review refers to the DVD's. It always amuses me to watch TGC programs conducted by professors associated with psychology because we spend a lot of time hearing about, and in the case of visual presentations also looking at, rats. In this case, Dr Pasupathi fortunately restrains her rodent pursuit to essentially the first two lectures. She picks up speed as we go along, and she delves into a lot of interesting topics. Her viewpoint appears to be grounded in solid knowledge of numerous studies conducted in her field. Those with a statistical bent will discover there is very little information of that nature in her references. Here I'm referring to how studies were conducted, sizes of samples, method of sample selection from what size universe, validity measures and so forth. All that kind of stuff would have made this series a lot dryer and far longer. I don't think their omission detracts from the thrust of her material nor impinges on the pleasure of hearing what she has to say. There is a lot of meat in the material she covers in lectures fifteen through twenty-four. They provide a good bit of information to ponder as well as suggest, at least to me, several other TGC programs to watch or listen to build on her presentation. I believe this stimulating series is well worth its cost. Since the exhibits appear to be added primarily to break the monotony of her pacing on the omniscient TGC rug, audio is perhaps the recommended way to acquire this series. I found the incredible mouths full of gleaming perfect white teeth of the models to be somewhat distracting but funny to observe. TGC should have added a toothpaste plug or two to guide the rest of us. This series is recommended for everyone who has an interest in broadening their general knowledge. It may have particular merit for teachers or those with children.
Date published: 2013-04-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Solidly Researched Survey of Learning I listened to this lecture series in audio only and found it to be very enjoyable. Professor Pasupathi has flawless diction and has put together a well-organized and well-argued review of learning. She takes a somewhat skeptical look at some of the "common sense" wisdom about learning. Her review of the research confirms some of the widely held beliefs but clearly shakes the foundations of some others like learning styles and intelligence. In the end it appears that, in learning, some intuitive things remain and others need to be rethought. Just a few are listed here: 1) Learning is enhanced when we pursue something we like. We like things we are good at. This indicates that learning can be a positive feedback mechanism. Getting over the hump of “being good at something” is thus important in early learning. 2) Learning is best when it is done in varied settings with varied stimuli using varied modalities even when the subjects might self- identify as “visual” learners or “aural” learners. The idea of obtaining enhanced learning by matching people to their “learning style” doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. 3) Intelligence as we typically measure it is not a genetic property of the individual but is, more likely, a measure of how much the individual has learned. The positive feedback idea is consistent with this interpretation. 4) “Elaborate encoding” or trying to make sense of something you have learned in your own way is a valuable method to enhance learning. Writing what you have learned on a blank sheet of paper after a lecture or an entire series is a way to encode and then remember the ideas in a way relevant to your own knowledge and experience. I especially like the way Professor Pasupathi looks across the literature and gives her rationale of how she gives weight to it. The Meta-studies, studies of studies, are particularly valuable and she brings these into her arguments about some of the common sense notions that don’t appear to be valid. Where she cites single studies she is careful to describe under what circumstances the conclusions were drawn. The way she presents her arguments by clearly stating hypotheses and referencing her backup materials makes her arguments stronger and the entire course more rigorous. She even discusses correlations between variables and describes their meaning clearly. Taken together, these characteristics quickly make Professor Pasupathi a trusted source of information. My takeaways from this course are ones that I had known before but had largely ignored: 1) Review what you learned and write it or describe it in your own terms tied to your own experiences. 2) Study what you want to learn from many different angles, in many different settings through varying media. 3) If you want to learn something hard, suffer through the initial phase when you aren’t good at it. Once you develop some competence, learning will be enjoyable and come more easily (true for anything but especially a foreign language). In attempting to stay true to the recommendations in the course, I tried to fill a blank page with what I’ve learned. I hope you can see that there is significant value here.
Date published: 2013-02-09
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Not for College Profs I purchased this course in the hope that it would provide some insight into the learning process of college students. Some content is applicable, but for the most part the course deals with early childhood processes. It would be of more use to psychology professors or perhaps elementary teachers. The presentation is quite good but the content does not meet my needs.
