Everyone who’s ever been a student can vouch for what I call the Iron Laws of Pedagogy:

First Iron Law: Students learn only a small fraction of what they’re taught.

Second Iron Law: Students remember only a small fraction of what they learn.

Third Iron Law: Most of the lessons students remember lack practical applications.

Research on Transfer of Learning strongly confirms a fourth, less obvious conclusion:

Fourth Iron Law: Even when students remember something with practical applications, they still usually fail to apply what they know… unless you explicitly tell them to do so.

If you’re tempted to yawn at these truisms, reread the Fourth Iron Law. Anyone who jumps through the hoops of formal education witnesses its multiplicative inadequacies. Yet when former students argue about education policy, most fail to apply their first-hand knowledge – precisely as the Fourth Law predicts! What do they do instead? Give in to wishful thinking and Social Desirability Bias – and hail education as the the key to the universe.

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"Most of the lessons students remember lack practical applications." Depends on what you mean by "practical". If say, economics teaches analytical thinking skills then regardless if students remember that the marginal revenue curve is twice the slope of a linear demand curve for a monopolist, is that "practical"? If econometrics at least causes you to be initially skeptical of popular reports on empirical studies, even if do not remember what heteroskedasticity is, is that "practical"?

It would be more useful to have laws about what does work. Obviously I have learned many things in my life that I can successfully apply. What was the secret there?