Exploring How We Learn with Monisha Pasupathi

For this episode of the Learning Revolution podcast I am very excited to talk with Dr. Monisha Pasupathi, a psychology professor at the University of Utah and star of the Teaching Company course How We Learn. In our conversation we cover some common myths about learning, talk about how well prepared we are (or aren’t) to deal with a hyper-connected, information-flooded world, and consider the role of the lecture as a form of learning delivery.

For anyone who has listened to the previous episodes with Mike Stelzner and Dave Will, this one will definitely feel more toward the learning than the business side of the learning business equation, but it covers topics that are essential for differentiating your offerings from the competition.

Play the Podcast

Listen in below or subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher Radio.

Podcast: Play in new window | Download | iTunes

Get the Show Notes

00:30: Hope you caught the last two episodes, focused on the marketing side of the equation.

1:37: Introduction of Dr. Monisha Pasupathi of the University of Utah.

2:08 – Props to Monisha’s Teaching Company course How We Learn. Was this a natural path for her, or did the Teaching Company scout her out and convince her?

3:46 – Myths about learning and how adults learn. What are some of the fundamental misunderstandings?

5:27 – How does living in such a highly-connected world impact learning? How well prepared are most people to learn effectively?

6:50 – Two things make assessing the flood of information difficult.

7:53 – We’re not as good at verifying and remembering the sources of information as we are at learning content

10:00 – Lectures, in spite of all the criticism they get these days, are actually efficient ways of helping people learn.

13:00 – We may have lost the capacity to experience lectures as interactive.

Book Excerpt

Here’s a quote from Monisha that I used in Leading the Learning Revolution:

Good lectures can take people through an expert’s thought process in a way that doesn’t happen when you’re very interactive. They are really organized, really structured, and really digestible ways to get quite a bit of information in a relatively short time. To acquire the same level of learning from interactive models often will require considerably more time. It often takes considerably more expertise on the part of the teacher or the instructor, because you have to know how to get a group of non-expert people from Point A to Point B. You have to know where they typically hit a wall in their understanding; what kinds of misconceptions they bring to the table.

The other thought I always have when people talk about being more interactive is that we may have lost the capacity to experience lectures as interactive. I remember a really interesting experience I had in Germany where I went to a talk, and it was given in German. And my German wasn’t terrific at the time, so I had a hard time pro- cessing this lecture, but what I noticed about it was that it was a very old-fashioned lecture. It was given by a professor who had been there before the wall had come down in the former Eastern Bloc, and he spoke in fully articulated sentences for something like forty minutes in beautiful, erudite German. What I think we don’t experience anymore is that kind of lengthy oration.

I suspect there was a time when we used to have better skills for this type of experience and for feeling engaged with lectures. We may be going too far into interactivity in such a way that it is actually undermining people’s skill at listening to lectures. Because it is, to some extent, something that we learn how to do, and I’d hate to see us unlearn that in favor of new instructional methods that have their own value, but also have their own flaws.

15:10 – BUT, there are certainly many boring lectures out there! What can subject matter experts do to deliver more engaging, effective lectures?

18:40 – And what about webinars? Any way to make those better? What about bringing a “storytelling” approach to it?

22:30 – What are some emerging developments Dr. Pasupathi finds really exciting in the world of learning right now?

25:56 – The attraction of being able to learn so much post-career

26:50 – Sign off

Podcast: Play in new window | Download | iTunes

The theme music for Learning Revolution is The Information Age by Anthony Fiumano, available on the Podsafe Music Network.


  1. Jeff,

    Good choice of guest. Very interesting topic. And the people they choose for those Teaching Company lectures are all top notch.

    It’s interesting how technology is giving us so many different options for teaching and learning like the Khan Academy. Ultimately I think all we can do is offer the options and help people learn more about their own best styles of learning so they can choose what works best for them off that menu.


  1. […] So here are four basic tricks given by Professor Monisha Pasupathi in How We Learn. […]

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.