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Teach to How Students Learn Best


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Recent findings from cognitive theories about learning and thinking can revolutionize teaching. This PPT introduces the new concepts and explains how teaching must change to accommodate how students learn best.

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Teach to How Students Learn Best

  1. 1. Teach to How Students Learn Best Carole L Hamilton 1
  2. 2. This presentation shares new findings in cognitive science and empirical studies that can help students learn more effectively and with greater retention. Accommodating these new insights will require a new approach to teaching—one that is more rewarding to teachers as well as students.
  3. 3. Teachers work hard—but don’t always teach how to think. “Our common teaching-learning-testing strategies are rooted in outdated assumptions about how children and adolescents learn.” (VanSledright) “Classrooms are too often places of ‘tell and practice’…In such classrooms, little thinking is happening.” (Ritchhardt, Church, and Morrison)
  4. 4. Why do we we still base our lessons on a 19th century understanding of how people learn?
  5. 5. Here are the three insights from cognitive science that can revolutionize your teaching. 1) People like to think and learn best when they figure things out themselves, rather than being told. 2) We think by analogy. Information is more easily retrieved from memory if it is attached to an analogy. 3) Students must engage meaningfully with the Threshold Concepts in our disciplines that students find difficult to master.
  6. 6. 1. People Like to Think “People like to think—or more properly, we like to think if we judge that the mental work will payoff with the pleasurable feeling we get when we solve a problem.” ( Willingham) Do we allow our students to wrestle with meaningful concepts?
  7. 7. 2. We learn by analogy. Analogy is “the Core of Cognition.” (Hofstadter) “Triangular Trade” Analogies create visual mental maps that organize information efficiently.
  8. 8. 3. Students must engage meaningfully with the Threshold Concepts that are central to our disciplines. Threshold Concepts are the central, defining truths in a given discipline, the ideas that open a gateway to deeper understanding. These are the essential, indispensable elements, the understandings that transform the novice into a true practitioner of the field.
  9. 9. Organize your course around Threshold Concepts “The fact that experts’ knowledge is organized around important ideas or concepts suggests that curricula should also be organized in ways that lead to conceptual understanding.” (Donovan, Bransford, and Pellegrino). Do we allow students to fully understand threshold concepts when we move quickly from topic to topic?
  10. 10. Students have to discover Threshold Concepts themselves. They start by defending their ideas.
  11. 11. They work together to draw a model that represents their theory.
  12. 12. The best diagrams make an analogy. The key is that students do the thinking.
  13. 13. And they express their theory or thesis using an analogy. “Fitzgerald believed that society, in an attempt to create the American Dream, merely created a façade of frivolity, lavishness, and happiness behind which they could hide their inadequacies and sorrow.” (11th grade AP English class)
  14. 14. Analogies Work! The students’ analogy of a façade organizes information from and about The Great Gatsby” in a way they will easily remember.
  15. 15. Threshold Concepts Change Students’ Way of Thinking They begin to think more like practitioners in the discipline than like novices. They begin to see important implications of the concept that enrich their understanding. In fact, once students pass through that gateway of understanding, there is no going back to prior beliefs. 15
  16. 16. Implementing these ideas requires Organizing the course around Threshold Concepts. Changing lessons so that students spend more time making and defending theories. Building in time for students to develop meaningful analogies.
  17. 17. Want to Learn More? You can buy my book, Read My Mind: Teaching to How Students Learn on Amazon Kindle, for $3.99. The book explains these concepts in more depth, offers sample Threshold Concepts and student challenge lessons from many disciplines, and includes excerpts from cognitive science findings about how students learn best. Carole L Hamilton
  18. 18. Works Cited Donovan, M. Suzanne, John D. Bransford, and James W. Pellegrino. How People Learn: Bridging Research and Practice. National Academies Press. 2000. Print. Ritchhardt, Ron, Mark Church, and Kristin Morrison. Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Learners. Jossey-Bass. 2011. Print. VanSledright, Bruce A. Assessing Historical Thinking and Understanding: Innovative Designs for New Standards. Routledge. 2013. Print. Willingham, Daniel T. Why Don’t Students Like School? A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions about How The Mind Works and What It Means for the Classroom. Jossey-Bass. 2010. Print.