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Strategies That Improve Undergraduate Education

Tomorrow's Teaching and Learning

Message Number: 
449

A variety of well-researched scholarly publications... spanning over fifteen years provide both faculty and academic administrators with a clear, consistent, and comprehensive description of instructional strategies for enhanced student learning.

Folks:

The posting below summaries many of the strategies that research has shown to be effective in enhancing student learning. It is from Chapter 10, Teaching Strategies for the Twenty-First Century, by James Eison in Field Guide to Academic Leadership, Robert M. Diamond, editor, Bronwyn Adam, assistant editor. Published by JOSSEY-BASS, A Wiley Company, San Francisco. http://www.josseybass.com Copyright ? 2002 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Jossey-Bass is a registered trademark of John Wiley & Sons, Inc. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.

Rick Reis

reis@stanford.edu

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Tomorrow's Teaching and Learning

 

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STRATEGIES THAT IMPROVE UNDERGRADUATE EDUCATION

 

A variety of well-researched scholarly publications (for example, Association of American Colleges Task Group on General Education, 1988; Donovan, Bransford, & Pellegrino, 1999; Engelkemeyer & Brown, 1998; Study Group on the Conditions of Excellence in American Higher Education, 1984) spanning over fifteen years provide both faculty and academic administrators with a clear, consistent, and comprehensive description of instructional strategies for enhanced student learning. For illustrative purposes here, the findings and recommendations of three such reports will be mentioned briefly.

Seven Principles of Good Practice in Undergraduate Education

The single best known description of teaching practices that promote student learning is Chickering and Gamon's (1987, 1991, 1999) "Seven Principles of Good Practice in Undergraduate Education." First published in an article in the March 1987 AAHE Bulletin, the authors' provocative and pithy review of the research literature was later reproduced by the Johnson Foundation and over 150,000 copies were distributed. Subsequently, several articles and texts based on this landmark document, along with helpful instruments to assess instructor and institutional effectiveness in each of these seven areas, have been created (Gamson & Poulsen, 1989). These assessment inventories can be found in Chickering and Gamson (1991) and Hatfield (1995). The seven principles of good practice are these:

1. Encourages contact between students and faculty. Frequent student-faculty contact in and out of class is the most important factor in student motivation and involvement.

2. Develops reciprocity and cooperation among students. Learning is enhanced when it resembles a team effort rather than a solo race.

3. Encourages active learning. Learning is not a spectator sport. Students must talk about what they are learning, write about it, relate it to past experiences, and apply it to their daily lives. They must make what they learn part of themselves.

4. Gives prompt feedback. Knowing what you do and do not know focuses learning. Students need appropriate feedback on performance to benefit from courses.

5. Emphasizes time on task. Time plus energy equals learning. There is no substitute for time on task.

6. Communicates high expectations. If teachers expect more they will get more.

7. Respects diverse talents and ways of learning. There are many roads to learning. Students need the opportunity to show their talents and learn in ways that work for them.

Other Best Practices

Angelo (1993) similarly articulated for faculty and administrators a well-supported list "fourteen general research-based principles for improving higher learning."

1. Active learning is more effective than passive learning.

2. Learning is more effective and efficient when learners have explicit, reasonable, positive goals, and when their goals fit well with teachers' goals.

3. High expectations encourage high achievement.

4. Motivation to learn is alterable; it can be positively or negatively affected by the task, the environment, the teacher, and the learner.

5. Learning requires focused attention and awareness of the importance of what is to be learned.

6. To be remembered, new information must be meaningfully connected to prior knowledge, and it must first be remembered in order to be learned.

7. Unlearning what is already known is often more difficult than learning new information.

8. Information that is organized in personally meaningful ways is more likely to be remembered, learned, and used.

9. To be most effective, teachers need to balance levels of intellectual challenge and instructional support.

10. Mastering a complex skill or body of knowledge takes great amounts of time and effort.

11. Learning to transfer, to apply previous knowledge and skills to new contexts, requires a great deal of directed practice.

12. The ways in which learners are assessed and evaluated powerfully affect the ways they study and learn.

13. Interaction between teachers and learners is one of the most powerful factors in promoting learning; interaction among learners is another.

14. Learners need feedback on their learning, early and often, to learn well; to become independent learners, they need to become self-assessing and self-correcting.

Among the more recent analyses of how instructors can be most helpful in facilitating student learning is the report of the Joint Task Force on Student Learning, created by the American Association of Higher Education, the American College Personnel Association, and the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators. This document articulated ten principles of learning and identified a large number of actions and initiatives that have been used on various campuses to implement these principles (Engelkemeyer & Brown, 1998). The ten principles of learning are these:

1. Learning is fundamentally about making and maintaining connections: biologically through neural networks; mentally among concepts, ideas, and meanings; and experientially through interaction between the mind and the environment, self and other, generality and context, deliberation and action.

2. Learning is enhanced by taking place in the context of a compelling situation that balances challenge and opportunity, stimulating and using the brain's ability to conceptualize quickly ant its capacity and need for contemplation and reflection upon experiences.

3. Learning is an active search for meaning by the learner = constructing knowledge rather than passively receiving it, shaping as well as being shaped by experiences.

4. Learning is developmental, a cumulative process involving the whole person, relating past and present, integrating the new with the old, starting from but transcending personal concerns and interests.

5. Learning is done by individuals who are intrinsically tied to others as social beings, interacting as competitors or collaborators, constraining or supporting the learning process, and able to enhance learning through cooperation and sharing.

6. Learning is strongly affected by the educational climate in which it takes place; the settings and surroundings, the influences of others, and the values accorded to the life of the mind and to learning achievements.

7. Learning requires frequent feedback if it is to be sustained, practice if it is to be nourished, and opportunities to use what has been learned.

8. Much learning takes place informally and incidentally, beyond explicit teaching or the classroom, in contacts with faculty and staff, peers, campus life, active social and community involvement, and unplanned but interesting, complex situations.

9. Learning is grounded in particular contexts and individual experiences, requiring effort to transfer specific knowledge and skills to other circumstances or to more general understandings and ability of individuals to monitor their own learning, to understand how knowledge is acquired to develop strategies for learning based on discerning their capacities and limitations, and to be aware of their own ways of knowing in approaching new bodies of knowledge and disciplinary frameworks.

10. Learning involves the ability of individuals to monitor their own learning, to understand how knowledge is acquired to develop strategies for learning based on discerning their capacities and limitations, and to be aware of their own ways of knowing in approaching new bodies of knowledge and disciplinary framework.