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What every teacher should know about cognitive research

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From the Colorado Science Conference (Nov, 2011)

In the past few decades, we’ve gained a wealth of information about how people learn. The results of this cognitive and education research can help us become more effective teachers. In this interactive talk, we’ll explore some of the main findings of cognitive research in a language accessible to everybody, and discuss how they can be used in our teaching.

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What every teacher should know about cognitive research

  1. 1. What every teacher should know about cognitive research Or How People Learn Dr. Stephanie Chasteen Physics Department University of Colorado at Boulder [email_address] Colorado Science Conference November 2011
  2. 2. This presentation is copyrighted under the Creative Commons License Attribution Non-Commercial Share-Alike That means: Please watch it, share it, and use it in your presentations. Just give us credit, don’t make money from it, and use the same kind of license on the works that you create from it. More information about Creative Commons licenses here: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/ Credit should be given to: Stephanie Chasteen and the Science Education Initiative at the University of Colorado, http://colorado.edu/sei
  3. 3. PER at Colorado <ul><li>Faculty: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Melissa Dancy </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Michael Dubson </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Noah Finkelstein </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Valerie Otero </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Kathy Perkins </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Steven Pollock </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Carl Wieman (on leave) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Postdocs/ Scientists: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Charles Baily </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Danny Caballero </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Stephanie Chasteen </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Julia Chamberlain </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Kelly Lancaster </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Laurel Mayhew </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Emily Moore </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Ariel Paul </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Rachel Pepper </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Noah Podolefsky </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Benjamin Zwickl </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Grad Students: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Stephanie Barr </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Kara Gray </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Lauren Kost-Smith (PhD May 11) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>May Lee </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Mike Ross </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Ben Spike </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Ben Van Dusen </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Bethany Wilcox </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Teachers / Partners / Staff: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Shelly Belleau </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Jackie Elser, </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Trish Loeblein </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Susan M. Nicholson-Dykstra </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Sara Severence </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Emily Quinty </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Mindy Gratny, Kate Kidder </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>John Blanco, Sam Reid </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Chris Malley, Jon Olson </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Oliver Nix, Nina Zabolotnaya </li></ul></ul>
  4. 4. cognitive psychology brain research classroom studies Major advances past 1-2 decades Consistent picture  Achieving learning
  5. 5. I teach… <ul><li>Elementary level </li></ul><ul><li>Middle school </li></ul><ul><li>High school </li></ul><ul><li>College </li></ul><ul><li>Something else </li></ul>
  6. 6. Outline <ul><li>What people know affects what they learn (context is important) </li></ul><ul><li>Preparing your students to learn </li></ul><ul><li>Motivation is important </li></ul><ul><li>Feedback is important </li></ul><ul><li>What we remember is affected by how our brain works (the limits of retention) </li></ul>
  7. 7. Outline <ul><li>What people know affects what they learn (context is important) </li></ul><ul><li>Preparing your students to learn </li></ul><ul><li>Motivation is important </li></ul><ul><li>Feedback is important </li></ul><ul><li>What we remember is affected by how our brain works (the limits of retention) </li></ul>
  8. 8. Tools allow thought <ul><li>Theorem: If a moving particle, carried uniformly at constant speed traverses two distances, then the time interval required are to each other in the ratio of their distances. </li></ul><ul><li> (followed by 2 page geometric proof). </li></ul>From diSessa (2000) Changing Minds A Story of Galileo: 6 theorems of a genius algebra
