From the moment we are born we start learning
and like it or not, we
continue having to learn new things for the
rest of our lives.
In fact, it is this capacity to learn that
makes us so unique among living
species on Earth. Yet relatively little time
is spent learning
how best to learn as we progress through the
Have you ever taken a course specifically
focused on learning how to learn?
And while there are efforts to improve how
teaching is done, many of these efforts are
not based on scientifically demonstrated
This course is designed to help students and
just how our brains learn and then how to
apply what we know about learning
to make the acquisition of knowledge as
effectively as possible.
We are confident that using the highly
effective evidence-based learning
strategies described in this course will
help make your life-long pursuit of learning
more effective and fruitful.
In the early years of our education, the flow
of information comes at a gentle
rate. We learn to read, to write, to add and
interspersed with breaks for juice and
The flow of information is manageable.
As we get older, the flow of information
We are being taught more information at a
For me, it was as a teenager that studying
got significantly more challenging.
Not only was there more material to learn
but more distractions to keep me
from learning as well!
I didn’t know anything about learning science
at that time, so I used whatever tools I had
to process and store the information that I
was being taught, and it
worked well enough.
Or so I thought.
In professional school, which for me was
medical school, the flow of information
becomes a flood.
My initial excitement at having the
opportunity to learn all about the human body
soon turned into a struggle to stay afloat
in a sea of information.
There was so much information being taught to
me at an incredibly rapid rate.
The tools I had used for learning in the
past didn’t seem like enough anymore.
And this flow of information is only
increasing and getting harder to manage.
In fact, there's an explosion of new medical
knowledge as measured by what's
appearing in the scientific literature.
If you go back over the most recent
centuries, medical knowledge had historically
doubled roughly every 100 years until about
when that doubling time dropped to 50 years.
And then by the year 2000, the doubling time
was down to every few
years, and in 2020 that doubling rate was
only 73 days!
It is therefore likely that going forward
medical knowledge will double in
weeks, days, maybe even minutes!
This means that not only will medical
professionals need to learn as much as they
can in school, but we will also need to
continue to learn as effectively as we can
for the rest of our lives if we want to have
any hope of keeping up and staying
current with medical knowledge.
And to make the problem worse, most of us
forget what we initially learn.
In fact, about 75 percent of what you learn
is gone in
6 days, or a little less than a week.
But fortunately, there are strategies to
help retain information and knowledge
- and one that's very effective is that if
you keep retrieving a
concept, over time, this forgetting curve
and you remember things more effectively.
This is called retrieval practice.
For example, what if I ask you to retrieve
the information you just learned?
In the year 2020, approximately how fast was
medical knowledge doubling?
Every 50, 70, 90,
About every 70 days.
Here’s another chance for retrieval practice.
What percentage of the information we learn
have most of us forgotten about a
week after we’ve initially learned it?
Is it 50%, 66%,
That retrieval practice we just did is based
on learning science.
Whether you got the answers right or wrong,
simply trying to retrieve them made
them easier to remember in the long term.
And we even know why this happens at the
neurologic level- but more about that
later. So where did learning science come
Like medical science, learning science has
evolved over centuries.
It comprises theories that people set forth
to try and help other people learn better.
Those theories were rarely tested
objectively until the late nineteen hundreds
when there was an effort to really evaluate
what worked and what didn't.
And this culminated in the nineteen-nineties
with the advent of
evidence-based medical education.
And this should sound familiar to most of us
in the medical arena because this is very
much how we've learned to treat patients
based on evidence.
So for an evidence-based approach in the
clinical setting, you would question your
patient and get a chief complaint and do
an examination. You then order tests and
evaluate the results of
these tests, and all that would lead to a
diagnosis and then a recommended
treatment based on the evidence which exists
to support that mode of treatment
And most importantly, you then evaluate the
outcomes not just in that one patient, but in
groups of patients and populations to
improve your methodology and your body of
evidence. That’s the same process that is
now being used in
cognitive science or learning science where
most of the learning strategies we will be
discussing have been scientifically
So if the medical treatments you receive or
prescribe are expected to be evidence-based,
shouldn't the way one learns and teaches be
evidence-based as well?
