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Sticky Learning: How Neuroscience Supports Teaching That's Remembered

Inglis, Holly J.; with Dawson, Kathy L.; and Nishioka, Rodger Y.
Augsburg Fortress Pubs., 2014

Book Review

Tags: higher education   |   learning theories   |   neuroscience

Reviewed by: Rob O'Lynn, Kentucky Christian University
Date Reviewed: April 8, 2015

In many ways, Sticky Learning is all business. It has no traditional introductory or closing material and ends simply with a works cited list. This volume is divided into three major sections. The first section (composed of only chapter one) lays out the current landscape of education. In it, Inglis asks readers some basic pedagogical questions, such as what defines “effective learning” and how did we learn to teach. The second section (chapters two, three, and four) lay out a roadmap for where learning is headed.

Inglis argues in chapter two that there is a differentiation between teaching and learning. Teaching occurs when an instructor simply imparts knowledge; learning occurs when the students interact with the instructor and actively apply what they have been taught. In chapter three, Inglis moves from learning theory to brain studies. As with each chapter in this book, her discussion is marked by brevity. She offers a concise, easy to understand introduction to brain science research condensed from larger, more detailed volumes such as Brain Rules by John Medina (2008) or Learning and Memory by Marilee Sprenger (1999), both of which are cited in the chapter. The majority of the research comes from the work of noted biologist James Zull and is operationalized through David Kolb’s model for experiential learning. In chapter four, Inglis discusses the five “pathways to memory” and three major reasons why we have trouble remembering information. Again, most of the material in these chapters is a concise summation of what the reader can find in the books by Medina and Sprenger noted above.

In this reviewer’s opinion (one who has a limited working knowledge of the relationship between neuroscience and educational psychology), these two chapters alone are worth the price of the volume. After reading through these chapters, I was informed about the readily accepted correlation between neuroscience and educational psychology and also was empowered to integrate these theories into my own teaching. (I am already using Kolb’s theory, but now understand how to maximize it in my teaching.) The “Making It Stick” features that follow each content section provide reflective questions and practical applications which promote a “learn-do” environment for the reader to immediately assess the validity of Inglis’ arguments.

The final section (chapters five through eight) provide a challenge to take what Inglis has argued in the previous half of the book and apply it directly to classroom contexts. While chapters five and seven – both authored by Inglis – were helpful, I found that chapters six and eight cancelled each other out. Chapter six, by Nishioka, provides a response from one who has used these concepts in his classroom, as demonstrated by the real-life examples. Chapter eight, authored by Dawson, offers a case study of how one can apply the arguments and concepts set forth in the book. In my opinion, either one should have been chosen over the other, or Nishioka’s reflections should have been included in the larger treatment rather than as a stand-alone chapter. This is, however, my only real complaint with this volume. I especially appreciated the websites and QR codes to unlock additional content that are scattered throughout the book. Overall, this is an important book for educators at any level to read and wrestle with as they continue to seek the best ways to educate their students.


Wabash Center