Errors in Learn Better

Despite my best efforts, I made some errors while writing my book “Learn Better.”  In the space below, I’m going to keep a running list of any gaffes or mistakes or needed clarifications. I’ll also send this list to my publisher to make sure that these errors are corrected in future editions.

If you find any additional errors, please email me and I’ll list them here, and again my regrets and apologizes for the mistakes.

On page 107, I incorrectly identified where Joshua Aronson did his graduate school work. He got his PhD from Princeton, not Stanford.

On page 296, I misspelled Giada Di Stefano. It is Giada, not Giadia.


Buzzfeed Quiz

Quizzing is a highly effective way to learn, and so I had a colleague help me pull together a Buzzfeed quiz that tests your knowledge of learning to learn. Like all things Buzzfeed, the quiz is a little goofy. But it does include an awesome Batman gif.

Tell me what you think in the comments.

Q and A with Paul Zak


I first met Paul Zak as I was researching my book on trust. He’s one of the biggest names in the field, having studied the field both as an economist and a neuroscientist, and eventually Zak and I went skydiving together to see if the experience might boost my trust hormone. Zak has a new book out titled Trust Factor, and he answered a few questions via email.

Why did you write the book?

​After my research identifying the neurochemical oxytocin as a key signal that we trust another person, companies started coming to my lab telling me they thought trust was important at workplaces and asking ​me how they could create a culture of trust. I really did not know how to answer but I felt as a “trust expert” I should know this, so I spent 8 years measuring brain activity to figure out how to measure, manage, and improve trust in organizations.

Why does the book matter?
​My research showed that there are eight building blocks that leaders can influence to create​ ​a culture of trust, and my studies show how to change these to produce the biggest impact on brain and behavior. People who work in high trust companies are more productive, energetic, less likely to leave to work elsewhere, get sick less often, happier, and even get paid more. And, their companies are substantially more profitable. ​Trust improves the triple bottom line: it is good for employees, improves organizational performance, and strengthens families and communities.

What will readers gain?
​A brief introduction to the science of trust, access to a online survey to measure trust in their own organizations, and a step by step guide to building trust through examples of companies that have followed these guidelines. If you don’t manage culture, it will surely manage you, so it is time to to charge of culture using the latest science of human interactions. ​

Education Can Boost GDP Even More Than We Thought

Policymakers and the public often talk about how important education is for the economy, saying that schooling promotes higher incomes, better jobs, and more growth.

Last month, for instance, Vice President Joe Biden argued that college degrees are crucial to national prosperity. “Six in 10 jobs will require some kind of education beyond high school,” Biden said at an event in Denver. “Twelve years is not enough.”

But how much does education really matter when it comes to the economy? A new research paper gives some key insight into this question, and it turns out schooling might have a bigger impact than even some of the staunchest education advocates have argued.

“Empirical research has shown that education is indeed one – if not the most – important determinant of economic growth in the long run,” Ludger Wössmann 

The paper, published in Education Economics last month, argues that education might actually be the biggest single driver of economic development. What’s more, robust skills and knowledge turn out to be critical, underscoring once again that the country needs to a lot more to improve its school system.

In other words, if there’s one investment that policymakers should make to boost the country’s GDP, it’s investing in schools.

University of Munich’s Ludger Wössmann wrote the paper as a way to convince policymakers of the strong connection between education and the economy. I first came across the study in the Twitter stream of former teacher Paul Bruno, and it turned out that Wössmann had looked at a wide variety of indicators, such as unemployment rates and income levels, showing that they’re all deeply linked to higher levels of schooling.

But the strongest connection might be between student achievement and economic development. Using a host of international exams, such as TIMSS, Wössmann found that student outcomes explained some 75 percent of recent economic development. Or as Wössmann writes in the paper, “empirical research has shown that education is indeed one – if not the most – important determinant of economic growth in the long run.”

When I reached Wössmann in his office in Germany to discuss his findings, he told me that “again and again, I am surprised at how robust and consistent the evidence is for education as a determinate of economic growth.”

For Wössmann, the key driver isn’t paper credentials like a high school or college diploma. Those matter, of course. What made a bigger economic difference was strong skills and knowledge. “It’s really about achievement levels,” Wössmann told me. “Not how long you went to school.”

While Wössmann wrote an early draft of the paper for policymakers in the European Union, the analysis arrives at a key moment for the education debate in the United States. In the short-term, negotiators in Congress are working to hammer out a reauthorized version of the Elementary and Secondary Schools Act. And, given the results of Wössmann’s study, congressional leaders should emphasize reforms that promote student learning. In the short term, that includes high standards for students and equitable funding so that all children have the opportunity to thrive in the classroom.

In the longer term, the nation needs to do far more to upgrade its education system. That means pushing forward on thoughtful initiatives that promote deeper knowledge and skills like implementing the new Common Core standards and boosting the quality of the teacher workforce.

When it comes to education, it’s easy to forget that we’re in a high-stakes race with other nations, many of which are dramatically turning around their schools. China’s high school graduation rate has skyrocketed in recent years, while other nations like Peru have “improved the equivalent of almost two grades in math and one grade in reading and science” on international exams.

Almost no one argues that education plays no role in economic development. Even skeptics like economist Edward Wolff believe that schooling has an important role in creating robust economies. But Wössmann’s research underscores just how important education is for the nation’s future, and if our country does not do more to improve its schools now, it’s undoubtedly going to lose its economic edge later.

Image courtesy of Didier Weemaels

This blog item first appeared at US News and World Report. 

Center for American Progress Announces New Initiative on the Science of Learning

I helped launch a science of learning effort at the Center for American Progress. Here’s the press release:

Washington, D.C. — Today, the Center for American Progress announced a new initiative to promote the science of learning, aimed at examining ways to apply the new research on learning to education policy. CAP Senior Fellow Ulrich Boser is the founding director of the effort.

“This project aims to put the learning sciences at the forefront of school reform, showing how the nation can dramatically improve how teachers teach and students learn,” said Boser. “This effort will bring much-needed attention to the ways that the new science of learning can help schools, teachers, and students, going a long way to ensuring that all children—regardless of their family backgrounds—have an opportunity to succeed at high levels.”

The project will aim to answer a number of pressing questions, among them: What policies at the national, state, and local levels would support the new science of learning? What programs can spark more effective forms of learning? How can researchers, policymakers, and others better translate the science of learning into actionable policy and programs?

“We are asking more and more of students, and that means we are asking more and more of teachers. Despite the advances made in the field of learning science, we often do not link this information to how schools are run,” said Carmel Martin, Executive Vice President for Policy at CAP. “This requires innovation around teaching and learning, and ensuring that education policy reflects the newest research on learning will become a key priority for CAP.”

The effort will have three strategic areas:

  • Raise the profile of the science of learning and ensure that the latest research is at the center of conversations around teaching and learning.
  • Translate the research into actionable policy and programs and help inject cognitive science principles into the education reform debate.
  • Identify barriers to adoption and present compelling new ideas that will help schools and districts succeed. In this regard, CAP will aim to identify policy barriers that limit innovation, as well as detail structural issues that inhibit the development of better schools, such as more flexible forms of scheduling.

The project will begin putting out columns, issue briefs, and other products within the next month. In spring 2017, Boser will release a book, Learn Better: Six Strategies for Mastering the Skills for Success in Life, Business, and School, focused on mapping out the science of learning and capitalizing on the mind’s ability to develop new skills.

For more information or to speak with an expert, contact Allison Preiss at [email protected] or 202.478.6331.