1. Confusion & uncertainty — The learner finds something unclear when they first encounter it in their content
2. Mental effort — Trying to recall a word or concept requires some mental effort to use it. This is where the most powerful learning happens
3. Insight — The mental effort pays off, and the learner successfully grasps meaning using their new knowledge
4. Repetition — Each time the new word or concept is encountered it becomes easier
Your brain learns optimally when you encounter something, expend mental effort, and eventually succeed.
To ensure your mental effort results in learning, aim for just the right amount of difficulty — not too difficult that something presents an insurmountable barrier, but not so easy that you don’t learn anything new.
This is the principle called “Your level +1”.
When something is too difficult, a lack of context and meaningful connections create a barrier that results in a lot of tiring mental effort with relatively little payoff.
When something is too easy, there is no mental challenge, and you don’t learn anything.
When a resource is mostly comprehensible, all the known words and forms surrounding something new provides useful context that reduces the barrier to understanding and enables optimal learning.
Avoid doing activities that are too much of a struggle until you are able to do slightly easier ones.
If you constantly find yourself struggling without understanding, you need to find an easier activity.
Often you will struggle to recall the meaning of a word or form and will be forced to look it up. This is perfectly natural and very common.
While re-looking things up helps learning, it is not optimal. Try to find ways to prompt yourself to remember the answer.