A pleasant walk through computing

Seven Steps for Effective Learning

Charles L Flatt, 2020-01-12

Warning: Learning Ahead! (plus science)

The steps below are based on dozens of science-based articles on effective learning. I've written a fuller article with more details, How To Learn.

I hope this helps you on your learning journeys!


  1. What's the next physical action to take, and when will you?
  2. Choose what you want to learn based on excitement and utility.
  3. Choose your goal, then narrow using research.
  4. Choose your first target.
  5. Define success.
  6. When beginning, focus on commitment and process.
  7. As you advance, focus on progress.


Early On

  • Do not share your goal, especially if it's tied to your identity.
  • Beginners need praise for commitment, and should seek positive feedback.
  • Do something small and useful, give yourself easy wins.
  • Learn enough to self-correct.

As You Advance

  • Experts need praise for progress, but also should seek negative feedback.
  • Share your goal, but...
  • Only make yourself accountable to people you trust and who have no stake in the outcome.


  • Make the practice hard enough that you have to work to get better. Too easy and you'll just keep doing the same easy thing. Too hard and you'll give up.
  • When faced with barriers, try WOOP (I love this technique!)
  • Space learning: 30-50 minute bursts, take progressively longer breaks between learning
  • Self-test: put away the material and work to recall. Use flash cards.
  • Change it up: practice the same thing slightly differently
  • Interleave: practice something else, then come back.
  • Connect new ideas to prior knowledge.


  1. Students have different "learning styles," i.e. visual, auditory, reading, kinesthetic.
    FALSE, people learn using all these senses, and often don't know which they're using well.
  2. Humans only use 10% of their brains.
    FALSE, humans use 100% of their brains each day.
  3. People are right- or left-brained.
    FALSE, the differences between the left and right side of the brain aren't this simplistic, and the connection between the two halves is normally strong.
  4. Novices and experts can think in all the same ways.
  5. Cognitive development progresses via a fixed progression of age-related stages.
    FALSE, cognition develops in fits and starts.


Comment for me? Send an email. I might even update the post!