Friday, August 18, 2017

COLTT 2017 Jill Reflection: Applying Cognitive Psychology Research to the Classroom

There were many excellent sessions to choose from at COLTT 2017. The session I attended that most resonated with my work developing courses with faculty, however, was Applying Cognitive Psychology Research to the Classroom presented by Tim van der Zee, a visiting doctoral student from the Netherlands. Tim facilitated a very engaging research-based presentation in which he shared several effective learning strategies that are based on research that tells us how the brain works.

Big takeaways from this session for me were:
  • Learning is not actual performance--can't "see" learning 
  • We all learn pretty much the same way--the idea that some people are primarily visual while others are primarily auditory is not actually the case. Variety is the key.
  • We don't know if we are actually learning 
  • All other things being equal, higher intrinsic motivation leads to higher the same time, when we perform WELL, we are more motivated intrinsically. We like success. Success begets success.
  • Learning takes effort. Rote memorization is a building block that can then serve as the foundation for deeper learning later.
Additionally, Tim shared a list of Effective Learning Strategies based on cognitive psychological research that, while not hugely surprising, were very helpful to have in one place. I plan to add these to the list of resources I review with content authors when we begin to develop a course to give them ideas for ways to weave these practices into their course content.
  1. Retrieval Practice-recalling information from memory makes you better able to recall it again later. How? Put away the materials. Practice tests. Flash cards, Write summaries not just for simple information, also complex concepts and relationships.
  2. Spaced Practice--Spacing out learning over time is more effective than massed practice.  Takes advantage of how our brain uses memory. One hour each day rather than cramming. Don't just re-read. Progress tests. Don't rehearse immediately after learning something.
  3. Interleaving--Interleaving (rearranging) different (sub)topics and concepts and practicing them in different orders. Not AAA BBB CCC, but instead ABC BCA CAB
  4. Elaboration and Concrete Examples-Enhance your understanding by connecting information to be learned with what you already know, and expand on it. How? Ask yourself questions. Make connections with what you already know. Identify similarities and differences. Give examples. Do it from memory. Interrogate yourself. Focus on similarities as well as differences.
  5. Dual Coding--Have lots of functional ways to represent the same information in different ways. Can do this as you present information and have students create them as well.  NOT an either or.
Discussion about these learning strategies comprised the bulk of what was covered in the 50 minute session, but I learned enough that I plan to follow Tim on Twitter to see what else he has to share as his research continues! 

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