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How We Learn

Discover how your mind acquires, processes, and stores new information in this captivating course about the process of learning.
How We Learn is rated 4.3 out of 5 by 48.
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Rated 2 out of 5 by from Charged and Bias Although there are many studies cited to help support the claims, the professor consistently used emotional and charged language as well as value judgments such as, "This is powerful evidence" when in reality a different interpretation is not just available but likely. She also talked about herself and her children far too often and referred to "we" as if every person has these same tendencies which is not true. I also noticed that she was inconsistent in how she explained a study and how it supported her conclusion. She sometimes discusses the sample size and treatment groups while other times just explaining what the "results" showed. Educators should be more careful to leave out value judgments and hard conclusions.
Date published: 2024-05-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Interesting Course It was easy for me to listen and follow Professor Pasupathi. Learning about learning is rather complex, but the course allowed me to understand the process to some degree. It found it rather interesting, but understandable in the current context, the whole idea of decline in family structure and impact of learning was deftly avoided.
Date published: 2024-04-09
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Glad I Watched This I found it hard to peg Dr. Pasupathi as a lecturer. She is so relaxed, conversational, and understated that I probably underestimated her style. She does not subscribe to the “Tell ‘em what you’re going to say, say it, and tell ‘em what you said” philosophy. Nevertheless, she does succeed in conveying much information and even in building lecture upon lecture. I think that owing to her understated presentation style, it is too easy to underestimate the course. However, there is much theoretical and practical wisdom here. It is particularly useful for helping children to learn but it also provides study tips for teens and college students and it is useful for adult learners as well. In additional to intellectual learning, it extends to mastering motions such as sports, music, and dance. It addresses learning strategies and constraints. All this while getting the feeling that you’re just chatting with a neighbor over a cup of tea. The course guide is average by The Great Courses (TGC) standards. It is in bullet format as opposed to paragraph or outline format. It has no useful graphics. It has about 7.5 pages per lecture, which is probably above average for TGC course guides. There is a bibliography in which there is a short description of the value provided by each reference. Oddly, there is no glossary, which one might expect for a technical course. Overall, I did find it helpful to follow along in the course guide while listening to the lecture. I used video streaming. There were many graphics but they were only of marginal value. It would be just about as effective to use audio-only such as while jogging or commuting. The course was published in 2012.
Date published: 2023-03-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Thorough, detailed with careful review of research. The lecturer is conscientious and easy to listen to.
Date published: 2022-08-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from made me wonder if i missed something growing up I bought this a month ago and have only gone through it in bits and pieces. In other words, I read different parts that interest me. It is well put together and I will thoroughly enjoy continuing to read it. I bought it to give me some insight into my grandchildren's learning skills. and whether or not I could help them effectively.
Date published: 2022-02-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Enjoyable, Informative Professor This is definitely one of the best Great Courses I've watched in the last few years. I find the topic personally interesting--especially as a parent and homeschooling mother. I find Prof. Pasupathi to be as compelling or maybe even more so than the content. She's very enjoyable to listen to and easy to follow. I appreciate that she is both an expert on the subject yet still speaks to what is not known and is careful to humbly qualify what she says in a way that's not distracting to the lecture. My only complaint is that I can't find more classes from her ;)
Date published: 2020-12-19
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A tale of two courses I'm a bit shocked to see a number of quite negative reviews. I think I understand where they are coming from, but they are seriously overly harsh. I, too, had a problem with Dr. Pasupathi's initial speaking style. She is quite erudite and I found her a pleasure to listen to. (I listened to the audio version, and found her voice to be quite appealing.) However, she does stumble a bit here and there and it's pretty clear that she's relying on notes, not on reading a prepared text. Personally, I find this style much more engaging that reading from a prepared text. I'd much rather than occasional stumble than the stilted stiff presentation that a prepared text almost always engenders. I describe this as a tale of two courses because I thought the second half had much more surprising and seriously educational content than the first half. (So if you're only partway through and are thinking of giving up, I highly recommend you get through at least lecture 13. The discussion of confirmation bias was really eye-opening to me. We all do it, but we all need to be armed by knowledge about it to resist falling into the same trap. I also found lectures 14, 16, 17, and 18 to be excellent and surprising. Many people complained that they didn't learn much about how to improve their own learning. Again, I thought the same thing through lecture 12. But starting with the second half of the course, she really goes into great detail about how we can all improve our own learning strategies. While this is clearly much more of a theory course than a self-improvement one, there is plenty of self-improvement advice here. I know I've come away with a number of strategies to improve my own learning and retention. All in all a very valuable course. I can't give it five stars, because she's not quite that good (at least on audio). But it's a definite four star course with a strong recommendation.
Date published: 2019-10-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Decoding our encoding This course was informative and useful shop-talk for teachers, and is a fine introduction to how we acquire, process and retain experience. Although, I must admit that I usually have an interest-avoidance of theory in educational-psychology, the instructor was gracious in presenting her lectures without much technically-cryptic vocabulary or many concept-matrices. Some attention was paid to popular psychology, but not enough to trivialize her presentation. Lectures flowed smoothly from one to the next, and ideas were built-upon, and reviewed, as the course progressed. Good to know.
Date published: 2019-09-14
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Shed some much-needed light on what's going on when you learn, and dispel some pervasive myths about an activity so central to your daily life. With Professor Monisha Pasupathi's 24-lecture course, How We Learn, you'll examine interesting theories about learning; explore the ways we master tasks such as speaking a new language, learning a musical instrument, or navigating through a new city; and gain vital strategies for excelling in a range of different learning situations.


