A quick tip from RetrievalPractice.org’s e-newsletter today:

#1: Remember your lesson plan with a 1-minute reflection
Can’t remember how a lesson from last semester or last year went? On the bottom or back of a lesson plan, include two questions:
What went well? What should I do differently next time? 
As soon as you’re done with the lesson, take just one minute to write down a note to your future self. Stuff all your lesson plans/reflections into a folder. The next time you teach the lesson, future-you will be glad that past-you retrieved!

 

 

 
 

 

Knowing How to Study Can Mean the Difference Between Success and Failure for First-Generation Students. Here’s How Instructors Can Help. — from chronicle.com by Beth McMurtrie

Excerpts (emphasis DSC):

Some of the mistakes first-gen students make are common to undergraduates: They focus on re-reading and memorizing to absorb what they’re learning, rather than summarizing material in their own words, or quizzing themselves, which are more effective techniques. But many also carry the burden of imposter syndrome – feeling like they don’t belong in college – or simply don’t know how college works. That, says Horowitz, discourages them from seeking out their professors during office hours or heading to the tutoring center for help. As a result they may spin their wheels even more furiously as they fall behind.

Horowitz, who now works at Bard High School Early College Newark as a faculty member in chemistry, reached out to me after I wrote about the importance of helping undergraduates develop the metacognitive skills necessary to become effective learners. It turns out, she’s written a book about some of those strategies, tailored to the needs of first-generation students.

Horowitz designed the book to appeal to a mass audience of STEM faculty. “The most effective person to tell students how to study for a particular course is the instructor,” she says. “They can easily put little pointers in their classroom about how students should be studying. I believe that could be revolutionary for first-generation college students.”

Horowitz suggests putting study tips into the syllabus and then reviewing them in class. 

Explain how to use problem sets effectively.

In reading-oriented classes, she recommends that, after reading each chapter, students write a single paragraph that synthesizes and summarizes the material. And on tests she often lists the amount of time students should spend on each problem.

Reach out, she says. It will pay off for both of you.

“For most of them it’s a big sense of relief that they’re having a conversation with you,” she says. “Most have been suffering in silence for a long time.”

 

This is likely the No. 1 thing affecting your job performance — from fastcompany.com by Art Markman
Hint: It all starts with figuring out what you don’t know.

Excerpts:

Learning on the job is probably the single most important factor driving your performance at work. You won’t know everything you need to about your job when you’re hired, no matter how good your education is or how much experience you had in previous positions. The road to learning starts with a willingness to admit what you don’t know and an interest in learning new things.

The ability to know what you know and what you don’t know is called metacognition—that is, the process of thinking about your thinking. Your cognitive brain has a sophisticated ability to assess what you do and don’t know. You use several sources of information to make this judgment.

One important social aspect of the Dunning-Kruger effect is that it often leads to tension between younger employees and the firms they work for. People who don’t really understand what skills are required for success in a particular domain may overestimate their own abilities and minimize their perception of the gap between themselves and more senior members of a firm. As a result, they won’t understand why they aren’t being promoted faster and will quickly get frustrated in the early stages of their career. The more you appreciate everything involved in expert performance, the more patient you can be with your own development.

 

After you get the hang of a new position, be strategic about what you learn. You probably need a wider range of expertise than you think. Solving hard problems at work requires drawing not just on expertise from within the domain of your work, but also on knowledge about other areas that may not have seemed relevant at first.

 

 

Four research-based strategies every teacher should be using — from cultofpedagogy.com  by Jennifer Gonzalez

Excerpt (emphasis DSC):

[Per Jennifer] Cognitive scientist Pooja Agarwal and K-12 teacher Patrice Bain have collaborated on a new book, Powerful Teaching: Unleash the Science of Learning. In the book, they go into detail about what it looks like when we actually apply four research-based “Power Tools” in the classroom: retrieval practice, spaced practice, interleaving, and feedback-driven metacognition—which is one we haven’t covered at all on this podcast. Today I’m going to talk with Pooja and Patrice about these strategies, the research behind why they work, and some ways you can start using them right away in your instruction.

 

Instead of assigning homework to give students practice with course material, give mini-quizzes at the start of each class that ask 3-5 questions about the prior day’s learning. These should either receive no grades or be given a very low point value, because the goal of these is to reinforce the learning, not measure or grade student work. 

In her social studies classroom, Bain used to assign homework most nights, and found that not only was she spending up to two hours a night grading it, it also was doing nothing to help students retain information.

 

 

 

Recommended books from RetrievalPractice.org
Check out our recommended books and reports that describe research on the science of learning and provide practical tips for classroom teaching.

