Teach Yourself How to Learn


Fast, friendly, first-person: Saundra Yancy McGuire's book (2018, with her daughter Stephanie McGuire), Teach Yourself How to Learn: Strategies You Can Use to Ace Any Course at Any Level, is aimed at new college students who desperately need help. It's chatty and a bit chaotic, frequently interrupts itself with anecdotes, and lacks a solid structure. But for many readers, especially those who haven't thought much about how to study effectively, Teach Yourself ... could be extraordinarily useful. After some scene-setting stories in the first two chapters, Chapter 3 ("Metacognition"), gets to the heart of the matter. Metacognition is defined as the ability to:

  • think about your own thinking
  • be consciously aware of yourself as a problem solver
  • monitor, plan, and control your mental processing
  • accurately judge your level of learning

All good! And after more stories and some audience-participation puzzles, McGuire discusses the "Bloom's Taxonomy" cognitive hierarchy: remembering → understanding → applying → analyzing → evaluating → creating. Then come a few real-world study tips, steps which aren't obvious to some:

  • Preview
  • Attend class
  • Review
  • Do intensive study sessions
  • Assess

The rest of Teach Yourself ... gives specific examples, more explicit suggestions, and explains the difference that an open and optimistic attitude can make via Carol Dweck's work on "mindsets:"

Fixed Mindset Growth Mindset
Leads to a desire to look smart and therefore a tendency to ...Leads to a desire to learn and therefore a tendency to ...
... avoid challenges ... embrace challenges
... give up easily ... persist in the face of setbacks
... see effort as fruitless or worse ... see effort as the path to mastery
... ignore useful negative feedback ... learn from criticism
... feel threatened by the success of others ... find lessons and inspiration in the success of others

Further valuable suggestions ensue on time management, activity prioritization, note-taking, and the like. Again, all good! If only the book had:

  • a summary of key points at the beginning
  • more poetic language throughout
  • a clear, logical structure with a road map

All good — and could have been better.

(cf. Ein Ben Stein (2002-09-19), Reflective Students (2004-03-17), How To Succeed (2005-03-11), Staying the Course (2005-07-11), Great Thoughts Time (2013-11-29), Metacognitive Banter (2014-02-04), Body Learning (2015-06-19), Metacognition and Open Mindedness (2015-11-15), How to Do a PhD (2016-03-25), ...) - ^z - 2018-03-05