A groundbreaking look at the science of learning—how it's transforming education and how we can use it to discover our true potential, as individuals and across society by a renowned MIT professor
As the head of Open Learning at MIT, Sanjay Sarma has a daunting job description: to fling open the doors of the MIT experience for the benefit of the wider world. But if you're going to undertake such an ambitious project, it behooves you to ask: How exactly does learning work? What conditions are most conducive? Are our traditional classroom methods—lecture, homework, test, repeat—actually effective? And if not, which techniques are?
Grasp takes readers across multiple frontiers, from fundamental neuroscience to cognitive psychology and beyond, as it explores the future of learning. Some of its findings:
• Scientists are studying the role of forgetting, exposing it not as a simple failure of memory but a critical weapon in our learning arsenal. • New developments in neuroimaging are helping us understand how reading works in the brain. It's become possible to identify children who might benefit from specialized dyslexia interventions—before they learn to read. • Many schools have begun converting to flipped classrooms, in which you watch a lesson at home, then do your 'homework' in class. Through such bold instructional changes, MIT has eliminated the gender performance gap in its introductory physics courses. • By structuring its curriculum to better incorporate cutting-edge learning strategies, one law school in Florida has rocketed to the top of its state in bar exam passage rates.
Along the way, Sarma debunks long-held views (such as the noxious idea of "learning styles"), while equipping readers with a set of practical tools for absorbing and retaining information across a lifetime. He presents a vision for learning that's more inclusive and democratic—revealing a world bursting with powerful learners, just waiting for the chance they deserve.
Drawing from the author's experience as an educator and the work of researchers and educational innovators at MIT and beyond, Grasp offers scientific and practical insight, promising not just to inform and entertain readers but to open their minds.
About the Author
SANJAY SARMA is the head of Open Learning at MIT. A professor of mechanical engineering by training, he has worked in the fields of energy and transportation; computational geometry; computer assisted design; and has been a pioneer in RFID technology. He has an undergraduate degree from IIT Kanpur as well as advanced degrees from Carnegie Mellon and UC Berkeley.
LUKE YOQUINTO is a science writer who covers learning and education, as well as aging and demographic change in his role as a researcher at the MIT AgeLab. His work can be found in publications such as The Washington Post, Slate, The Wall Street Journal, and The Atlantic. He is a graduate of Boston University's science journalism program.
“Compelling...Delightful as well as convincing in its plea that educators place learning over winnowing and access over exclusivity.” —Kirkus (starred review)
“A remarkable book, both lively and scholarly. I strongly recommend it for anyone interested in the history of ideas about learning and who is interested in improving teaching and learning.” —Henry L. Roediger, III, coauthor of Make it Stick
“An amazing book… The authors provide an overview of the neural and cognitive processes that support learning…They make a convincing case that students have an amazing capacity to learn.” —Robert A. Bjork, Distinguished Research Professor of Psychology, UCLA