Strategies to Improve Student Learning

 

Extract from Issue#13 of Teaching Tuesdays@CSU

All issues of Teaching Tuesdays can be accessed through the folder at this link

By Dr Victor Benassi and Dr Maryellen Weimer

Source: https://www.magnapubs.com/magna-commons/?video=13728
(How to subscribe: Staff with a CSU email address can obtain the Magna Commons CSU subscription code from Ellen McIntyre elmcintyre@csu.edu.au)

Evidence-Based Teaching in Higher Education: Strategies to Improve Student Learning draws from “science of learning” concepts to provide teaching ideas on how to structure content and how to help students gain long-term benefits from their learning.

The presentation refers to a few key texts that will be listed below, but the main reference is a 300-page FREE download book by Professor Benassi and co-authors:

Benassi, V. A., Overson, C. E., & Hakala, C. M. (Editors). (2014). Applying science of learning in education: Infusing psychological science into the curriculum. Retrieved from the Society for the Teaching of Psychology website: http://teachpsych.org/ebooks/asle2014/index.php

SCIENCE OF LEARNING CONCEPTS

Desirable difficulties:

Creating challenges and difficulties in the short-term to promote long-term gain for recall and application. The process includes allowing student errors and incorrect explanations, followed with correct information and explanation about why. Three manipulations to introduce desirable difficulties:

  • Spacing study – distributing practice over time – both as a teaching technique and as a studying technique for students. The opposite is “massing practice”, or cramming.
  • Interleaving – intermingling of new material with previously learned topics under varied conditions. The opposite is “blocked practice” – learning an entire topic once and then moving onto the next.
  • Retrieval practice – evidence shows a more direct benefit for learning, compared to knowledge tests. Feedback is essential to ensure that errors are not perpetuated.

Techniques for learning from texts:

Examines common reading/studying techniques that we all do, but are shown to have limited effectiveness for long-term learning. These include Re-reading, Highlighting, Notetaking, Accessing the teacher’s notes or PowerPoint slides. So what does work?

  • Giving guiding questions to answer – for every text that students read, provide questions to answer based on the text – for poor readers, produces significant increase in ability to answer similar conceptual questions, limited effect on increasing performance of high performing learners.

Cognitive Load:

If we try to impart all that we know and introduce interesting and seductive details, the amount of content can be more than students can process. Techniques to manage cognitive load include

  • Chunking
  • Spacing
  • Getting rid of seductive details
  • Challenge the assumption that “more is always better”

The transcript from this session includes answers to audience questions and a list of references for further study. Example: “should students be encouraged to take notes if they are in a lecture?”

Main extra references:

Dunlosky, J., Rawson, K., Marsh, E., Nathan, M.J., Willingham, D. (2013). Improving students’ learning with effective learning techniques: promising directions from cognitive and educational psychology. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 14, 4-58.

Mayer, R. E. (2011). Applying the science of learning. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

Roediger, H. L., & Pyc, M. A. (2012). Inexpensive techniques to improve education: Applying Cognitive Psychology to enhance educational practice. Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition, 1, 242-248. – Not available in our library, but we do have a more recent publication by the same author:

Brown, P., Roediger, H., & McDaniel, M. (2014). Make It Stick: The science of successful learning. Cambridge, Massachusetts; London, England: Harvard University Press. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt6wprs3

Presentation handouts, full transcripts and supplementary resources are available for download from the Magna Commons website if you don’t have time to listen to the seminar.