In addition to the evidence-based strategies
which have come from cognitive science, we
now have a neuro-biological understanding of
how our brains learn!
This understanding is still very rudimentary
but is evolving rapidly to help us
understand how memories are formed and
retained, how cognitive processes
work, and how thoughts exist inside of us.
As we understand the role of
neurotransmitters, we are starting to develop
therapies and understand ways to potentially
manipulate these pathways
and these neurotransmitters and make
learning more effective.
So when you put the two together, the
strategies built on cognitive science that
have been studied methodically, together
with a neuroscientific understanding, one
can define evidence-based strategies for
both learning and teaching.
And these evidence-based strategies make for
more effective and durable learning.
It’s easy to hear information or read about
But really, what you need to do is retain
At the beginning of this video, we talked
about one of the tools for retaining
knowledge. Do you remember what it was
Was it retirement, retrieval, returning,
Retrieval. Did you know that every time you
retrieve a piece
of information the connections between the
nerve cells in your brain which store
knowledge grow stronger?
We will tell you a lot more about that later
in this course.
But before we move on I would note that if
you learn one thing
only in this whole course it would be this
concept of learning by
retrieval. It is primarily by virtue of
information which you have already received,
durable learning occurs.
Let’s try our retrieval practice again, with
a slightly different question.
Do you remember roughly how many days it
takes, as of 2020, for medical
knowledge to double? About how many weeks is
Is it 5 weeks, 10 weeks, 15 weeks,
About 10 weeks.
And you know that because in childhood you
learned to add and
multiply. You can use that
knowledge easily to solve problems like this
Knowledge always builds on prior knowledge
which is something else which can help you
learn more efficiently.
And this is also why it is so important that
you develop a good built-in fund of
knowledge and why you should not rely on
being able to
“just look it up” Do you remember how long
it takes to
forget 3/4 of what you’ve learned if you
haven’t used the tools to help you
retain it? Is it 1 week, 2 weeks,
3 weeks, 4
weeks? About 1 week.
Even if you could somehow learn all of the
new medical knowledge that is created in the
next ten weeks, you would be forgetting it
at a much faster rate than you could learn
it. Without better tools for learning, it’s
impossible to keep
up. This course will provide the solutions
you need to not only keep up but
even get ahead. It’s designed using
evidence-based tools to help you learn the
information in not only this course, but in
all of your other courses, and
retain it weeks, months, and years later.
The course is organized much like the
curricular structure which is common to most
medical schools. You start with your basic
sciences, and in this course, that
means the examination of the neuroscientific
basis and the cognitive scientific
basis of learning. We will then apply the
strategies that come from cognitive
science and the understanding of
neuroscience and help share practical
applications of these scientific principles.
That practical application is much like the
clerkships in a medical school or the
practicum in other health care professions,
you start applying everything you’ve
And lastly, we'll have a section on
practical tips because there are an
increasing number of tools and applications
which can make your learning even more
So let’s recap, do you remember from the
beginning of the video how
quickly medical knowledge is doubling?
That’s right - about every 70 days or about
every ten weeks.
Do you also remember the rate that we tend
to forget what we’ve learned?
We forget about 3/4 of what we’ve learned in
less than a week.
It’s easier for you to remember these data
points now because you’ve already practiced
retrieving them from your memory.
That retrieval practice is just one of the
many evidence-based strategies you will learn
and apply in this course which will help you
learn more effectively in every course you
take from now on. The net result is at the
understanding these strategies and these
principles, you're going to be able to handle
this ever-increasing amount of knowledge
effectively and durably
so that you retain it and become the best
health care provider you can be.