 

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…plus several others

 

 

5 Research-Backed Studying Techniques — from edutopia.org by Edward Kang
Teachers can guide students to avoid ineffective studying habits in favor of ones that will increase their learning outcomes.

Excerpts:

Ineffective techniques include:

  • Studying for long periods of time
  • Studying a single subject for a long period of time and repeating phrases over and over to memorize them (known as massed practice)
  • Reviewing one topic repeatedly before moving onto another topic (blocked practice)
  • Reading and rereading a text
  • Highlighting or underlining important concepts in a text and then reviewing
  • Reviewing notes

The book Make It Stick identifies several research-proven studying techniques.

  1. Pre-test
  2. Spaced practice
  3. Self-quizzing
  4. Interleaving practice
  5. Paraphrasing and reflecting
 

From DSC:
Through the years, my mom was an incredible person — in a variety of ways. She was a wonderful mother to us, as well as a spouse to my dad. But she was also a wonderful daughter, aunt, grandma, friend, teacher, counselor, investor, and more. She was a philosophical, deep thinker and a person of action — often doing several things at a time (from the moment that she woke up until the time that she finally called it quits at the end of a long day). Amongst other things, she was an incredible musician. After graduating from college, my mom taught classical piano (to kindergarten through 12th graders) decade after decade…well into her 70’s.

But then, like her mom, she developed Alzheimer’s Disease and as things go with Alzheimer’s, things got progressively worse. Fast forward to today, and her short-term memory is now completely gone and the person who she once was continues to increasingly leave us. She lives with my dad in a memory care unit. (My dad has also experienced physical and cognitive decline…though not nearly as much as my mom.)  My mom will ask you the same question many times over, as she can’t remember asking you the question before and she can’t recall your answer (for but a moment). She still recognizes us — though for how much longer that will be the case, we’re not sure. She doesn’t use our names nearly as much as she used to.

Below is a picture of my mom at her memory care unit…and, by the way, she didn’t recall that the piano that she was playing on was actually the exact same piano that she used for years to teach kids how to play classical piano.

 

Mom at the piano - 1

All that said — and as you can tell from watching the video below — she can STILL:

  • Sight read music (i.e., recognize notes, rhythms, dynamics, etc.) 
  • Play songs she remembers from long ago
  • Sing along to songs/hymns from years ago
  • Recognize and/or recall many of the lyrics from songs that she once knew

Wow!

The human mind is absolutely incredible to me! Scary and tragic when it stops working as it once did — but incredible nevertheless.

Glory to GOD in the highest! 

 

 

Also see:

Facts and figures regarding Alzheimers

 

 

 
 

The Lesson You Never Got Taught in School: How to Learn! — from bigthink.com by Simon Oxenham (from 2/15/13)
Psychological Science in the Public Interest evaluated ten techniques for improving learning, ranging from mnemonics to highlighting and came to some surprising conclusions.

 

Excerpts:

Practice Testing (Rating = High)
This is where things get interesting; testing is often seen as a necessary evil of education. Traditionally, testing consists of rare but massively important ‘high stakes’ assessments. There is however, an extensive literature demonstrating the benefits of testing for learning – but importantly, it does not seem necessary that testing is in the format of ‘high stakes’ assessments. All testing including ‘low stakes’ practice testing seems to result in benefits. Unlike many of the other techniques mentioned, the benefits of practice testing are not modest – studies have found that a practice test can double free recall!

Distributed Practice (Rating = High)
Have you ever wondered whether it is best to do your studying in large chunks or divide your studying over a period of time? Research has found that the optimal level of distribution of sessions for learning is 10-20% of the length of time that something needs to be remembered. So if you want to remember something for a year you should study at least every month, if you want to remember something for five years you should space your learning every six to twelve months. If you want to remember something for a week you should space your learning 12-24 hours apart. It does seem however that the distributed-practice effect may work best when processing information deeply – so for best results you might want to try a distributed practice and self-testing combo.

 

Also see:

 

 

 

 

Per Willingham (emphasis DSC):

  • Rereading is a terribly ineffective strategy. The best strategy–by far — is to self-test — which is the 9th most popular strategy out of 11 in this study.  Self-testing leads to better memory even compared to concept mapping (Karpicke & Blunt, 2011).

 

Three Takeaways from Becoming An Effective Learner:

  • Boser says that the idea that people have different learning styles, such as visual learning or verbal learning, has little scientific evidence to support it.
  • According to Boser, teachers and parents should praise their kids’ ability and effort, instead of telling them they’re smart. “When we tell people they are smart, we give them… a ‘fixed mindset,’” says Boser.
  • If you are learning piano – or anything, really – the best way to learn is to practice different composers’ work. “Mixing up your practices is far more effective,” says Boser.

