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How Learning Works: Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching

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  1. How Learning Works: Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching Dr. Michele DiPietro Executive Director, Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning Kennesaw State University mdipietr@kennesaw.edu http://www.kennesaw.edu/cetl

  2. There are 26 sheep and 10 goats on a ship. How old is the captain? Adults: Unsolvable 5th graders: Over 75% attempted to provide a numerical answer. After giving the answer “36” one student explained “Well, you need to add or subtract or multiply in problems like this, and this one seemed to work best if I add.” (Bransford & Stein, ’93) Quick Problem to Solve

  3. How Learning Works • Joint work with former Carnegie Mellon colleagues Synthesis of 50 years of research • Constant determinants of learning • Principles apply cross-culturally • Translated in Chinese and Korean

  4. Agenda • Go through the 7 learning principles • Give a sense of the research behind them • Foreshadow implications for teaching

  5. 7 Learning Principles • Students’ prior knowledge can help or hinder learning. • How students organize knowledge influences how they learn and apply what they know. • Students’ motivation determines, directs, and sustains what they do to learn. • To develop mastery, students must acquire component skills, practice integrating them, and know when to apply what they have learned. • Goal-directed practice coupled with targeted feedback enhances the quality of students’ learning. • Students’ current level of development interacts with the social, emotional, and intellectual climate of the course to impact learning. • To become self-directed learners, students must learn to monitor and adjust their approaches to learning.

  6. 1. Prior Knowledge can help or hinder learning

  7. Prior knowledge can hinder learning • If it is: • Inappropriate • Insufficient • Declarative vs. Procedural knowledge • Inaccurate

  8. When the switch S is closed, do the following increase, decrease, or stay the same? The intensity of A & B The intensity of C The current drawn from the battery The voltage drop across each bulb The power dissipated in the circuit Bricks A & B are identical. The force needed to hold B in place (deeper than A) is Larger than The same as Smaller than the force required to hold A in place Some examples of inaccurate prior knowledge (misconceptions) Mazur (1996)

  9. But even if prior knowledge is correct… • Each card has a letter on one side and a number on the other. • Rule: If a card has a vowel on one side, it must have an even number on the other side. • Questions: What is the minimum number of cards that must be turned over to check whether this rule is being followed? Which cards are they? (Wason1966, 1977) A 6 J 7

  10. Reasoning Using Prior Knowledge • Each card represents a student at a bar. The age of each student is on one side and what he is drinking is on the other. • Rule: If a person is drinking a beer, then he is over 21. • Question: Which card(s) must be turned over to check whether everyone’s behavior is legal? (Griggs & Cox, 1982) 16 Coke Beer 23

  11. The moral • Prior knowledge lies inert most of the time • Prior knowledge must be activated to be useful

  12. What we owe our students • Learning environments that • Value and engage what students bring to the table • Actively confront and challenge misconceptions

  13. 2. How students organize knowledge influences how they learn and apply what they know

  14. Knowledge Organization • We all “chunk” knowledge and organize it in the brain by connecting new information to existing knowledge • The same knowledge can be organized in multiple ways • Experts have mental structures very different from novices/students

  15. Novices’ Groupings Novice 1: “These deal with blocks on an inclined plane” Novice 6: “Blocks on inclined planes with angles” Experts’ Groupings Expert 2: “Conservation of Energy” Expert 4: “These can be done from Energy considerations” How Novices & Experts Differ(Chi, Feltovich & Glaser, 1981)

  16. How Novices & Experts Differ • Experts have a higher density of connections • Experts’ structures rely on deep underlying principles • Experts have more flexible structures • These features affect memory, meaning-making, and transfer!

