better assist or foster student learning, educators should
understand the processes of learning, including what enhances
and impedes learning. The following resources provide information
and examples about the processes of learning and the factors
that affect it.
are four research-based principles of learning effectively described
at the U.S. Department of Education's Doing What Works resource.
Along with a description of the principle, you can find examples of
its use in the classroom, video interviews of researchers discussing
the principle, and suggestions for its application.
learning over time - "A key aspect of effective teaching
and learning is helping students to retain information over the
course of the school year and beyond. Research has shown that
exposing students to key concepts and facts on at least two occasions,
separated by several weeks to several months, greatly reduces
the rate at which information is forgotten. This is accomplished
by spacing the introduction of material over time and by reviewing
material with short quizzes, review games, targeted homework assignments,
with practice - "Students learn more when worked examples,
or solved problems, are alternated with problems to be solved...
Students benefit from this approach, learn effective problem-solving
strategies, transfer these strategies more easily, and, ultimately,
solve problems more quickly."But don't be fooled by the word
"problem" above. This principle of learning does not
just apply to math courses. The learning of any skill or concept
can be enhanced by interweaving the successful modeling of the
skill or thinking about the concept with opportunities for the
students to practice with them. In other words, research finds
that instead of modeling something and then giving students a
lot of practice with it, you should provide some modeling or examples
of successful work, then some practice, then some more examples,
and so on."
abstract AND concrete representations of concepts - "Teaching
a new concept in purely abstract terms can make it difficult for
students to fully understand what is being taught. On the other
hand, teaching a new concept in exclusively concrete terms can
limit a student's ability to recognize key concepts or understand
how to apply the concepts when faced with a new problem. Connecting
abstract and concrete representations, and clearly highlighting
the similarities and differences, can help students master the
content being taught and develop better problem-solving strategies."
questions - "Across subject areas, when teachers ask
higher-order questions and provide opportunities for students
to develop deep explanations, learning is enhanced."
principles of learning - A good list of research-based principles
describing how and when people learning most effectively - here
is a more extended version.
Taxonomy (and more recent revision) - Benjamin Bloom and colleagues
created a hierarchical classification of educational goals and objectives
in three domains: cognitive, affective, and psychomotor. The cognitive
objectives have received the most attention and are what most people
are referring to when mentioning Bloom's Taxonomy. The cognitive
objectives still serve as a valuable framework when considering
the levels of understanding educators at all levels wish their students
to achieve. A slight revision to Bloom's cognitive objectives was
suggested in 2001, as described at the link above.
come with misconceptions - This series of classic videos (freely
available online) illustrates how students do not come to us as
blank slates. Students bring all sorts of preconceived notions
and misconceptions that can be quite a challenge to overcome.
people fail to recognize their own incompetence" - Interesting
review of research that finds that our weaker students are "doubly
cursed": They not only are less competent to begin with,
but they are also less able to recognize when they are doing poorly.
Einstellung effect - "A pervasive source of cognitive
bias" - Students will often attach themselves to one idea
or option or perspective and then fail to consider any others.
"The result is that alternatives to the first idea are ignored.
This mechanism for biasing attention ensures a speedy response
in familiar situations, but it can lead to errors when the first
thought that comes to mind is not appropriate. We propose that
this mechanism is the source of many cognitive biases, from phenomena
in problem solving and reasoning to perceptual errors and failures
threat - This phenomenon is actually more an obstacle to performance.
Stereotype threat is experienced by a person when he fears that
he will confirm a negative stereotype about his group through
his performance. For example, women who are equally good as men
at math will tend to perform worse than men on a math test if
they are told that the test is diagnostic of their math ability.
The women fear that they will confirm the stereotype that women
are not as good at math as men. You can find more examples and
a lot of good information about the phenomenon at the above link.
styles or preferences - Although research finds that there
are differences in how people learn and how they prefer to learn,
research finds that we are far more similar than different in
those processes. Furthermore, although a lot of attention has
been given to different learning styles or preferences in students,
research has yet to find substantial evidence that identifying
and then teaching to different styles or preferences provides
any significant benefit to students. For example, see the following
reviews of learning styles approaches:
theory - A well-researched theory, self-determination theory
has been effectively studied in and applied to educational settings
in efforts to increase the intrinsic motivation of students.
positive student motivation - Good overview of theory and
research on student motivation with some suggestions - IDEA Paper
41 - from The IDEA Center