Date published: 2012-12-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Tour de Force- another must have course! I bought this course given i have a young daughter whose development and learning I wanted to understand and also ideally contribute toward. Professor Pasupathi is a superb lecturer not only in terms of the mastery of her subject but also her wonderful diction and ability to crisply and effectively explain concepts. It was enthralling to learn about learning is not to be understood as occuring in a vacuum; there is no tabalu rasa. The ability to learn is driven by who is learning but also why we are learning and how and also for what purpose. Socio economic environment also plays a role. What is stimulating is that there ware strategies available to ensure our learning ability can remain in place and indeed be cultivated throughout our lives. Another reason to devote oneself to the wisdom of the world offered by the Teaching Company! It was also really illuminating to understand how our ability to learn is driven both by a non-conscious (system 1) learning as well as a focused rationally focused system 2. This is a brilliant course and one of my favourites and i thoroughly recommend it.
Date published: 2012-05-17
Rated 3 out of 5 by from What do we teach? How do we learn? Repetition and application, application being professor’s first case study regarding how one of her students always gets good grades – make connection to what he knows from his experience – application in a sense. No need for theory let alone any universal theory in learning – ain’t it the highest achievement for a scholar – it’s really the cultural psyche, universalizing values or equations – Plato’s archetypal curse. Human study well on the subject of nature. We fail miserably when it comes to study ourselves. Human brain study human brain? Human is no god. How we learn really doesn’t matter. What it matters is how we teach, in fact, what we teach. We can teach natural science, or we can teach human science even theology of evil to mess up our mind. Entire course is intuitive and abstract. I did not feel getting a lot from it except for those biased case studies. Beautiful vocal and flawless presentation though.
Date published: 2012-05-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Awesome learning experience! I came in thinking I had knowledge and background in learning and memory, but Professor Monisha Pasupathi did a fantastic job taking it to all new level. I recommend this course who any1 who is keen on learning and lifelong development, as it comes with great tips and hints on how our learning develops. Awesome learning experience!
Date published: 2012-05-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Encyclopedic and academic DVD reviews. Looking at things simplistically, MEMORY is information stored while LEARNING is information being absorbed. One is the box — a noun. The other is the act of filling the box — a verb. Reason enough to compare Dr Joordens' MEMORY AND THE HUMAN LIFESPAN with Dr Pasupathi's HOW WE LEARN. Do their respective strengths and weaknesses make them complementary courses? Or is one of the two clearly sufficient? It depends what you want. While some TTC clients may have a general interest in psychology, I suspect most prospective buyers wish to boost their memory power and ward off the possibility of dementia. Is MEMORY useful in these areas? Yes, but only in a very limited sense. Let me explain. Dr Joordens explores in great detail: • the ancient "method of loci" technique that boosts our capacity to memorize words or images by associating them with lists or images we are already very familiar with. • "Memory" is really a constellation of faculties each associated with different parts of the brain. We have a short-term "working memory" for images and sounds which can become long-term memories through conscious, frequent use. But there is also an unconscious pathway (implicit learning) by which our mind absorbs underlying patterns for long-term use such as grammatical or musical motifs. • Our long-term memories have three components: 1) episodic "short-film-like" scenes, 2) de-contextualized associations (facts without images called "semantic memories" such as 2x2 = 4), and 3) procedural (mostly "muscle") memories without which we could not maneuver our bodies or move our lips to speak. Sleep plays an important role in consolidating long-term memories. • At present, there are no cures for Alzheimer's. At best medication affects certain symptoms, but it cannot stop or even slow the disease. • Finally, memory is best understood as a "reconstructed reality" filled with gaps papered over with assumptions and occasional self-deceptions. We say we want stronger memories, but if ways really existed to boost every recollection we would be horrified. There is simply too much we wish to forget. This final point is probably the weakest part of the course. It is insufficiently developed. Let's take the common example of a romantic breakup. A woman meets a man (or vice versa). He seems perfect. They are obviously meant for each other. Then years later he cheats on her. Suddenly, every memory she has of him is reinterpreted for clues that now seem obvious. The guy was a bum all along! Another common phenomena is "self-serving bias" whereby we attribute past successes to personal qualities (brains, talent, etc.) while blaming failures on external factors such as the economy or other people. Our memories clearly privilege self-esteem over truth. We think of the past as something fixed while the future is uncertain. Yet our brains are pattern-seeking organs. The past