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The ABC's of How We Learn: 26 Scientifically Proven Approaches, How They Work, and When to Use Them Review by Jennifer Do Nascimento

Daniel L. Schwartz, Jessica M. Tsang, & Kristen P. Blair
W.W. Norton & Company
(212) 354-5500
500 Fifth Avenue
New York, New York 10110

Homeschool mothers know as well as anyone that there is no one size fits all when it comes to teaching and learning. Not only do we need to figure out how our children learn best, we also have to establish (often by trial and error) the best way to present the information. The ABC’s of How We Learn ($24.95) has been an excellent resource for the latter task.

The ABC’s of How We Learn is a 341-page paperback book with 26 chapters, one for each letter of the alphabet.

For each letter of the alphabet, there is a corresponding mechanism (way of teaching/learning.) For example: A is for Analogy, B is for Belonging, C is for Contrasting Cases, D is for Deliberate Practice  . . . and so on.

Each chapter has the same set up, although they do vary in length. The structure is as follows: What It Is (a basic statement of the learning mechanism), How It Works (the science and theory, including descriptions of seminal research), How To Use It (examples of activities that utilize the learning mechanisms), What It Is Good For (the outcomes that the learning mechanism is especially good for), Its Risks (common mistakes), Examples Of Good And Bad Use (quick examples to help solidify the ideas), References (a mix of classic and contemporary papers on the topic), and A Cheat Sheet (an outline that summarizes the main ideas of the chapter with brief examples.)

Using techniques from several chapters to achieve one result would be an excellent way of teaching multiple students with different learning styles at the same time. There is a list of chapters that align with some familiar outcomes, such as memory, motivation, and study skills for quick reference.

The book’s claimed purpose is to help people understand learning and to creatively develop methods of instruction suited to their learning goals, whether for themselves or another.

I believe they have accomplished their goal. The book was born out of a class taught at Stanford University called Core Mechanics of Learning. Written by psychologists, The ABC’s of How We Learn covers a vast amount of behaviorism, cultural psychology, and cognitive psychology. Although it sounds fancy and complicated, it isn’t. I have read through most of the mechanisms and have made many notes within the book of how I could use the ideas with my own children.

As homeschoolers, it seems like we are continuously looking for the best thing to help our children learn, but how often are we investing in ourselves to improve our teaching abilities? The ABC’s of How We Learn could quite possibly be the most valued tool I now have in my teaching arsenal.

-Product review by Jeniffer Do Nascimento, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, March, 2017