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Education Bookcast

Feb 1, 2018

Cal Newport is a computer scientist at Georgetown University who writes a blog called Study Hacks about effective study methods. We have covered one of his books already, So Good They Can't Ignore You, when I wanted to discuss career advice.

Before writing How to Become a Straight-A Student, Newport visited a number of university campuses in the USA and looked for students who got the best grades. Curiously, he found that these usually came in two types - those who were constantly grinding away in their studies, as one might expect from a top student; and those who seemed to their peers never to be overworked, and led full extra-curricular and social lives, but always seemed to do the best in their courses. Newport interviewed these, and their approaches to study make the basis of this book.

It's interesting to see some of the cognitive science ideas like those put forward by Benedict Carey's How We Learn being put into action by these students, generally without any of them being aware that they are doing so, as they apparently happened upon their study techniques by themselves. It is particularly enlightening to see how they prioritise certain important cognitive features - for example, considering coloured pens for notes to be superfluous (despite scientific evidence that this would improve memory). It would appear that these successful students have figured out the relative importance of various techniques or insights into learning without having to carry out any scientific experiments or read the cognitive science literature.

This is the first study guide that I am covering on the podcast, and I don't intend to cover very many. I'm more interested in talking about fundamentals on this podcast than in sharing tips and tricks. The fact that I like the author (due to his other books), and that his approach seems more empirical than other study guides, but less clinically divorced from the real world than scientific books and articles, led me to want to share it with you. I hope it helps you in your studies, or in your teaching.

Enjoy the episode.

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