  17. An Example… If the balloons popped, the sound wouldn't be able to carry since everything would be too far away from the correct floor. A closed window would also prevent the sound from carrying, since most buildings tend to be well insulated. Since the whole operation depends on a steady flow of electricity, a break in the middle of the wire would also cause problems. Of course, the fellow could shout, but the human voice is not loud enough to carry that far. An additional problem is that a string could break on the instrument. Then there could be no accompaniment to the message. It is clear that the best situation would involve less distance. Then there would be fewer potential problems. With face to face contact, the least number of things could go wrong. (p. 719) Bransford & Johnson, 1972

  18. Try now  If the balloons popped, the sound wouldn't be able to carry since everything would be too far away from the correct floor. A closed window would also prevent the sound from carrying, since most buildings tend to be well insulated. Since the whole operation depends on a steady flow of electricity, a break in the middle of the wire would also cause problems. Of course, the fellow could shout, but the human voice is not loud enough to carry that far. An additional problem is that a string could break on the instrument. Then there could be no accompaniment to the message. It is clear that the best situation would involve less distance. Then there would be fewer potential problems. With face to face contact, the least number of things could go wrong. (p. 719) Bransford & Johnson, 1972

  19. What we owe our students • Learning environments that not only transmit knowledge, but • Help students organize their knowledge in productive ways • Actively monitor students’ construction of knowledge

  20. 3. Students’ motivation determines, direct, and sustains what they do to learn .

  21. Goals/Value • If students cannot find any value in what you are offering them, they won’t find motivation to do it • Student value multiple goals • Some goals are in competition

  22. Goals/Value • Rewards & Punishments • Learning • Competence • Performance approach/avoid • Social • Affective • Purpose/Integrity/Authenticity • What do students value in your fields?

  23. Expectancy • Expectancy: expectation of a successful outcome • Three main components of this positive expectation: • Outcome expectancy: beliefs that certain behaviors are causally connected to desired outcomes • Efficacy expectancy: that one has the ability to do the work necessary to succeed (self-efficacy) • Environmental expectancy: that the environment will be supportive of one’s efforts

  24. (1) Outcome expectancy • A belief that certain behaviors are causally connected to desired outcome (Vroom 1964) • Generally accepted for studying and learning • Some contested areas: • Coming to class helps learning and performance • Working in groups helps learning and performance • Others?

  25. (2) Self-efficacy and beliefs about learning • Self-efficacy: belief that one has the ability to do the work necessary to succeed (Bandura 1997). • Research studying students’ beliefs about themselves and about how learning works: • Learning is fast and easy vs. Learning is slow and effortful • You “have it” or you don’t vs. The mind is like a muscle • I’m no good at math vs. I lack experience in math • I just can’t draw vs. I could use drawing lessons • How would student behaviors be affected if they endorsed the beliefs on the left vs. the ones on the right?

  26. (3) Belief in a supportive environment • Environmental expectancy: Belief that the environment will be supportive of one’s efforts (Ford 1992) • What matters here is students’ perception: • If I do what it takes to succeed, will it work out? • Perceptions of: • Instructor’s fairness • Feasibility of the task • Instructor’s approachability/helpfulness • Team members’ ability and effort • …

  27. Effects of value, self-efficacy, & environment on motivation

  28. What we owe our students • Learning environments that • Stay up-to-date with what students value • Engage multiple goals • Build self-efficacy • Are responsive and helpful

  29. The next two principles pertain to learning skills

  30. 4. To develop mastery, students must acquire component skills, practice integrating them, and know when to apply what they have learned

  31. 5. Goal-directed practice coupled with targeted feedback enhances the quality of students’ learning

  32. “It’s not teaching that causes learning. Attempts by the learner to perform cause learning, dependent upon the quality of feedback and opportunities to use it.” --Grant Wiggins • Goals • Explicit • Before the performance • Feedback • Frequent • Timely • Constructive • Practice • Scaffolded • Zone of Proximal Development (Vygotsky 1978)

  33. An important caveat • The Stroop Effect (1935) XXXX XXXX XXXX XXXX XXXX XXXX XXXX RED YELLOW BLUE GREEN RED GREEN BLUE YELLOW RED GREEN BLUE YELLOW BLUE RED

  34. An Example–Learning to Drive • Initially: • students rely on very general rules and problem-solving skills, e.g. following a step-by-step example, matching variables in equations • working memory load is very high • performance is very slow, tedious and error-prone • With little practice: • very general rules are instantiated with discipline-specific details to make new, more efficient productions • performance becomes faster • many errors are detected and eliminated with feedback • With a great deal of practice: • related steps are compiled and “automatized” by collapsing steps • less attention is needed to perform • performance continues to speed up • experts may lose the ability to verbalize all steps

