I very much enjoyed this longer essay from Andy Matuschak on people truly learn. He makes the case that lectures do not work for the transfer of knowledge.
Lectures, as a medium, have no carefully-considered cognitive model at their foundation. Yet if we were aliens observing typical lectures from afar, we might notice the implicit model they appear to share: “the lecturer says words describing an idea; the class hears the words and maybe scribbles in a notebook; then the class understands the idea.” In learning sciences, we call this model “transmissionism.” It’s the notion that knowledge can be directly transmitted from teacher to student, like transcribing text from one page onto another. If only!
And he goes on to describe how books suffer from the same implicit assumption:
Like lectures, books have no carefully-considered cognitive model at their foundation, but the medium does have an implicit model. And like lectures, that model is transmissionism. Sequences of words in sequences of lines in sequences of pages, the form of a book suggests people absorb knowledge by reading sentences. In caricature: “The author describes an idea in words on the page; the reader reads the words; then the reader understands the idea. When the reader reaches the last page, they’ve finished the book.”
This is a longer read, but a good one. In the end, he makes a case for some kind of new form for reading. But along the way, he also makes the case reading in the sense that Adler does.
There is no inactive learning, just as there is no inactive reading.
If we are to understand something, we have to put effort into it. Active reading is smart note taking, it involves effort beyond simply reading the words on the page.