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Bridging Learning Research and Teaching Practice

Tomorrow's Teaching and Learning

Message Number: 
1057

Our seven principles of learning come from a perspective that is developmental and holistic. In other words, we begin with the recognition that (a) learning is a developmental process that intersects with other developmental processes in a student's life, and (b) students enter our classrooms not only with skills, knowledge, and abilities, but also with social and emotional experiences that influence what they value, how they perceive themselves and others, and how they will engage in the learning process. 

 

Folks:

The posting below is a very brief introduction to seven research=based principles for smart teaching discussed in much greater detail in the book: HOW LEARNING WORKS: Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching, by Susan A. Ambrose, Michael W. Bridges, Michele DiPietro, Marsha C. Lovett, and Marie K. Norman. The book is based on the seven "Theory and Research-based Principles of Learning," which are used with permission of Carnegie Mellon University's Eberly Center for Teaching Exellence.

The book is published by Jossey-Bass, A Wiley Imprint. Copyright 2010 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. All rights reserved. 989 Market Street, san francisco, CA 94103-1741[www.josseybass.com]. Reprinted with permission.

Regards,

Rick Reis

reis@stanford.edu

UP NEXT: Dysfunctional Illusions of Rigor: Part 1 - Basic Illusions

 

 

Tomorrow's Teaching and Learning

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Introduction: Bridging Learning Research and Teaching Practice

WHAT IS LEARNING?

 

Any set of learning principles is predicated on a definition of learning. In this book, we define learning as a process that leads to change, which occurs as a result of experience and increases the potential for improved performance and future learning (adapted from Mayer, 2002). There are three critical components to this definition:

1. Learning is a process, not a product. However, because this process takes place in the mind, we can only infer that it has occurred from students' products or performances.

2. Learning involves change in knowledge, beliefs, behaviors, or attitudes. This change unfolds over time; it is not fleeting but rather has a lasting impact on how students think and act.

3. Learning is not something done to students, but rather something students themselves do. It is the direct result of how students interpret and respond to their experiences -- conscious and unconscious, past and present.

                                          OUR PRINCIPLES OF LEARNING

Our seven principles of learning come from a perspective that is developmental and holistic. In other words, we begin with the recognition that (a) learning is a developmental process that intersects with other developmental processes in a student's life, and (b) students enter our classrooms not only with skills, knowledge, and abilities, but also with social and emotional experiences that influence what they value, how they perceive themselves and others, and how they will engage in the learning process. Consistent with this holistic perspective, readers should understand that, although we address each principle individually to highlight particular issues pertaining to student learning, they are all at work in real learning situations, and are functionally inseparable.

In the paragraphs below, we briefly summarize each of the principles in the order in which they are discussed in the book.

(1) Student's prior knowledge can help or hinder learning.

Students come into our courses with knowledge, beliefs, and attitudes gained in other courses and through daily life. As students bring this knowledge to bear in our classrooms, it influences how they filter and interpret what they are learning. If students' prior knowledge is robust and accurate and activated at the appropriate time, it provides a strong foundation for building new knowledge.

However, when knowledge is inert, insufficient for the task, activated inappropriately, or inaccurate, it can interfere with or impede new learning.

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

Students naturally make connections between pieces of knowledge. When those connections form knowledge structures that are accurately and meaningfully organized, students are better able to retrieve and apply their knowledge effectively and efficiently. In contrast, when knowledge is connected in inaccurate or random ways, students can fail to retrieve or apply it appropriately.

(3) Students' motivation determines, directs, and sustains what they do to learn.

As students enter college and gain greater autonomy over what, when, and how they study and learn, motivation plays a critical role in guiding the direction, intensity, persistence, and quality of the learning behaviors in which they engage. When students find positive value in a learning goal or activity, expect to successfully achieve a desired learning outcome, and perceive support from their environment, they are likely to be strongly motivated to learn.

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

Students must develop not only the component skills and knowledge necessary to perform complex tasks, they must also practice combining and integrating them to develop greater fluency and automaticity. Finally, students must learn when and how to apply the skills and knowledge they learn. As instructors, it is important that we develop conscious awareness of these elements of mastery so as to help our students learn more effectively.

(5) Goal-directed practice coupled with targeted feedback enhances the quality of students' learning.

Learning and performance are best fostered when students engage in practice that focuses on a specific goal or criterion, target an appropriate level of challenge, and is of sufficient quantity and frequency to meet the performance criteria. Practice must be coupled with feedback that explicitly communicates about some aspect(s) of students' performance relative to specific target criteria, provides information to help students progress in meeting those criteria, and is given at a time and frequency that allows it to be useful.

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

Students are not only intellectual but also social and emotional beings, and they are still developing the full range of intellectual, social, and emotional skills. While we cannot control the developmental process, we can shape the intellectual, social, emotional, and physical aspects of the classroom climate in developmentally appropriate ways. In fact, many studies have shown that the climate we create has implications for our students. A negative climate may impede learning and performance, but a positive climate can energize students' learning.

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

Learners may engage in a variety of metacognitive processes to monitor and control their learning--assessing the task at hand, evaluating their own strengths and weaknesses, planning their approach, applying and monitoring various strategies, and reflecting on the degree to which their current approach is working. Unfortunately, students tend not to engage in these processes naturally. When students tend not to engage in these processes naturally. When students develop the skills to engage these processes, they gain intellectual habits that not only improve their performance but also their effectiveness as learners.

                                      WHAT MAKES THESE PRINCIPLES POWERFUL?

The principle strength of these seven principles is that they are based directly on research, drawing on literature from cognitive, developmental, and social psychology, anthropology, education, and diversity studies, and research targeting not only higher education but also K-12 education. Although, of course, this is not an exhaustive review and any summary of research necessarily simplifies a host of complexities for the sake of accessibility, we believe that our discussions of the research underlying each principle are faithful to the scholarship and describe features of learning about which there is widespread agreement. Indeed, several of our principles converge with those that others have delineated (Pittsburgh Science of Learning Center, 2009; American Psychological Society, 2008), a convergence that we believe attests to their salience.

Not only are these principles research-based, but as we have shared them with colleagues over the years, we have found that they are Domain-indepentent: They apply equally well across all subject areas, from biology to design to history to robotics; the fundamental factors that impact the way students learn transcend disciplinary differences.

Experience-indepentent: The principles apply to all educational levels and pedagogical situations. In other words, although the pedagogical implications of a principle will be somewhat different for first-year undergraduate students in a lab environment as opposed to graduate students in a studio environment, the principle still applies.

Cross-culturally relevant: Although the research we identified has been conducted primarily in the Western world, faculty colleagues in other countries have resonated with the principles, finding them relevant to their own classes and students. However, it is important to bear in mind that culture can and dose influence how the principles should be applied as instructors design and teach their courses.

                                                INTENDED AUDIENCES

This book is intended for anyone interested in understanding more about how students learn and in applying that information to improve instruction. This includes--but is not limited to--faculty members, graduate students, faculty developers, instructional designers, and librarians. It also includes K-12 educators. In addition, the principles outlined here are valuable for instructors at all experience levels. They can help new and inexperienced instructors understand the components of effective course design and classroom pedagogy. They can help experienced instructors troubleshoot problems or adapt effective strategies to suit new courses or student populations. They can also help highly successful and experienced instructors reflect on what makes their approaches and methods effective. Finally, the principles can enable faculty members to better support student learning without having to rely on outside experts (a benefit that is particularly valuable for faculty at campuses without teaching and learning centers).