Interview with William R. Klemm

What was school like for you when you were a kid?
Remember those kids in grade school who always shot up their hands when the teacher asked a question? Those kids always seemed to have the answers. They thought they were so smart - and you and I thought so too.

In the seventh grade, this finally stuck in my craw. I felt like the 90-pound weakling who got sand kicked in his face at the beach. The shame was compounded by the fact that my nemesis was a girl! Not surprisingly, the oh-so-smart girl was the teacher’s pet,. Worse yet, I had a crush on the teacher, and I wanted to be the pet. That began my life-long interest in learning to learn.

The next motivation came from learning about memory tricks from the Dale Carnegie leadership course. When I was in high school, my dad was a recruiter for the course. He got me into the course, and I learned the memory tricks that were a part of the course. I was pretty good at it, and they decided to make me a showpiece to help them pitch their memory training at the customer recruiting meetings. At the start of the meeting, they would tell the audience: "Here is the latest issue of Life magazine. Billy Klemm is a 16-year-old who has taken the course and he will demonstrate to you the powerful memory techniques that are a part of this course. Thirty minutes from now, Billy will memorize this magazine. He has never seen it. Yet he will be able to tell you what every page is about, in any order. Or, you can tell him what is on a given page, and he will tell you the page number." Sure enough, after 30 minutes, I had memorized the gist of the magazine (and I had NOT seen it before). The audience was astonished that I could tell them what was on each page or could tell them the page number of any page that they described to me. That's heady stuff for a 16-year-old. It certainly motivated me to care about memory.
How did you approach learning tasks in college?
In high school, I decided to become a veterinarian. Back then, getting into veterinary school was very competitive. There were only 19 schools in the whole country and they all had smaller classes than they do now. The only veterinary college I could go to without paying out-of-state tuition was Auburn, which had a contract to take only 10 students from each of the states surrounding Alabama. So to get into veterinary school, I had to be in the top 10 from my home state of Tennessee. I relied on my memory skills to be the top applicant, assuring my admission. As an example of how memory skills helped me, I was stumbling in calculus, going into the final exam with an F. My problem was that I was trying to understand calculus. Finally, I gave up on understanding and just decided to memorize all the formulas and the situations to which they applied. On the final exam I made 100. The prof said, "Billy, I know you did not cheat. I watched you like a hawk, because I knew you were desperate to salvage that F grade. How in the world did you do it?"

Later, as a veterinary student, I discovered just how difficult that curriculum is. There is SO much to memorize. Veterinary students take all the standard medical courses (anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, microbiology, pathology, public health, etc.) and in addition take surgery and medicine courses in both large and small animal species. They have to learn about multiple species, each of which has unique biology, diseases and treatments. Well, my memory skills paid off, allowing me to graduate 5th in my class while at the same time being a weekly columnist for our national award-winning university newspaper and being active in campus politics – and enjoying courting my wife-to-be, Doris.
What have you learned about learning and memory as a professional?
A few years later, I began my career as a professor. Over my 47 years as a professor (I still am one), I have had ample opportunity to observe student performance, good and bad. Not many years had to pass before I realized that the biggest problem that most students had was with poor learning and memory skills. Time and again, students would complain about how hard they worked, without seeing corresponding good results on tests. They taught me many lessons about what NOT to do in studying. Even as a college student, I was so struck by the ineffective learning attempts by many fellow students that I wrote a pamphlet on how to make good grades that was distributed by the fraternities and sororities.

At least half of my time as a professor was spent in research, and my area was brain research. Inevitably, some of my research involved learning and memory functions of the brain, ranging from consolidation of short-term memories to what happens to brain electrical activity during memory recall. As a result, I have been scouring the learning and memory research literature for years for ideas that have practical application for students. Those ideas are in this book.
Published 2013-08-31.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Core Ideas in Neuroscience
Price: $9.95 USD. Words: 110,470. Language: English. Published: December 22, 2013. Category: Nonfiction » Science and Nature » Biology
Everybody needs to know something about their brain. But who wants to wade through a tedious textbook that tells you far more than you want to know? This book is organized as modules explaining the basic principles of 75 core ideas. You don’t have to wade through it. You can dance through it, easily getting up to speed on just the few ideas you may need to know about at the moment.
Better Grades, Less Effort
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 33,690. Language: English. Published: September 18, 2010. Category: Nonfiction » Education and Study Guides » Study skills
This book is for any working professional engaged in on-the-job training programs. It will also help workers master their field and become more competent — more likely to be successful. The book will have special value for students, especially those in high school or college. It will also help elementary school children, though the tips should be read and explained by the parents.
Blame Game. How To Win It
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 53,370. Language: English. Published: February 10, 2009. Category: Nonfiction » Self-improvement » Confidence and self-esteem
Acclaimed by the famous "Dr. Laura" and theologian Dr. Robert Schuller, Blame Game helps you know when you are making excuses and what to do about it. The book helps people examine their excuses place and blame where it really belongs.This book provides "debt relief" for the high cost of excuse-making. The book presents a 5-step program to move from denial and deception to deliverance.