Monisha Pasupathi

I became a professor in the first place so that I could spend my life learning; the opportunity to both learn and tell others about the process of learning was irresistible.


University of Utah

Dr. Monisha Pasupathi is Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Utah. She holds a Ph.D. in Psychology from Stanford University. She joined the faculty at Utah in 1999 after completing a postdoctoral fellowship at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Germany. Professor Pasupathi has been honored multiple times for her teaching. She was named Best Psychology Professor by her university's chapter of Psi Chi, the National Honor Society in Psychology. Psi Chi also awarded her the Outstanding Educator Award and Favorite Professor Award. Professor Pasupathi's research focuses on how people of all ages learn from their experiences, particularly through storytelling. She is coeditor of Narrative Development in Adolescence: Creating the Storied Self, and her work has been published widely in scholarly journals.

By This Professor

How We Learn
How We Learn


Myths about Learning

01: Myths about Learning

Explore what it means to learn, and consider 10 myths about learning-for example, that learning must be purposeful or that emotions get in the way of learning. None of these or eight other widely held views is accurate, as you discover in depth in this course.

29 min
Why No Single Learning Theory Works

02: Why No Single Learning Theory Works

Take a historical tour of early work on learning, which was deeply influenced by classical conditioning, made famous by Ivan Pavlov. Learn that in the effort to avoid anything that wasn't directly observable, researchers left out key unobservable factors, such as the attitudes of the subjects.

31 min
Learning as Information Processing

03: Learning as Information Processing

Investigate the information processing approach to learning, which holds that learning occurs as people encounter information, connect it to what they already know, and as a result, see changes in their knowledge or ability to do specific tasks.

27 min
Creating Representations

04: Creating Representations

How do you create representations of categories and events in your mind? Explore two aspects of this process. First, you seldom, if ever, learn passively; instead, learning occurs in the context of purposeful action. Second, what you already know changes your experiences in learning.

30 min
Categories, Rules, and Scripts

05: Categories, Rules, and Scripts

Whether you realize it, you acquire new knowledge by organizing experiences into categories, searching for rules within those categories, and establishing scripts-or patterns-that serve as guides for predicting what happens next in an unfamiliar activity or interaction. Find out how in this lecture.

30 min
What Babies Know

06: What Babies Know

Newborns are not a blank slate on which parents can dictate whatever they want their children to know. Instead, babies come prepackaged to develop in certain ways. Investigate how babies manage an overwhelming amount of learning and what this tells us about how grownups learn.

30 min
Learning Your Native Tongue

07: Learning Your Native Tongue

Developing humans progress from no words to about 60,000 words by adulthood, while also mastering complex syntax and grammar. Probe the mechanisms that permit babies to absorb the language they hear around them and make it their native tongue.

28 min
Learning a Second Language

08: Learning a Second Language

If learning a native language occurs almost without effort, why is it so hard to learn a second language, particularly after childhood? Examine this question in light of experiments to teach human language to other species, which provide intriguing clues for the difficulties adult language learners face.