 

Cumulative exams aren’t the same as spacing and interleaving. Here’s why. — from  retrievalpractice.org

Excerpts (emphasis DSC):

Our recommendations to make cumulative exams more powerful with small tweaks for you and your students:

  • Cumulative exams are good, but encourage even more spacing and discourage cramming with cumulative mini-quizzes throughout the semester, not just as an end-of-semester exam.
  • Be sure that cumulative mini-quizzes, activities, and exams include similar concepts that require careful discrimination from students, not simply related topics.
  • Make sure you are using spacing and interleaving as learning strategies and instructional strategies throughout the semester, not simply as part of assessments and cumulative exams.

Bottom line: Just because an exam is cumulative does not mean it automatically involves spacing or interleaving. Be mindful of relationships across exam content, as well as whether students are spacing their study throughout the semester or simply cramming before an exam – cumulative or otherwise.

 


From DSC:
We, like The Learning Scientists encourages us to do and even provides their own posters, should have posters with these tips on them throughout every single school and library in the country. The posters each have a different practice such as:

  • Spaced practice
  • Retrieval practice
  • Elaboration
  • Interleaving
  • Concrete examples
  • Dual coding

That said, I could see how all of that information could/would be overwhelming to some students and/or the more technical terms could bore them or fly over their heads. So perhaps we could boil down the information to feature excerpts from the top sections only that put the concepts into easier to digest words such as:

  • Practice bringing information to mind
  • Switch between ideas while you study
  • Combine words and visuals
  • Etc. 

 

Learn how to study using these practices

 

 

 

 

From DSC:
This is where the quizzing features/tools within a Learning Management System such as Canvas, Moodle, Blackboard Learn, etc. are so valuable. They provide students with opportunities for low-stakes (or no-stakes) practice in retrieving information and to see if they are understanding things or not. Doing such formative assessments along the way can point out areas where they need further practice, as well as areas where the students are understanding things well (and only need an occasional question or two on that item in order to reduce the effects of the forgetting curve).

 

 

 

 

Why giving kids a roadmap to their brain can make learning easier — from edsurge.com by Megan Nellis

Excerpts:

Learning, Down to a Science
Metacognition. Neuroplasticity. Retrieval Practice. Amygdala. These aren’t the normal words you’d expect to hear in a 15-year-old rural South African’s vocabulary. Here, though, it’s common talk. And why shouldn’t it be? Over the years, we’ve found youth are innately hungry to learn about the inner workings of their mind—where, why and how learning, thinking and decision-making happens. So, we teach them cognitive science.

Over the next three years, we teach students about the software and hardware of the brain. From Carol Dweck’s online Brainology curriculum, they learn about growth mindset, memory and mnemonics, the neural infrastructure of the brain. They learn how stress impacts learning and about neuroplasticity—or how the brain learns. From David Eagleman and Dan Siegel, they learn about the changing landscape of the adolescent brain and how novelty, emotionality and peer relationships aid in learning.

Pulling from books such as Make It Stick and How We Learn, we pointedly teach students about the science behind retrieval practice, metacognition and other strategies. We expressly use them in our classes so students see and experience the direct impact, and we also dedicate a whole class in our program for students to practice applying these strategies toward their own academic learning from school.

 

 

 
 

From DSC:
With thanks going out to Nelson Miller, Associate Dean at WMU-Cooley Law School, a Professor of Law, and an author of many of his own books…below are some of my notes and reflections on the following article:


B. Teaching Metacognition in the Classroom


Because preparation and planning are vital to learning, law professors should set clear learning goals at the beginning of the semester and at the beginning of each unit and hand them out to the students, so that the students know what they are expected to learn in the class and to help them set their own goals for the class. (p. 14 of 61)

There are three criteria for creating goals (Insert from DC: i.e., learning objectives): 

  1. “the terminal behavior, or what the learner must be able to do by the end of instruction,”
  2. the conditions of demonstration, or the circumstances under which the learner must be able to perform the terminal behavior,” and
  3. “the standards or criteria, or how well the learner must be able to perform the objective for the instructor to conclude that the learner has met it.”

