Math just isn’t my forte. Maybe it’s because I work with words every day or maybe it’s just because I don’t get it.
It’s fascinating to me how brains are wired so differently. Take my three children: the boys are math and sciences whizzes and my daughter is a singer and artist. So just what makes us tick?
There are millions of resources about cognitive science so it’s easy to suffer from information overload. But a new report by nonprofit organization Deans for Impact summarizes some of the latest research on the science of learning.
The report is targeted to teachers and traditional educators, but since education is crucial to the event, meetings and nonprofit industries, “The Science of Learning” is an awesome resource.
I’ve broken down some key findings that can easily apply to those who engage in continuing education programs.
Curriculum should be well sequenced so students can build upon concepts they’ve already mastered.
Students must transfer information from the working memory to the long-term memory. How? Teachers shouldn’t do all the talking, but instead use models and examples to explain. At the same time, visual cues can help knowledge transfer, i.e. speaking while showing a graphic.
By associating meaning with material, teachers can help students retain information. For example, when teaching a course, consider asking students to answer questions about why or how something happened and share stories and examples.
While practice is important, all practice isn’t created equally. The key to long-term retention is to practice over time. Quizzes (think CEs) and self-tests are effective tools.
Teachers need to give feedback to their students, but it should be effective. What does this mean? Focus on the task, not the student; be specific and clear; and focus on improvement rather than on performance.
When students feel appreciated, they’ll learn better. So when teaching a course, it’s important to praise those who are preforming well – and those who are trying. At the same, when students feel accountable for learning, they excel. Set learning goals and help students achieve them.
In addition, engage students in tasks that allow them to monitor their own learning. Vehicles can be testing, self-testing and explanation.
Finally, when students feel they belong, confidence grows. The lesson: Create a welcoming and encouraging climate for learning. Encourage students to network and learn from each other. Small groups foster conversation. And, of course, discourage negative feedback.
Regardless of the subject, teachers should acknowledge common learning misconceptions. The Science of Learning report debunks a few:
- Students don’t have different learning styles.
- Humans don’t use only 10 percent of their brains.
- Novices and experts can’t think in the all the same ways.
In summary, Deans for Impact says, “All educators, including new teachers, should be able to connect these principles to their practical implications for the classroom (or wherever teaching and learning take place).”