Faculty Focus

HIGHER ED TEACHING STRATEGIES FROM MAGNA PUBLICATIONS

cognitive research

students working on a problem in class

Incorporating Principles in Cognitive Psychology to Improve Student Learning

At the 2017 STEM FIT Symposium at Washington University in St. Louis, Mark McDaniel, PhD, Professor, Psychological & Brain Sciences, co-director of CIRCLE, and co-author of Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning (2014), presented a plenary address on how research in cognitive psychology can support effective teaching practices and improve learning. Supported by laboratory and field experiments, many of the techniques McDaniel presented from the book can be applied to most academic subjects in order to promote student learning.

Henry L. Roediger, McDaniel’s co-author, previously grouped many of these same techniques into three general principles to enhance educational practice (Roediger & Pyc, 2012). Each principle offers an opportunity to consider how to incorporate research-supported practices for sustained learning. Brief summaries of the three general principles are listed below. I have also included a few examples found within the literature of how you may incorporate these principles into your teaching:

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College students sitting in classroom and feeling bored.

What’s Going on Behind the Blank Stare?

Regardless of our subject area, we’ve all had moments where some students appear to hang on every word, gobbling up our messages, images, graphs, and visuals with robust engagement. Within those very same classes, however, there will be a degree of confusion, perplexed looks, or at worst, the blank stare! In my field of anatomical education, like many other STEMM* disciplines, the almost ubiquitous use of multimedia and other increasingly complex computer visualizations is an important piece of our pedagogic tool kit for the classroom, small group, or even the one-on-one graduate-level chalk talk. Although a picture indeed does say a thousand words, the words that each person hears, or more importantly, comprehends, will vary widely.

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young prof in library

More on Evidence-Based Teaching

In last week’s post, we looked at a sample of the discipline-based evidence in support of quizzes with the goal of gaining a better understanding of what it means to say that an instructional practice is evidence-based. We are using quizzes as the example, but this type of exploration could and should be done with any number of instructional practices.

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deep learning

Learning on the Edge: Classroom Activities to Promote Deep Learning

The explosion of educational technologies in the past decade or so has led everyone to wonder whether the landscape of higher education teaching and learning will be razed and reconstructed in some new formation. But whatever changes might occur to the learning environments we construct for our students, the fundamental principles according to which human beings learn complex new skills and information will not likely undergo a massive transformation anytime soon. Fortunately, we seem to be in the midst of a flowering of new research and ideas from the learning sciences that can help ensure that whatever type of approach we take to the classroom—from traditional lecture to flipped classes—can help maximize student learning in our courses.

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Understanding Learning Styles Research and Instruments

Research on learning styles now spans four decades and occurs across a wide spectrum of disciplines, including many quite removed from psychology, the disciplinary home of many of the central concepts and theories that ground notions of learning style.

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A Brain-Friendly Environment for Learning

Thanks to new technologies of brain imaging and major breakthroughs in cognitive research, neuroscientists now know more about the functioning of the human brain than ever. This new knowledge should help us revolutionize our teaching methods, but what about those of us who can’t tell a hippocampus from a hippopotamus? As an English professor whose gray matter has frequently proved more or less impervious to scientific discourse, I decided to tackle this challenge head-on, so to speak. Here are some of my findings, along with their implications for teaching and learning…

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