Active Learning

This paper by five Harvard profs (four from physics and one from engineering) looks at a paradox of teaching. Namely, students learn more from active learning, but think they're learning less. Why would this be? One key is that active learning requires increased cognitive effort, but our brains perceive that effort as signifying poorer learning. On the other hand watching a great lecture gives us the illusion of learning, but the evidence is that we actually learn better when we struggle.

Collaboration & Communication

Acquiring skills, being smart and talented, knowing a lot – these are all contributors to success, but without the ability to work with others and communicate your ideas to others you won't get far. At university you may be forced to work with others, and in the workplace you will definitely be required to work with others. Even if you create a company on your own you'll have to communicate with investors and customers. Companies with multiple co-founders are more likely to get venture capital funding.

Working in a group

If you can learn this stuff on your own, what's the point of a class? Good question. Here's my answer – my role as the teacher is to set the appropriate challenges for you and monitor your frustration levels. I'll encourage you when you think it's too tough and spur you to seek greater challenges when you think it's too easy. Working in a group has the added benefit of allowing you to seek help and give help. If you can explain a concept to a classmate you will probably come away from the exchange having learned as much, if not more, than your classmate. That's why helping others is a requirement in my classes.


This is less about my philosophy and more about what you can do to enhance your skills as a life-long learner. The following is a four-part video series on neuroplasticity created by the BBC. The total viewing time is just over 30 minutes.

BBC – Brain Hacks