My journey on learning how to learn

This past three weeks I have been taking the Coursera course 'Learning How to Learn', and more than once I have been asked the question

How can I apply this in a practical  way?

It can be difficult to explain so many concepts to someone in a clear way, so I decided to summarize some of the most practical concepts and topics (the ones that can be applied when studying for a test, for instance) covered in the course, as best as I could. This is not only useful for others, but for me as well. Writing a summary can be helpful to retain the concepts learned. This is called recall, and we'll talk about it later.



1. Spaced repetition

Learning the whole chapter the day before the test is not a good idea. Your brain cannot process so much information in so little time, so you will probably forget most of it after a week. This is fine if your only goal is to pass the exam, but if you want to create long-lasting connections so you can remember that information you will need to make use of space repetition in your studies. But what does this mean exactly?

Well spaced repetition consists of studying every day (repetition), but leaving a gap-a day, for example-of not studying that subject (spaced). This fixes information in your brain more deeply, and you will remember it better this way.

2. Interleaving

It is a studying technique that consists of alternating between different materials of the subject we are studying. Jumping back and forth the lessons can be counter-intuitive, but it actually helps you study more deeply. This is because you are switching between different problems or situations that require different techniques to solve. Interleaving breaks the repetition and makes you think more creatively to solve a problem.

3. Deliberate practice

To learn something, just practicing is not usually the most efficient way. Mindlessly repeating the lesson will not help us much. Deliberate practice, on the other hand, consists of practicing or studying the hardest lessons first. This way, we practice focusing more on the material and understanding it better. This is closely related to the point below - illusion of competence.



Sometimes we feel we know the material well, but in reality we don't. This is called illusion of competence, and it occurs because we tend to practice and master the easy material, and that makes us feel like we master the whole subject. This can be solved by making use of deliberate practice, forcing ourselves to practice the hard materials first.

To check if we really know the material we can try to recall everything we know without looking at the book. This is very important and strengthens the information in our brains.


But these techniques are not really useful if we just leave all our duties to the last moment. This is called...


When we have to do something we don't enjoy, our brain releases substances that make us want to do something else. These substances are the same as the ones released when we are in pain, as the goal is the same: to make us look the other way and don't think about the pain (in our case, the boring task).

To overcome procrastination we can use the Pomodoro technique. It consists of forcing ourselves to work for a given amount of time (usually 25 minutes) with no distractions at all. After that, we may have a break (browse the Internet, play a game, etc). This way we are maximizing our productivity, as we can't remain focused for much longer than that. If we spend longer periods of time studying, we won't be as efficient, and we could probably spend that time doing something else.

Another thing you could do to prevent procrastination is something referred in the course as 'eating your frogs first'. This means doing the most boring and uninteresting task first (when you wake up, for example).


The course has definitely helped me improve my learning habits, and I hope you have learned something too!

  • Mateo Periago
  • 29/12/2019 23:37:19
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Learning how to learn

I am currently taking a Coursera course called 'Learning How to Learn'. Here are my insights after three weeks of taking the course.

El blog de Mateo

Hola! soy Mateo, tengo 19 años y este es mi blog.

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