Goals for a doctrinal class should include substantive, skills (process), and professionalism goals

Teachers need to teach metacognitive skills explicitly. As one author has stated, “[i]f the knowledge is never shared through discussion, modeling, or explicit instruction, it is difficult for students to learn.” Moreover, being explicit about the learning process is a key to creating a learning self-identity. Knowledge of metacognitive strategies, such as those for memorization, studying, and reading, makes students more likely to use them, especially if they are told that such strategies will improve their performance and grades. (p. 15)

Professors should say out loud their thinking process when working sample problemsModeling of strategies”–talking out loud about the steps the teacher uses when solving a particular problem–helps students develop metacognitive process skills (mental apps) by providing models. When students are given a problem to solve they generally focus on task completion, rather than the problem-solving process. Consequently, they will usually adopt a trial and error approach, rather than the process the teacher wants them to employ. Modeling of strategies helps solve this problem. Similarly, telling the students why the professor is employing a particular strategy helps conditional metacognition. After giving the demonstration, the professor should also ask questions that determine whether the students understood the processes for coming up with the answers (the problem-solving strategies). Teachers should also help students create strategies for solving ill-defined problems. In sum, the teacher should demonstrate a sample problem’s thinking process in detail, explain why the teacher used that process, have students do similar problems, then give student’s feedback on their problem-solving skills. (p. 18)

An example of scaffolding is partially filling out a diagram, then letting the students finish it (the partial outline approach). Another one is giving students leading questions before they read a case. (p. 19)

Professors should teach their students how to listen in class. Active listening aids learning, while passive listening often results in little retention. Students should think about what they are hearing in class. How does the material relate to my prior knowledge? What is important and what is less important? How can I use this material later? Where would I put this material in an outline? Students should also critically evaluate what the professor is saying. Do I agree? Is there an alternative argument? What are the implications of this argument? Similarly, professors should teach students effective note taking. (p. 20)

Law professors should also help students with study strategies. Deciding what items to study, how to allocate study time, and what study strategies to use are types of metacognitive control. (p. 22)

Professors should help students use study strategies that reinforce long-term memory and create connections between concepts, processes, declarative knowledge, etc. One way of doing this is through repetition,

Experts advise at least four repetitions of material each at least once within a day for retention.

Professors should help their students develop reading strategies. Engaged teachers help their students extract meaning and comprehension from cases, rather than just producing empty briefs. (p. 23)

 


E. Using Formative Assessment to Develop Metacognition 

Well-designed formative assessments–assessments within the learning (during the semester)–that are related to course goals also aid in learning metacognition. This is because formative assessments force students to think about their thinking. As one scholar has asserted, “[a]ssessment methods and requirements probably have a greater influence on how and what students learn than any other single factor.” As one legal educator has noted, “[f]ormative assessment . . . is designed to provide feedback and guide students to improve and learn further, based on feedback that enhances their capacity to build on what they know and address areas of misunderstanding.” As a group of researchers have pointed out, “[i]f the assessments reflect the contexts in which the knowledge is to be used, this is nothing more than practice.

Under the “testing effect,” “learning and memory for material is improved when time is spent taking a test on the material, versus spending the same amount of time restudying the material” because testing engages students in the subject matter. Also, testing uses retrieval, which as stated above, helps long-term retention. In addition, students retain more if they get feedback on their assessment because without feedback students don’t why they’ve made mistakes. Similarly, students who receive feedback are generally more engagedmore positive about law school, and spend more time studying than those who do not receive feedback. In addition, feedback about process is generally more useful than feedback about product. (p. 32)

There are many different kinds of formative assessments, including writing assignments, problem-solving exercises, multiple choice tests, observations, and [daily/weekly quizzes]. For instance, a professor could give the students a problem-solving exercise at the end of a unit to do at home, then go over that exercise in class. Likewise, the professor could give the students a take-home multiple choice test that could be graded by a teaching assistant. Similarly, the professor could give the students a complaint, a corporate document, or a lease and have the students find errors. Finally, the students could draft a contract clause after the unit concerning that clause. (p. 33)

The general criteria for designing effective formative assessments are:

  1. formulate learning objectives and performance standards; publicize them to the students
  2. design the assessment tool
  3. design instruction and activities to enable the students to learn what they need to fulfill the assessment task
  4. provide feedback/discussion — the teacher and student must discuss and use the results of the assessment measure to further promote learning and teaching

As one scholar has noted, “students learn more effectively when their teachers provide them with the criteria by which they are evaluated.” One way of doing this is through rubrics–“sets of detailed written criteria used to assess student performance.”  (p.34)

[R]ubrics are an attempt to break the grade down into a series of scores that pertain to various aspects of the assignment.” Rubrics identify how a student performed on a particular task, skill, or area. They include both characteristics and levels of quality. They can be a scoring rubric, an instructional rubric, or both. Rubrics should be related to the teacher’s goals for the class. They can employ grades, numbers, or categories.

 


“Successful students take charge of their own learning.”


 

From DSC:
My concern with this great article is that it’s a lot of valuable information to take in all at once — let alone try to act upon that information!  I’ve only touched upon a subset of the items within that article. As such, it’s too much information for faculty members and instructional designers to remember and to act upon – as a whole. 

This is why I’m such a fan of blogging and chunking valuable information up into much smaller pieces — then sending out such information piece by piece, where it’s much easier to digest and act upon.

 


 

 

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