is constantly reshaped to fit our needs; optimistic scenarios for most of us, with a "glass-half-empty" minority doing the opposite. And in some cases, such as Oprah or Tony Robbins, our capacity to erase inconvenient memories is celebrated; a requirement for success and mental health. What about Dr Pasupathi? LEARN, though 24 courses too, covers a much wider canvas. Learning is the process, conscious or not, of associating two or more things together in ways that help us better understand, if not influence the world around us. New knowledge both changes the brain and builds very intimately on the fund of knowledge already present in our memories. The list of things covered is enormous: • The specific learning traits of infancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood and old age. These are compared to animal studies when relevant. • Learning is also analyzed by topic: categories and scripts among infants, language (first and second), physical movement and spatial orientation, storytelling (my favorite lesson), scientific reasoning (facts vs. theories). In every case, aspects accelerating or impeding development are explored. • Factors that influence learning more broadly: IQ, learning strategies, emotions, accumulated knowledge and learning styles. PRESENTATION Joordens (MEMORY) is a very likeable guy who presents his field in easy-to-absorb, bite-sized nuggets with plenty of pictures and examples. TTC clients interested in brain mapping will get plenty on the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus. I tend to take this stuff with a grain of salt. Pre-modern thinkers thought the heart was the seat of love, and yet had interesting to say about the psychology of romance. In the same way, I focus more on what Joordens has to say about memory as a factor in human behaviour. And, as stated above, I thought he said too little about that. The MEMORY Course Guidebook has a good glossary and new terms in each chapter are printed in bold. This makes it user-friendly. On the other hand, the booklet is thin. One extraordinary omission is a chart repeated throughout the course showing the relationships between components of short- and long-term memory. I had to freeze the image at one point and hand-draw the chart in my guidebook. Who designs these things at TTC? Pasupathi's (LEARN) strengths and weakness are almost the mirror opposite of Joordens'. Her presentations are much more densely packed with information and academic jargon. Indeed, despite her personalized teaching style, she sounds like she is reading straight from a textbook. You better sit up and pay attention or be left behind. Her LEARN Course Guidebook, on the other hand, is almost perfect. Depending on your learning style, you might treat it as the core TTC product in this case because it clearly states everything she says. Its only weakness is that it has no glossary and does not introduce new concepts in bold type. TTC truly must do a better job of consistency when printing these guidebooks. They are crucially important in science courses. CONCLUSION By now, the simple "box" and "box stuffing" analogies I used at the beginning of this review are clearly inadequate. Our memories are not empty boxes waiting for content. Rather, they shape what is retained from day one. Learning, on the other hand, is a dance between our conscious needs, our accumulated experience / biases and pressing new realities out there. Both courses stress the brain's plasticity while in use. It's use it or lose it. But using it also shapes it. Our life-long learning process and memory development is a bit like a plane being rewired while in flight. Both courses are excellent, but if I had to choose one, it would be Pasupathi's LEARN. On a more personal note, I encourage as many of you as possible to write reviews about the TTC courses you care about. Not only does it help others (I hope), but it is a marvelous way to remember ("encode" they would say) what you have learned. And another thing. Watch the great Japanese film "Rashomon" (1950) if you can. It's a classic film about memory. So there. Nuff said.
Date published: 2012-05-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very Informative Professor Pasupathi has an excellent speaking voice and cadence of delivery. Her materials were well-researched and well-organized. I learned quite a bit of new information and was especially interested in newer research that debunks a number of recent theories of learning that have been carried into the classroom at great expense. It would be nice if our educators could be exposed to a course like this.
Date published: 2012-04-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good, Not Great This is an excellent topic to add to TTC's catalog. I really wanted to love this course; in the end, I mostly enjoyed the course but was left unhappy in some regards. Prof Pasupathi is a good lecturer, but her speaking style was somewhat stilted, unlike outstanding TTC professors like Prof Harl or Prof Roberto. While many of the lecture topics seem like they should be fascinating, the lectures themselves never seem to meet expectations. Prof Pasupathi often makes references to research on the various topics, which is good, but she never quite connects this research with concrete details that would be of interest to the listener. She often seems to be struggling to fill the time. One lecture is under 27 minutes, something I've never observed with any other TTC course. If the topic is of interest to you, then this course is probably worth listening to, but it won't leave you with the feeling of satisfaction that 5-star TTC courses provide.