  9. 9. The card game <ul><li>Rule: If there is a vowel on one side, there is an even number on the other </li></ul><ul><li>In order to verify the rule isn’t broken, which card(s) do you need to flip over? </li></ul>E 2 L 5
  10. 10. The bartender game <ul><li>You are a bartender and need to verify that the following drink orders/ ages don’t break the law: if you drink alcohol you must be 21 or older. Whose IDs do you need to check? </li></ul>Adapted from Johnson-Laird ‘83 Gin/Tonic Age: 16 Coke Age: 52
  11. 11. If letter = vowel, then number = even If drink = alcohol, then age>21 Gin/Tonic Age: 16 Coke Age: 52 E 2 L 5
  12. 12. <ul><li>So, context matters </li></ul>
  13. 13. THE MONTILLATION AND USES OF TRAXOLINE <ul><li>It is very important to learn about traxoline. Traxoline is a new form of zionter. It is montilled in Ceristanna. The Ceristannians found that they could gristerlate large amounts of fervon and then bracter it to quasel traxoline. This new, more efficient bracterillation process has the potential to make traxoline one of the most useful products within the molecular family of lukizes snezlaus. </li></ul><ul><li>QUIZ: </li></ul><ul><li>1. What is traxoline? </li></ul><ul><li>2. Where is it montilled? </li></ul><ul><li>3. How is traxoline quaseled? </li></ul><ul><li>4. Why is traxoline important? </li></ul>
  14. 14. Stroop test
  15. 15. Stroop Test ][
  16. 16. Stroop /// rot , grün , blau , gelb , rosafarben , orange , blau , grün , blau , weiß , grün , gelb , orange , blau , weiß , braun , rot , blau , gelb , grün , rosafarben , gelb , grün , blau , rot
  17. 17. Strong indication: Prior knowledge matters
  18. 18. The importance of context <ul><li>The procedure is quite simple. First arrange items into different groups. Of course one pile may be sufficient depending on how much there is to do. If you have to go somewhere else due to lack of facilities that is the next step; otherwise, you are pretty well set. It is important not to overdo things. That is, it is better to do too few things at once than too many. In the short run this may not seem important but complications can easily arise. A mistake can be expensive as well. At first, the whole procedure will seem complicated. Soon, however, it will become just another facet of life. It is difficult to foresee any end to necessity for this task in the immediate future, but then, one can never tell. After the procedure is completed one arranges the material into different groups again. Then they can be put into their appropriate places. Eventually they will be used once more and the whole cycle will then have to be repeated. However, this is part of life. </li></ul>* Bransford, & Johnson(1972). Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior 11, 717-726
  19. 19. Foreground / Background From: R. McDermott ‘93
  20. 20. Classroom application <ul><li>Where can/do we take into account students’ prior knowledge? </li></ul><ul><li>Where does context come into our instruction? </li></ul>
  21. 21. <ul><li>Engaging </li></ul><ul><li>Visual </li></ul><ul><li>Real-world </li></ul>One example: PhET Simulations http://phet.colorado.edu Free online simulations
  22. 22. Visual Models
  23. 23. Comparing Activity Design Make the man start at -5 meter mark, move with constant speed to the 2 meter mark and then accelerates to the 8 meter mark. A. Sketch the position, velocity and acceleration graphs that you see. B. How do the three graphs relate? Sketch what you think the graphs will look like for this story that Jill told: “ Bobby was talking to me on his cell phone standing by his car. The phone signal was poor, so he walked toward his house trying to get a better signal and then stood still so we could talk.” A. Explain why each part of your graph makes sense. B. Test your ideas using the simulation <ul><li>Can create activities that: </li></ul><ul><li>Connect to student experiences </li></ul><ul><li>Connect to student knowledge (prediction) </li></ul><ul><li>Ask students to reason and make sense </li></ul>
  24. 24. Circuit Construction Kit (CCK)
  25. 25. Outline <ul><li>What people know affects what they learn (context is important) </li></ul><ul><li>Preparing your students to learn </li></ul><ul><li>Motivation is important </li></ul><ul><li>Feedback is important </li></ul><ul><li>What we remember is affected by how our brain works (the limits of retention) </li></ul>
  26. 26. actively engaging students is important Learning is changing our brain “ constructivism!”
  27. 27. What makes an expert thinker? It’s not just that an expert knows more An expert thinks about a subject in different ways than a novice does “ New wiring!” We can see that the brain changes through brain activation and imaging studies, and in what experts do
  28. 28. Feedback helps with constructing our own understanding <ul><li>If we’re to change how we think, we need feedback on our thinking </li></ul><ul><li>What does that mean? </li></ul><ul><li>What kind of feedback is most helpful? </li></ul><ul><li>How can students get it? </li></ul>
  29. 29. No need for feedback in traditional model
  30. 30. Feedback through formative assessment <ul><li>Compare and contrast what students experience during two different types of assessment activities. </li></ul><ul><li>Does the assessment help students gauge what they know? </li></ul><ul><li>Does the assessment build skills in feedback? </li></ul><ul><li>How does the assessment motivate students to learn the material? </li></ul>Adapted from Handelsman, Miller & Pfund, 2007