  35. The expert blindspot Sprague and Stuart (2000)

  36. What we owe our students • Learning environments where educators • Actively hunt down their expert blindspots • Learning environments that • Emphasize both individual skills and their integration • Explicitly teach for transfer • Provide multiple opportunities for authentic practice • Oriented toward clear goals • Coupled with targeted feedback

  37. 6. Students’ current level of development interacts with the social, emotional, and intellectual climate of the course to impact learning

  38. From Morning-Glory to Petersburg (The World Book, 1928) • “Organized knowledge in story and picture” • confronts through dusty glass • an eye grown dubious. • I can recall when knowledge still was pure, • not contradictory, pleasurable • as cutting out a paper doll. • You opened up a book and there it was: • everything just as promised, from • Kurdistan to Mormons, Gum • Arabic to Kumquat, neither more nor less. • Facts could be kept separate • by a convention; that was what • made childhood possible. • Now knowledge finds me out; • in all its risible untidiness • it traces me to each address, • dragging in things I never thought about. • I don’t invite what facts can be • held at arm’s length; a family • of jeering irresponsibles always • comes along gypsy-style • and there you have them all • forever on your hands. It never pays. • If I could still extrapolate • the morning-glory on the gate • from Petersburg in history—but it’s too late. • --Adrienne Rich

  39. Developmental Theories – Assumptions • Development is described as a response to intellectual, social, or emotional challenges, where students start to develop their own values and priorities • Development can be described in stages • Development describes students in the aggregate, not individually • Development can be differential across dimensions • Development is not always forward • Can be foreclosed or even backwards

  40. Staged models of development • Cover different areas but with a common idea–movement from unsophisticated, unquestioned positions to complex and nuanced ones • Intellectual/ethical/moral, intercultural competence, social identity Perry (1970), Belenky et al. (1986), Baxter-Magolda (1992), Kohlberg (1976), Gilligan (1977), Bennett (1993), Hardiman & Jackson (1992)

  41. Intellectual Development by Year Baxter-Magolda (1992)

  42. Classroom Climate • Students work out these developmental challenges in the context of the classroom environment. • Perceptions of a “chilly” climate affect student learning, critical thinking, and preparation for a career (Pascarella et al. 1997; Whitt et al 1999). • Climate is best understood as a continuum: • DeSurra & Church (1994)

  43. Stereotype Threat • Simply activating an academic stereotype for a minority group before a test produces a decrement in performance!! • (Steele and Aronson 1995)

  44. What we owe our students • Learning environments that • Use the tools of the disciplines to engage and embrace complexity • Are explicitly inclusive in methods and content

  45. 7. To become self-directed learners, students must learn to monitor and adjust their approaches to learning

  46. Evidence from research on metacognition Students don’t! (Carey & Flower 1989; Hinsley et al. 1977) Students don’t! (NRC 2001; Fu & Gray 2004) Students overestimate their strengths (Dunning 2007) Self-explanation effect Students don’t plan, or do it poorly (Chi et al. 1989; Carey et al. 1989) But students don’t do it! (Chi et al 1989)

  47. Research on beliefs about learning • Quick<-------------------------------> Gradual • Intelligence <------------------------> Intelligence as Entity Incremental • Beliefs about learning influence effort, persistence, learning and performance (Schommer 1994, Henderson & Dweck, 1990) • Metacognitive abilities and beliefs can be taught (Chi et al. 1994, Aronson et al. 2002)

  48. What we owe our students • Learning environments that foster • metacognitive awareness • a lifelong learning disposition

  49. Discussion/Q&A • What stands out from the 7 principles? • What implications do they raise for your teaching? • What challenges do they present to you? • How are they relevant in the face of emergent technology, accountability concerns, and changing demographics?

  50. Institutional implications • How can we translate these learning principles into practice? • Promote meaningful engagement of students to foster deeper learning • Judiciously use technology to solve educational challenges • Focus on authentic tasks to increase value • Integrate assessment into course design to extend learning, not just measure it • Promote faculty development to educate faculty about learning • Integrate curricular and co-curricular initiatives in order to foster student development • Intentionally design physical learning spaces for formal and informal learning • …