Taking notes during class? Topic-focused study? A consistent learning environment? All are exactly opposite of the best strategies for learning. I recently had the good fortune to interview Robert Bjork, the director of the UCLA Learning and Forgetting Lab, a distinguished professor of psychology, and a massively renowned expert.
It turns out that everything I thought I knew about learning is wrong. First, he told me, think about how you attack a pile of study material. “People tend to try to learn in blocks,” Bjork said. “Mastering one thing before moving on to the next.” Instead of doing that Bjork recommends interleaving. The strategy suggest that instead of spending an hour working on your tennis serve, you mix in a range of skills like backhands, volleys, overhead smashes, and footwork. “This creates a sense of difficulty,” Bjork said. “And people tend not to notice the immediate effects of learning.”