Peter.C.Brown – How to Learn for Success

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Photo of Peter C Brown How to learn for success

How to learn for success.

Peter Brown is a best-selling writer and novelist living in Minnesota, having retired from a career as a management consultant.

He is the author of five books and his work has appeared in national and international publications including The New Yorker magazine, New York Times, The Times of London, Toronto Globe,, and American Public Radio.

His most recent book Make it Stick, ‘The Science of Successful Learning’ was written alongside two cognitive scientists at Washington University – Henry L. Roediger and Mark A. McDaniel. This collaboration joined empirical research with the arts of storytelling and metaphors to engage a broad audience in the emerging science of how we learn and remember.

Drawing on recent discoveries in cognitive psychology and other disciplines, ‘Make It Stick’ turns conventional wisdom on its head, entertains, and offers practical tips to all who are interested in the challenge of lifelong growth and self-improvement together with how you can learn for success.

Make it Stick has been internationally acclaimed for changing the way we understand learning and will appeal to all those interested in the challenge of lifelong learning and self-improvement.


How we learn is something that many of us picked up during compulsory education using techniques such as highlighting, re-reading, cramming and single minded repetition of new skills to create the illusion of mastery.

All of these techniques served to get us through formal education but in many cases we probably never questioned their efficacy or reliability, instead taking it as gospel that they ‘worked’.

However many of these methods have proved to be ineffective in consolidating learning and retaining the information in our brains for recall some time after. 

Peters book ‘Make it Stick’ dispels a lot of these long held myths around learning. Using concrete, real world examples along with discoveries in cognitive psychology, he blows the lid off many of the outdated and ineffective ways in which we have been taught to learn. More complex, durable learning comes from self-testing, introducing difficulties to practice, allowing some forgetting to set in and interleaving skills.

All of these tactics we discuss, and will appeal to students, teachers, trainers and athletes. If you are embarking on study or engaged in practice or revision for formal exams – this episode is packed with valuable information.

In this interview Peter and I discuss:

  • How traditional types of learning are not serving us any more
  • Why the act of retrieving information from memory is the best way to consolidate long term memory and learning.
  • How learning is the act of coding, consolidating and recalling again later.
  • The fact that traditional methods of learning do not consolidate into long term memory and why because of this you can lose up to 50% of crammed study very soon after learning it.
  • The act of retrieving and how this strengthens retention
  • How spacing out retrieval practice strengthens the connection of it.
  • Interleaving and why this stimulates long term consolidation of learning.
  • Why interleaving fosters real world versatility in learning.
  • The way in which long term learning makes education habitual in emergency situations.
  • How deep training creates nuanced, expertise based learning.
  • Why errorless learning has left a lasting legacy towards perfectionism and learning from mistakes being seen as a bad thing.
  • When making mistakes is an important part of the learning process and how you can use making mistakes as a way to learn along the way with reflection.
  • How to incorporate a reflection and review into your learning.
  • The use of practice, practice, practice in medical situations along with reflection and review.
  • Elaboration and how this makes learning relatable to students own experience.
  • Mnemonic cues you can use for recalling information from long term memory.
  • The power of cues to access information.
  • Why you should play like you practice, and practice like you play.
  • How variation works from a mental and physical learning point of view.
  • Certain occupations that are 100% practice and application rather than textbook e.g. parachute training.
  • How to learn for success in 2019

Stuff we discussed during our conversation

With, learning can be transformed by applying evidence-based strategies from the laboratory to real life. An excellent source of research studies, practical tips, resources, examples, and links.

A rich collection of resources and links supporting application of evidence-based learning strategies, including short videos and well-designed instructional tools with which to explain practices such as spaced and mixed retrieval practice.

A professional learning blog by William Emeny, leading practitioner (specialist in memory and curriculum design), Head of Maths in a UK secondary school.

TalentLMS: Books Every Aspiring Chief Learning Officer Should Read

How you can link up with Peter, Henry and Mark

Book website

Harvard University Press

Peter C Brown

Henry L Roediger

Mark A McDaniel


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