Elizabeth L. Bjork and Robert Bjork
University of California, Los Angeles
As teachers—and learners—the two of us have had both a professional and personal interest in identifying the activities that make learning most effective and efficient. What we have discovered, broadly, across our careers in research, is that optimizing learning and instruction
often requires going against one’s intuitions, deviating from standard instructional practices, and managing one’s own learning activities in new ways. Somewhat surprisingly, the trials and errors of everyday living and learning do not seem to result in the development of an accurate mental
model of the self as learner or an appreciation of the activities that do and do not foster learning.
The basic problem learners confront is that we can easily be misled as to whether we are learning effectively and have or have not achieved a level of learning and comprehension that will support our subsequent access to information or skills we are trying to learn. We can be misled by our subjective impressions. Rereading a chapter a second time, for example, can provide a sense of familiarity or perceptual fluency that we interpret as understanding or comprehension, but may actually be a product of low-level perceptual priming. Similarly, information coming readily to mind can be interpreted as evidence of learning, but could instead be a product of cues that are present in the study situation, but that are unlikely to be present at a later time. We can also be misled by our current performance. Conditions of learning that make performance improve rapidly often fail to support long-term retention and transfer, whereas conditions that create challenges and slow the rate of apparent learning often optimize long-term retention and transfer.ˇ