Strategic Learning: A book review

Disclaimer: This is not a paid review, and all opinions within are entirely our own!

We don’t often do book reviews on Digital Senior, but this is a great resource I thought we absolutely needed to share!

I first heard about this book during an education conference where the author, Dr Robert Kamei, was the keynote speaker. Dr Kamei is currently a professor at the Duke-NUS Medical School and the National University of Singapore, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, and he teaches an elective course that our NUS readers may have taken or heard about. It’s called Learning to Learn Better (does this ring any bells?), and it teaches students how to develop better study habits through evidence-based techniques/scientifically-proven methods from the learning sciences.

Strategic Learning: A Holistic Approach to Studying is based on that very same course, which we heard is really popular. Strategic learning certainly piqued my interest, and I knew I had to get my hands on a copy to share this resource stat. Dr Kamei very kindly sent us a galley copy so that this could happen, and here’s what I have to say about it!

The content is easy to follow

If you’re worried about how technical things may get, especially if you’re not a science student, don’t be! Dr Kamei writes simply and clearly. He doesn’t use an overwhelming amount of jargon, and when there are scientific concepts and principles you’ll need to know (such as the Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve), he only shares what is necessary for context. He also includes some activities to help you understand what you’ve just learnt.

The book cannot be read in a single sitting, with Dr Kamei mentioning how there are ‘no secret, easy tricks to learning’. Instead, Dr Kamei shares a Holistic Learning Framework (we’ll leave this for you to discover yourself) involving the metacognitive cycle as well as several scientifically proven strategies you can implement to achieve your learning goals.

While there’s a lot of content to absorb, every chapter is prefaced with a learning myth that makes it easy for you to anticipate what the chapter will discuss. There’s also a handy summary at the end of each chapter that you can turn to if you need to reorient yourself.

It also helps that Dr Kamei feels like a fellow peer, or someone who knows the struggle university students face in their educational journeys. In an early section of the book, where he explains why you should listen to him about learning, he stresses that his “most important credential is that [he] has always found [himself] a reasonably good but not a brilliant student”. He shares anecdotes about never missing a class due to FOMO (me, too, prof!) and nearly giving in to panic during a physics test. Students and working adults alike can definitely relate to his experiences, and this helps his advice and tips go down easier.

At one point, Dr Kamei mentions his initial perplexity about all the mnemonics (aka acronyms) Singaporeans use in their daily lives that ‘almost reach[] an art form’. His example, with a translation for those that require it at the bottom of the page, certainly made me smile. I’m sure you would too.

Some spoilers

We’re giving you a small sneak peek into some of the strategies and tips Dr Kamei recommends!

The first would be to practice spaced repetition. This means that you do not study the same subject or module in an entire stretch. Instead, you could review something you learned right after a class, revisit the content the next day, and come back to it yet again in a few weeks and then right before an exam. This helps enhance long-term retention and facilitate complex learning, as well as problem-solving [i].

The second would simply be to get enough rest. While this sounds obvious, many students simply do not get the 7-9 hours of sleep they require. Studies have suggested that those who get enough rest are likely to score higher GPAs than those who do not[ii], and that those with regular sleep patterns may also score better academically[iii].

The book contains helpful resources

Apart from the various strategies outlined in the book, Dr Kamei also offers several helpful resources I wish I knew about during my undergraduate days. One of them is a Team Charter template that you can fill in together with study group members if you have made such an arrangement. A team charter sets the tone, ensuring that everyone will pull their weight and treat group study sessions earnestly.

The book has a sample team charter template in its appendix, but you can get ahead and access another variation from the Learning to Learn Better course site. Don’t miss out on the other downloadables too.

Content is still being added to the site, so check back after getting ahold of the book!

To sum it up, I believe that Strategic Learning: A Holistic Approach to Studying is worth adding to your reading list. Consider borrowing the book after it’s launched and made available in your university or faculty library, or pool some money and share a copy with some course mates. World Scientific, the book’s publisher, has generously extended a discount to our readers, which you can find out more about right below.

Until then, Dr Kamei has opened an Instagram account where he shares about different aspects of learning. Why not give it a follow? We’re sure you’ll find this worth it!




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