  31. 31. Outline <ul><li>What people know affects what they learn (context is important) </li></ul><ul><li>Preparing your students to learn </li></ul><ul><li>Motivation is important </li></ul><ul><li>Feedback is important </li></ul><ul><li>What we remember is affected by how our brain works (the limits of retention) </li></ul>
  32. 32. How much do you remember from this talk already? Probably 10% of you remember any non-obvious fact from 15 minutes ago
  33. 33. Working Memory Capacity Mr. Anderson, May I be excused? My brain is full. Without great care, exceeded in almost every lecture. VERY LIMITED! every added demand hurts learning (“cognitive load”) (remember/process max 4-7 unrelated items)
  34. 34. What does help memory? <ul><li>Quiz: </li></ul><ul><li>What is Traxoline? It’s a new form of… </li></ul><ul><li>Montillation </li></ul><ul><li>Quasel </li></ul><ul><li>Zionter </li></ul><ul><li>Bracter </li></ul>
  35. 35. H. Roediger, J. Karpicke Psych. Sci. Vol.17 pg 249
  36. 36. So what does help memory? <ul><li>Testing helps you learn! </li></ul><ul><li>Studying – spaced over time! </li></ul><ul><li>Explaining it to someone else </li></ul>But remember, that’s just for recall, not necessarily deep learning
  37. 37. “ hooks” for memory Hooks for retention-- mental connections e.g. lesson on fasteners-- here are all the types and how they are used. vs. Here is an interesting job problem, here are possible types of fasteners for solving problem, and here is how a certain type of fastener solved it. 6 kg
  38. 38. Outline <ul><li>What people know affects what they learn (context is important) </li></ul><ul><li>Preparing your students to learn </li></ul><ul><li>Motivation is important </li></ul><ul><li>Feedback is important </li></ul><ul><li>What we remember is affected by how our brain works (the limits of retention) </li></ul>
  39. 39. If interactive engagement helps students learn… <ul><li>then is “telling” bad? </li></ul>
  40. 40. A study… <ul><li>Study on teaching cognitive psychology of memory. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Some students read a chapter then heard a lecture. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Other students analyzed and graphed data sets. </li></ul></ul>
  41. 41. A study… Graph Data Graph Data Factual Test Activity 1 Activity 2 Assessment Graph Data Lecture on Theory Schwartz, Bransford and Sears, 2005. Efficiency and Innovation in Transfer. A C B Which do you think did better on the test? A B C or D- other Lecture on Theory Summarize Chapter
  42. 42. A C B Activity-only Reading + Lecture Activity + Lecture
  43. 43. So that means… <ul><li>Data analysis activities are useless, lecturing is key. Right? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>This is a common result that leads to question, “Wouldn’t it just be more efficient to tell them?” </li></ul></ul><ul><li>No… this is the ‘conspiracy theory’. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Assessments designed to test efficient learning of facts make fact-based instruction look good. </li></ul></ul>
  44. 44. Assessment Design Graph Data Graph Data Factual Test Lecture on Theory Summarize Chapter Activity 1 Activity 2 Assessment Graph Data Lecture on Theory Transfer Test Add a new “transfer” assessment Asked to predict outcomes of a novel experiment.
  45. 45. A C B Activity-only Reading + Lecture Activity + Lecture
  46. 46. Assessment and Instruction <ul><li>When assessments change, the fact-based instruction did not look so good. </li></ul><ul><li>Students who graphed data were better prepared to learn something new. </li></ul><ul><li>Why? </li></ul>
  47. 47. Creating a “time for telling” <ul><li>Data graphing oriented students to key features </li></ul><ul><li>They needed to account for variation in the data </li></ul><ul><li>This struggle prepares them to learn from lecture, and on assessment </li></ul><ul><li>How do you make an activity that prepares students to learn from lecture? </li></ul>
  48. 48. The infinity of perceptual possibilities. Circle Biggish Empty Solid White Line Left Side of Screen
  49. 49. But we do learn to perceive…
  50. 50. The importance of contrast <ul><li>How do you teach Japanese speakers to hear “L”? </li></ul><ul><li>Do you give them the purest example of “L” ? </li></ul>Learning depends on finding structure in variability.  Need both positive and negative variations.
  51. 51. How do people learn what’s important? <ul><li>Can’t just throw a bunch of contrasts at people. </li></ul><ul><li>Need to orient them to notice key structures. </li></ul><ul><li>Example 1: Crowded Clowns </li></ul>
  52. 52. Orienting Task: Inventing an Index Dan Schwartz
  53. 54. Invention Activities creating a time for telling <ul><li>Before a lesson on density…ask students to create a “crowded clown” index </li></ul><ul><li>Students don’t need to discover right answer. Prepares them to “get it” when you give them lecture. </li></ul>* Schwartz, D. L., Bransford, J. D., Sears, D. L. (2005). Efficiency and innovation in transfer
  54. 55. Pitching machine example <ul><li>Create a reliability index that differentiates between these different machines </li></ul>Himmelberger, K., & Schwartz, D. L. (2007). It’s a homerun!  Using mathematical discourse to support the learning of statistics.  Mathematics Teacher, 101(4), 250-256. Implemented in high school Algebra 1.
