Rewire Your Brain

for Learning, a course by Barbara Oakley.

Barbara Oakley

Barbara Oakley

Oakland University Professor & Author of 'Mindshift'

  • Overview
  • Episodes
  • Recommended for you


Unfortunately, our brains don’t come with a user manual. If they did, it would tell us that our hard-wiring is often at odds with our best-laid plans when it comes to learning new skills or changing old habits. In this masterclass, Barbara Oakley, instructor of the internet’s most popular MOOC, teaches you strategies for improving your learning skills. Based on cutting-edge neuroscience and cognitive science, this is your toolkit for achieving breakthroughs and mastery in any area.

What You'll Learn

  • How to activate your neural networks

  • How to overcome laziness and boost productivity

  • How to learn and master a skill

  • How to pursue second-skilling

  • How to think innovatively

This image was originally posted by John Meiu and the image has been changed. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.


7 Episodes

1. Activate Your Neural Networks


Unfortunately, our brains don’t come with a user manual. If they did, one of the first things it would mention is that we have two basic modes of information processing. Two completely different neural networks for thinking about things. Knowing how these work, what each is especially good for, and how to switch between them is essential knowledge for problem solving and learning every day of your working life.

2. Boost Productivity with the Pomodoro Technique


It seems like a century ago that “Minesweeper”—the desktop videogame about avoiding mines—was the universal symbol for procrastination. As of this writing, we have Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, shopping apps, and a thousand other options for that moment when our brain tires of whatever it happens to be working on. The mind does need distractions, but if we’re not careful it’s easy to fritter away an entire workday, working at such an excruciatingly slow pace that we end up exhausted in spi...

3. Create & Select Neural Patterns to Develop Mastery


Mastery is the ability to perform at a high level in a given area, fairly consistently even under changing conditions or when facing novel challenges. Experts “make it look easy.” But how exactly do they manage this, given that expertise isn’t about doing the same exact thing over and over again mechanically? The secret lies in what cognitive science calls “chunking”—the building of strong and flexible neural patterns attuned to specific kinds of challenges.

4. Get Unstuck from a Thinking Rut


Beware of the einstellung! No, it is not a mythical Bavarian monster. Einstellung (EIN-shtell-ung) is something much more prosaic and universally human: the tendency to get stuck in a mental rut. For all of its marvels, the human mind is notoriously lazy—reluctant to use energy except when absolutely necessary. As children, we explore every possibility, but as we grow, we develop routinized ways of handling most challenges and the alternative neural pathways die off. This can free up mental ene...

5. Pursue Second-Skilling to Promote Career Resiliency


The volatility of today’s job market is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, change can be scary and painful. On the other hand, nothing lights up the human brain like a new learning challenge. A volatile world necessitates “second-skilling”, the deep pursuit of at least one major skill beyond what your current work demands. This necessity can unlock your full potential in ways unimaginable to the previous generation. And the growth of online learning makes it possible to develop many—mayb...

6. Onboard New Concepts with Metaphor


One of the unique mental capacities of our species seems to be the ability to think symbolically and metaphorically. It’s why we have language—a series of sounds and symbols that stand for things, actions, emotions, ideas…. And it’s what makes us so inventive—this capacity to take divergent elements and reassemble them in novel ways.

7. Dismiss Your Learning Myths


If you’re a human—and if you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you are—then your brain is a learning machine. It’s wired to problem-solve and learn new skills throughout your lifespan. But because brains differ, learners have a tendency to compare themselves to one another and find themselves wanting. To avoid this trap, it’s important to recognize common learning myths and how to see through them.

Supplemental Materials

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