The Psychology of Learning and the Art of Teaching
What has recent psychological research taught us about learning and how can we best apply these findings to improve teaching and enhance student learning? Research in neuroscience, cognitive psychology, and neurobiology and behavior identified several key factors validated by empirical research. Engagement What are the factors that enhance or inhibit involvement in learning? Engagement tends to decline if an activity is motivated by the promise of a reward (as opposed to an intrinsic motivation, such as a desire to increase one’s competence). Motivation is also reduced if individuals engage in more than one activity at a time, or if they attribute their failure to a lack of ability (rather than a lack of effort). Emotional Factors Affecting Cognition Learners have distinct styles that influence learning. Especially important is whether a student has a prevention and promotion focus. A student with a prevention focus is especially sensitive to negative outcomes, seeks to avoid errors, and is driven by security concerns, while a student with a promotion focus is more sensitive to positive outcomes. Learning is enhanced when there is regulatory fit, when fit when the manner of in which a student engages in an activity sustains their goal orientation or interests regarding that activity. Grounded Cognition Learning, memory, and reasoning are enhanced when students have the opportunity to perceive and interact with real-world examples. Thus, simulations and problem solving activities can play a valuable role in promoting understanding and recall. Mental Modeling A mental model is a representation or a conceptualization of a larger reality which allows an individual to readily acquire, code, store, recall, and decode information. By allowing an individual to structure knowledge, mental models play a crucial role in cognition, recall, learning, and decisionmaking. The Zone of Proximal Development The early 20th century developmental psychologist Lev Vygotsky wrote about “the zone of proximal development,” a phrase that refers to the level of understanding that a student can reach with a teacher’s help. Thus, an instructor seeks to stretch and broaden a students understanding (i.e. scaffold) by identifying those areas that are within a student’s grasp: not too easy, but also not too difficult.
Graduate School of Arts & Sciences Teaching Center
Advancing teaching and learning The Teaching Center is the go-to place for practical advice about teaching. We can help you: ▪ Successfully market your teaching ▪ Deal with anxiety, challenges to your authority, and other classroom issues ▪ Design innovative courses, deliver scintillating, substantive lectures, and lead stimulating discussions and labs. ▪ Respond appropriately to shy, withdrawn, or disruptive students. ▪ Use technology more effectively. The Teaching Center offers: ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ Weekly workshops Individual consultations Certification in pedagogy Observations on your teaching A library of teaching, job search, and publishing resources
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Repeated Testing Testing can be a valuable learning tool. It can focus on evaluation, or it can be used in other ways: to motivate study, consolidate learning, combat overconfidence, and assist students in monitoring their own understanding. Testing enhances long-term memory and helps students retrieve and apply knowledge. Spacing Recent research has demonstrated that a student’s ability to remember, retrieve, and utilize information is greater when an instructor’s presentations of difficult...
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