  55. 56. <ul><li>Area covered by pitches </li></ul><ul><li>Perimeter using grid marks </li></ul><ul><li>Average distances between pairs of points </li></ul><ul><li>Average distance from random point to all points </li></ul><ul><li>Frequency of balls in each of 4 quadrants </li></ul><ul><li>Average distance between all pairwise points </li></ul>
  56. 57. Pitching redux <ul><li>Wide variety of sophisticated solutions </li></ul><ul><li>Solutions themselves not critical (most not generalizeable) </li></ul><ul><li>Generates discussion about how to handle aspects of variability </li></ul><ul><li>Prepares to understand formula </li></ul>
  57. 58. Talk to your neighbor… <ul><li>Might you use an “invention activity” like this in your class? </li></ul><ul><li>Definitely (why?) </li></ul><ul><li>It depends (on what?) </li></ul><ul><li>Definitely not (why not?) </li></ul><ul><li>Are there other ways you use contrasting cases in your teaching? </li></ul><ul><li>How would using an invention activity affect your students’ test performance? </li></ul>
  58. 59. Summary of contrasting cases <ul><li>Asking students to invent a description of different contrasting cases (e.g., crowded clown index) helps them learn the important features </li></ul><ul><li>Prepared them to learn from lecture, creating a “time for telling” </li></ul><ul><li>Helps them to transfer to new situations (but not necessarily in factual recall) </li></ul>
  59. 60. Outline <ul><li>What people know affects what they learn (context is important) </li></ul><ul><li>Contrasts and preparation for future learning </li></ul><ul><li>Motivation is important </li></ul><ul><li>Feedback is important </li></ul><ul><li>What we remember is affected by how our brain works (the limits of retention) </li></ul>
  60. 61. If you see no reason to learn, you won’t bother! <ul><li>Learning takes effort </li></ul><ul><li>Why spend energy if there’s no reason? </li></ul><ul><li>Motivation is highly malleable! </li></ul>
  61. 62. “ This class is very hard and many of you will fail so you need to study really hard.” How do you think this affects university student motivation to learn the material? a. increases b. decreases Focus groups and interviews indicate is demotivating for university students. Psychology studies support.
  62. 63. What does motivate? <ul><li>Subject relevance ( meaningful context) </li></ul><ul><li>Instructor attitude. (respect and challenge) </li></ul>“ Subject hard for everyone, but all can master with effort, and my goal for course is for all of you to succeed.” <ul><li>What have you found to be the most motivating to students? </li></ul><ul><li>What did you think would be motivating but wasn’t? </li></ul>
  63. 64. Attitudes and Beliefs* Assessing the “hidden curriculum” - beliefs about physics and learning physics Examples: • “ I study physics to learn knowledge that will be useful in life.” • “ To learn physics, I only need to memorize solutions to sample problems” *Adams et al, (2006). Physical Review: Spec. Topics: PER, 0201010
  64. 65. How do you think a single introductory physics class affects students beliefs about physics? <ul><li>Not much. Their beliefs are pretty well set by college. </li></ul><ul><li>Some students probably come out with a slightly more positive view of physics </li></ul><ul><li>It varies by students’ individual learning styles </li></ul><ul><li>Something else </li></ul>
  65. 66. Can we affect students’ beliefs? Shift (%) -6 -8 -12 -11 -10 -7 -17 +5 (All ±2%) Real world connect... Personal interest........ Sense making/effort... Conceptual................ Math understanding... Problem Solving........ Confidence................ Nature of science....... “ CLASS” survey of Expert-like beliefs Students come out of introductory classes with more negative views of physics than they came in with! The good news: yes… Worse for females!
  66. 67. why does this happen?
  67. 68. Trad’l Model of Education Individual Content
  68. 69. Expert Tutors * <ul><li>Motivation major focus (context, pique curiosity,...)limited praise, never for person, all for process </li></ul><ul><li>Understands what students do and do not know  timely, specific, interactive feedback </li></ul><ul><li>Almost never tell students anything- - pose questions. </li></ul><ul><li>Mostly students answering questions & explaining. </li></ul><ul><li>Asking right questions so students challenged but can figure out. Systematic progression. </li></ul><ul><li>Let students make mistakes , then discover and fix. </li></ul><ul><li>Require reflection: how solved, explain, generalize,… </li></ul>*Lepper and Woolverton pg 135 in Improving Academic Achievement
  69. 70. It’s not about our teaching, it’s about student learning
  70. 71. Conclusions <ul><li>Educational practice is a researchable endeavor </li></ul><ul><ul><li>We can make systematic progress </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Imperative to include physicists </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Possible to achieve dramatic repeated results </li></ul><ul><li>CU model strongly couples: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Reform and research </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Education and physics </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Sustaining & Scaling reforms is possible </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Requires theoretical framing </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Both CONTENT and CONTEXT matter </li></ul></ul>
  71. 72. Fin Much more at: per.colorado.edu

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