Date published: 2012-04-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Sound, Research-Based Topics I enjoyed the audio download of this course because the professor spoke clearly and the material was very well organized. I have taught classes at the university level for about 30 years and always seek to learn more about how people learn. The idea that future learning depends upon past learning is not new to me, but became much more relevant due to its coverage in this course. I appreciated the discussion about myths concerning learning. The research cited in the course was up to date and offered a great deal of useful and interesting information. I wish there was more time in the course devoted to adult learning, however I'm very pleased with the course.
Date published: 2012-03-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent & Timely for me! Excellent course for anyone wanting to know more about how people learn ...and it is particularly great for anyone wanting to know more about HOW to teach so that people can and do learn better. I got a great deal from the course as an Adult Ed educator. No complaints from me.
Date published: 2012-03-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Really good, but not great. I was excited about getting this course. I thought the experience was going to be better. Few things bothered me, and made it difficult to learn. Most of my complaints are for the Teaching Company. All the truly great courses do not rely on teleprompters. Some truly great courses are made by Sapolsky, Edwards, and Norden. These professors seem to not rely heavily on teleprompters. They all seem to know what they want to say. It is more of a conversational experience, rather than robotic. Being read to reminds me of kindergarten. Professor Pasupathi lost me with some really great sentences. The topics she reads about are great on paper. The problem is that the text did not translate well. Another thing that I find unnecessary is the constant shifting. What is the obsession with constantly shifting the camera? My last complaint is about the approach of the topic. I was hoping for more of a neurological approach. Pasupathi did not get deep into the science of learning. The approach seemed to be more about covering the material. Pasupathi always seemed rushed when she elaborated on details. I hope The Teaching Company can hear their customers complaints: 1. Heavy use of teleprompter. 2. Obsession with camera angles. 3. Professors need more autonomy on stage.
Date published: 2012-03-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Learn how we acquire languages How We Learn is a timely course. I am in the process of learning a second language as an adult. How we acquire language as a child and adult is covered through active and passive ways. Immersion in the other culture, storytelling, television, radio, books, instruction, hearing the phonemes, watching the faces of native speakers or parents (in the case of a child in language acquisition), . . . it all counts. How We Learn is presented in a clear and understandable manner. It leaves me wanting to learn more! My one and only quibble, and it is a minor one, is that Monisha Pasupathi likes to use the word "often" a lot. I have done editing for writers, and in the editing process you laser in on usage patterns. When "often" was used often, I often found myself thinking about it often, and waited for the next often to occur. But this is no big deal, just something I noticed, . . . often.
Date published: 2012-02-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent academic overview As a parent of a 3 yr old I am bombarded with claims of optimal learning by various schools (Montessori, play based, etc etc etc...)! This course provides a firm foundation to decide for yourself how to navigate through all these methods and claims. The course is comprehensive, well-presented, and academic. The sections on how children language was superior to the corresponding section of the linguistics course. The section on IQ testing appropriately demystified this test. I do recommned, however, to read the course guide first, especially if you plan to listen to the course during your commute. It does need your undivided attention, so being familiar with the content helps. I think every parent with preschool and elementary school children should take this course. It will teach what has and has not been proven and give you a nice foundation to help your children optimize their learning.
Date published: 2012-02-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Introduction to subject of learning If ever you were looking for just one course to begin your journey into learning from The Great Courses this would be it. I own dozens of courses covering a variety of subjects, but it’s nice to be enlightened or reminded about "How We Learn" to begin with. It puts greater perspective into the what, why, and from whom we learn that she talks about, that ultimately most of us consider when pressing that add to cart button. Many of the topics covered in this course must be considered if we truly want to learn something meaningful. I believe Dr. Pasupathi helps to put this into greater perspective so learning in general can be better understood, and thus enabling us to be more efficient in how we learn something. I would like to say that I have never attended any of her classes at my local University but would consider it if I were going back to school for Psychology. I was impressed with the presentation as well as content provided in the lectures. Great job Dr.
Date published: 2012-02-07
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