Four principles of learning and the implications for college teaching

Using Brief Interventions to Maximize Student Learning

It’s a given that instructors have mastered the material they teach. It’s always been an essential part of the job. In some cases, it was the only thing that mattered. Things, however, are changing.

The shift toward student-centered learning has transformed our classrooms, and it’s no longer enough to be a subject-matter expert. Instructors have to not only know the material their students need to learn, but they also have to have a reasonably good grasp of how students learn it. The task is to master both, because that’s when the real learning magic happens.

That’s the idea behind cognitive theory and its application in higher education. Learn how to apply relevant aspects of cognitive theory to your courses by attending Using Brief Interventions to Maximize Student Learning. In this Magna Online Seminar you will learn what works, why it works, and how to work it into your courses—all within one seminar.

Topics Covered

Academic research is showing that you can create a more successful learning environment when you understand and apply the basics of cognitive theory. Much of the related scholarship has emerged in the past six years, and the applications to college and university teaching are just now making it into the classroom. Fortunately, you don’t have to wait for these powerful new ideas to make it to the mainstream. You can learn the relevant principles of cognitive theory and learn how to apply them to your courses right away.

Led by James M. Lang, PhD, associate professor of English and the director of the Center for Teaching Excellence at Assumption College, this seminar will show you how to:

  • Prompt students to predict outcomes, solutions, or ideas before those concepts are fully explained or presented through course materials
  • Have students self-explain (e.g., what your high school geometry teacher meant when she asked you to “show your work”) when they are solving problems, writing, making interpretations, or doing any other cognitive work in a discipline
  • Incorporate into class periods frequent opportunities for students to retrieve course content from memory
  • Ask students to generate their own meanings of course material they are studying
  • Help students create connections between course materials and the world beyond the classroom

In just 60 minutes, this seminar will prepare you to make small additions or adjustments to your current courses and see immediate gains in student learning. More specifically, after this seminar you will:

  • Understand five fundamental principles of human learning (predicting, self-explaining, retrieving, generating, and connecting) and recognize their implications for college teaching
  • Know how to create brief learning interventions that stem from each of these five principles and incorporate the interventions into your current courses
  • Be able to design new or redesign existing lesson plans that create organic opportunities for cognitive-based interventions

In addition, this seminar will use short activities that demonstrate the instructional principles it presents. You will predict outcomes, self-explain your thinking, retrieve related content from memory, and connect seminar materials to your own courses. You’ll be applying what you’re learning while you’re learning it.

Cost & Availability

This seminar is now available as a CD/transcript package, which includes a recording of the video presentation, handouts, and the complete transcript.
An optional Campus Access License is available for an additional $200. It allows the purchasing institution to upload the CD of the seminar onto the institution’s password-protected internal website for unlimited access by the entire campus community.

Intended Audience

Many instructors already employ teaching strategies based on the cognitive principles explored in this seminar, but they may not realize why those tactics are so effective. This seminar will provide a framework for our understanding of the power of these activities. Once you know why these approaches work, you can refine them to make them even more effective or tailor them more directly to your courses and your students.

Anyone who wants to maximize the efficacy of what they’re already doing or who wants to adopt new strategies to make their teaching even more effective would benefit from this seminar. These concepts apply whether you lecture or flip your classes no matter where you teach. They work just as well in online programs as they do on campus at a large public research university, a small private liberal arts school, or a diverse urban community college.

Using Brief Interventions to Maximize Student Learning will be particularly useful for the following:

  • Faculty at all levels in all disciplines
  • Adjunct faculty
  • Graduate teaching assistants
  • Department chairs
  • Instructional designers
  • Center for teaching and learning staff

If you have any questions contact Customer Service at 800-433-0499 or (608) 246-3590 or email us at

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