since 1965  (really?)

The Art and Science of Learning

This course listing applies to a Spring 2016 course. To find current courses, check out the Find a Course page.

Spring 2016
Psychology 198
2 Unit(s)

Human friendly URL (OBSOLETE)


About the Course:

The Art and Science of Learning

What did you learn in school today? Better yet, how did you learn it? 

Nowhere in education are we taught what learning is or how it works; yet we’re expected to do it.

But why is it so important to learn about learning? In a word: adaptability. Imagine being able to acquire any skill in a fraction of the time it would take you otherwise. How useful would that be to you as a worker in the information age? Jobs are rapidly changing and flexible workers are becoming exceptionally valuable. 

Recognize that our brains are precision machines, crafted and tailored over millennia to adapt to a myriad of circumstances. However, rapid technological growth has caused demand for skills that push the limits of our brain’s learning capacity.

Now, if you can understand how your brain learns, then you can learn anything you want. Our brains all use the same basic mechanisms to process information, and as individuals we combine those tools to devise our own unique schemes. We will use these facts to our advantage as we become master learners, but we have to answer one question first.

How do we make our brains do what we want them to do
as effectively as they do what they were built to do?

In answering this question we will 

  • study memory techniques developed over thousands of years, 
  • look to modern neuroscience for a more complete understanding of how our brains are built,
  • and bring these ideas together to create a model of learning that is customized to take advantage of the tools we were born with.

Memory Techniques

From the infamous Memory Palace to Neuro-Linguistic Programming strategies, we’ll explore the biggest breakthroughs in memory over the course of human history. This is the artsy side of learning because it relies on two crucial traits: rich imagination and fantastic creativity. Training these skills is the most effective way to improve your innovative abilities.

We will primarily focus on the use of mnemonic devices to encode information more efficiently in the brain. Like any art form, you have to fool around with this stuff for a while to get an intuition for what will and won’t work for you. But, at the end of the day, the hardest part is genuinely allowing your imagination to run wild.

Modern Neuroscience

The human brain is, by far, the most efficient and effective information processor known to date. Understanding the brain's natural mechanisms gives us a context in which to refine our techniques. We will take a look at cutting-edge brain science, like the Pattern Recognition Theory of Mind, to gain perspective and insight on our learning strategies.

There has recently been a lot of research done on the qualities of a successful learning environment. By extrapolating trends from this data we can further hone our skills. Here we are interested in determining what it is that makes different methods more or less successful. 

A Model of Learning

Finally, we will put it all together in a robust and adaptable systematic procedure for learning. You will become intimately familiar with the inner workings of the model, and a result you will naturally and automatically apply the revised learning process.

Full Schedule 

  • Module 1: The Qualities of Learning
    • Learning How to Learn
    • Biologically Evolved Learning Machines
    • What Learning Means
    • The Exponential Nature of Learning and How We Forget
    • Making Information Memorable
  • Module 2: The Art of Learning 
    • The Ancient Art of Memory
    • Basic Mnemonics & The Major System
    • Mind Maps & Visual Organization
    • The Method of Loci & Building Effective Memory Palaces
    • Encoding and Decoding Information
    • Imagination, Creativity, and Intuition
  • Module 3: The Science of Learning 
    • Memory Mechanisms and the Pattern Recognition Theory of Mind
    • Working (Short-Term) Memory
    • Episodic and Semantic (Long-Term) Memory
    • Information Hibernation
    • Sleep and Consolidating Memory
    • Choosing What We Want to Remember
    • How Your Brain Works and Changes
    • Neural Networks, Hierarchical Hidden Markov Models, and Mapping Memory
  • Module 4: A Model of Learning 
    • Creating Achievable Learning Goals
    • Mental State and Context
    • Strategic Learning
    • Enlisting the Aid of Technology
    • Practice and Recall Review
    • The Revised Learning Process
  • Module 5: Other Topics in Learning 
    • Curiosity and the Learning Environment 
    • Effectiveness of Childhood Learning
    • The Road to Higher Cognition
    • Meditation and States of Consciousness
    • Final Thoughts

Stuff You Gotta Do (AKA Requirements and Evaluation) 

This is going to be different from every other class you've ever taken. Our mission is to empower students to become to kinds learners and people they ultimately want to be. Becoming a better learner is a process, and it requires taking on a whole new perspective. You will get out of this class what you are willing to put in. These assignments are not designed to evaluate you, but rather as part of the process, providing you with a framework to practice the skills you learn.

Now, you may say that's fine and dandy, but it's still more work! But it doesn't have to be. If you're worried about all the work you have to do, then this class is exactly what you need. Not only will you learn how to plan you work schedule more effectively, but you can double-dip by applying these skills to classes you're already taking!

Students who do not complete the assignments will not receive the full benefit of the course. A passing grade will achieve a minimum of 70%.

  • Theoretical Component (20%): Students will write two short papers (each worth 15%) that will demonstrate understanding and mastery of the conceptual aspects of the course.

    Paper 1 (Imagination): What is imagination and what role does it play in the learning process?

    Paper 2 (Education): How could you integrate these techniques into education curriculum?

  • Practical Component (60%): Students will be required to submit progress reports (a couple of paragraphs every couple of weeks) for a project that demonstrates an effort to use and practice the skills learned throughout the course.

    Project: Decide on a long-term goal to which you can apply the skills you’ve learned and keep a record/journal of your progress.

    The aim of this project is to get you used to your new skills because they are useless without practice. Keeping a record will force you to think critically about the metal steps you take along the journey and allow you to monitor your progress. Some example projects might be

    • Learning foreign language vocabulary
    • Memorizing a book of poems
    • Understanding material for another class you’re taking
  • Collaborative Component (20%): Students will participate in class discussions and workshop (group) activities.

    Many of the principles we will learn in this class are very general and can be broadly applied. To make these ideas more concrete, we will participate in discussions and activities that will allow students to share experiences and ideas with one another.

The Real Deal

This is a course that will give you the skills to liberate your untapped potential. No matter what you're doing now, something in this class will help you improve the way you learn. Being a curious, innovative, and flexible worker will make you instantly attractive to prospective employers.

Hope to see you in class!


Your friend,

- Lucas Lofaro

How to Enroll:

Ready to get started? I thought so!

Contact Lucas to find out more or ask about availability.

Otherwise, come to section Monday, February 1st and sign up after you've had a change to witness the class in action!

Should spaces fill up, we will decide on a first come, first served basis. Thanks for your interest!

Course Contact: lucasmlofaro AT

Website: (Not Yet Available)

Faculty Sponsor: Mark D'Esposito

Time & Location:

Level OneLucas Lofaro
253119 EtcheverryMW 6:30p-8p2/01started

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Course info last modified February 1, 2016. This page has been viewed 1634 times.

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