Brown, P. C., Roediger III, H. L., & McDaniel, M. A. (2014). Make it stick. Harvard University Press.

Review by Anthony Smothers, Registrar, Hawkeye Community College, [email protected]

Peter Brown, Henry Roediger III, and Mark McDaniel’s book, Make it Stick, is an enthralling read for all educators in higher education for two reasons. First, their decades of work on the cognitive psychology of learning effectively align with NACADA’s strategies that teach students to make the most of college. This connection can specifically be seen in the learning-centered advising chapter by Maura M. Reynolds. Second are the deeper meanings of learning techniques students, faculty, and staff gain for long-term problem solving.

The core themes throughout the book are the process of encoding information: (1) methods of taking in information; (2) consolidation of information: storage; and retrieval practice: (3) application and problem solving; which empowers students and increasing their understanding that information is critical. Roediger and McDaniel highlight that block practice, which consists of re-reading or reviewing over and over, is most effective for short-term memory. Brown explains that it takes days and weeks for learning to migrate from short-term memory to long-term memory. The science of learning is evident in the flow of the book which demonstrates different tools to teach the methodology from the authors’ research on cognitive psychology.  

The authors provide story examples of learning methods throughout the chapters and summarize for readers to draw their own conclusions.  “Remember that the most successful students are those who take charge of their own learning and follow a simple but disciplined strategy” (p. 201).  The authors give students learning methods in chapter 8 including Self-Quizzing (p. 201), Spaced Practicing (p. 203), Alternative problem solving (p. 205), Elaboration and teaching someone the material (p. 207), Generation (p. 208), Reflection (p. 209), Calibration (p. 210), and Mnemonic devices (p. 211).

The most important connection this book makes is the importance of academic advisors’ awareness of how to teach higher learning outlined in NACADA’s Academic Advising Core Competency of information component.  This book explicitly adds to the literature of past higher education learning techniques academic advisors use. For example, Chickering and Gamson developed seven principles for good practice (2000).  Angelo (1993) expanded these concepts to a “teacher’s dozen”. Baxter & King discusses students who learn best when connecting to their past experiences and self-authorship (2008). The reflective questions of appreciative advising assist in drawing out how students are studying during advising appointments (Bloom, Hudson, & He, 2008).

Many academic advisors converse with their students about how in high school they didn’t need to study and in college, there is a lot of studying. Dr. Charlie Nutt (2003), executive director of NACADA, has pointed out that academic advising may be the only one-on-one interaction a college student has at a university. Therefore, there is heightened importance for academic advisors to meet those student needs.  Academic advisors need to be aware of learning strategies, campus resources such as learning labs, tutoring, steps a student may take communicating with the professor, and experts in the field.  These elements are part of empowering students and their commitment to life-long learning as outline in NACADA’s core values.

This book is the empirical research on long-term learning through the importance of low stakes quizzing, different critical and creative thinking, and spaced learning. Until this book, advisors used professional practice from books similar to Steven Douglas’, How to Get Better Grades and Have More Fun. Make it Stick provides academic advisors with students new methods and reflective questions for higher learning and student success.


Angelo, T. (1993). “A teacher’s dozen”: Fourteen general, research-based principles for improving higher learning in our classrooms. AAHE Bulletin, 45(8), 3-7, 13.

Baxter Magolda, M., & King, P. (2008) Toward reflective conversations: An advising approach that promotes self-authorship. Peer Review, 10(1), 8-11.

Bloom, J. L., Hudson, B. L., & He, Y. (2008). The appreciative advising revolution. Champaign, IL: Stipes Publishing

Chickering, A. W., & Gamson, A. F. (2000) Development and adaptations of the seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education. In M. Svinicki (Ed), Teaching and Learning on the edge of the millennium: Building on what we have learned (pp. 75-81). San Francisco, CA; Jossey-Bass.

Douglas, S. (1985). How to Get Better Grades and Have More Fun. Peachtree City, GA: New Life Resources. ISBN 13-978-1-563999-300-7.

NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. (2017). NACADA academic advising core competencies model. Retrieved from https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Pillars/CoreCompetencies.aspx

NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. (2017). NACADA core values of academic advising. Retrieved from https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Pillars/CoreValues.aspx

Nutt, C. (2003, February). Student retention and persistence. Academic Advising Today, 26(1). Retrieved from https://nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Student-Retention-and-Persistence.aspx

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