30 min
Learning How to Move

09: Learning How to Move

Focus on four questions central to learning a new motor skill: What should you pay attention to while learning the skill? Can verbalizing the skill help with mastering it? What about learning by watching versus learning by doing? Does imagining the movement provide any benefits?

27 min
Learning Our Way Around

10: Learning Our Way Around

Investigate how you learn to navigate through the world, a skill we share with all other mobile creatures. Find that while spatial learning has a conscious component, we often don't know that we have a cognitive map of a particular place until we have to use it.

28 min
Learning to Tell Stories

11: Learning to Tell Stories

Storytelling is a crucial way that you connect with other people and also learn about yourself. Discover how you learn to narrate your experiences in a way that is ordered in time, communicates the essential details of what happened, and makes clear to the audience why they should listen.

30 min
Learning Approaches in Math and Science

12: Learning Approaches in Math and Science

Math and science require learning both facts about the world and a special process-the "how" used to identify and solve new problems. Survey different approaches to teaching math and science. Some work for building a knowledge of facts, others for instilling an understanding of process.

31 min
Learning as Theory Testing

13: Learning as Theory Testing

Scientists engage in theory testing to evaluate their own work and that of their colleagues. But is it realistic to expect nonscientists to develop similar habits of mind? Examine the problems people have in overcoming natural biases that inhibit scientifically rigorous thinking and learning.

31 min
Integrating Different Domains of Learning

14: Integrating Different Domains of Learning

Survey some common factors that apply to many learning situations, focusing on both intuitive and conscious processes. Tips for learning include spacing your rehearsals, varying the context, drawing on connections to things you know, learning the same way you'll use your learning, and sleeping on it!

29 min
Cognitive Constraints on Learning

15: Cognitive Constraints on Learning

Delve into three constraints on learning: attention, working memory, and executive function. Consider the evidence for the importance of these capacities in supporting or limiting learning. Close by investigating how they can be improved to enhance learning abilities over your lifespan.

30 min
Choosing Learning Strategies

16: Choosing Learning Strategies

Monitoring progress in learning can help develop a more effective learning strategy. Examine research showing how easy it is to misjudge success or lack of success at learning a skill or subject. Then look at approaches that let you increase retrieval and retention of learning.

27 min
Source Knowledge and Learning

17: Source Knowledge and Learning

Often it's important to know not only a piece of information but also its source, especially in today's information-rich culture with many different sources to be weighed for accuracy. Learn how to combat the common tendency to forget the source before anything else.

30 min
The Role of Emotion in Learning

18: The Role of Emotion in Learning

How does it affect learning when you feel happy or sad? Examine the role of emotions in learning, discovering that some moods are better for some tasks. For example, mild anxiety in studying for a test might actually enhance performance by focusing attention.

29 min
Cultivating a Desire to Learn

19: Cultivating a Desire to Learn

Consider how to foster the kinds of motivation that will help support learning rather than undermine it. Rewards such as good grades can backfire by reducing a student's desire to learn about a topic and willingness to persist on that topic. But what is a more effective motivation?

29 min
Intelligence and Learning

20: Intelligence and Learning

Do IQ scores predict the ability to learn? Or are they simply a measure of what has previously been learned, giving a person a leg up on subsequent learning? Use the statistical concept of correlation to shed light on the long-running debate over the nature of intelligence and its role in learning.

30 min
Are Learning Styles Real?

21: Are Learning Styles Real?

An influential contemporary view holds that we're all good at some things but not others, and that we may each differ in the way we like to learn. Probe the arguments for and against these ideas of multiple intelligences and differing learning styles.

28 min
Different People, Different Interests

22: Different People, Different Interests

Trace the origins and growth of the different interests that people naturally have. Interest stimulates the development of initially higher knowledge, which then facilitates further learning and further interest. Then consider an interest-related personality trait that is likely to be shared by the audience for this course.

28 min
Learning across the Lifespan

23: Learning across the Lifespan

Focus on the role of age in learning by reviewing four principles presented earlier in the course and exploring how they relate to different age groups. Close by examining a variety of strategies for preserving information-processing abilities into late life.

29 min
Making the Most of How We Learn

24: Making the Most of How We Learn

Conclude your exploration of how we learn with a look at today's frontiers of learning research. Then revisit the myths of learning from Lecture 1, review optimal approaches to learning, and consider what educators can do to make best use of our new understanding of this vital process.

31 min