Brief Introduction to the Science of Learning Video

Brief Introduction to the Science of Learning Video


Hi I’m Gren Agresar. I’m an
instructional consultant at CRLT-Engin and I’m very excited to be here with you.
I’m an engineer by training and also a teacher. I love teaching. While I was working on my PhD in engineering here at the
University of Michigan, I took a class called “Teaching Engineering” and later I
pursued a master’s in education. That knowledge helped dispel some
misconceptions that I had in my head about what constitutes good teaching. It
provided a foundation for me to grow and improve as a teacher. So what I’m going to present to you today is a very very very brief introduction to the science of
learning and I hope you find it useful. After this short video you should be
able to explain in very general terms how people learn. You should be able to
name and describe six principles of learning that are based on research. And
I hope that you can use those principles as a framework to make some of the
decisions that you’re gonna have to make as an instructor. So let’s get started! Take a moment to recall how you answered this question in the pre-survey: How do people learn? If you haven’t done this, Now it’s the time to pause the video and go back to the pre survey and think
about this. The question of how people learn has
been studied for a long time going all the way back to Aristotle, as far as we
know, by people from many fields. More recently, technological advances in
neuroscience have made it possible to study the brain during learning
providing another piece of the puzzle. And the interesting thing is that the
conclusions from researchers from the different fields using very different
tools and approaches are converging, and we’re getting a clearer and more
complete picture of how people learn. Their collective findings are often
referred to as the “Science of Learning” There are many theories of learning and
one of the most popular is called social constructivism. What this says is that
knowledge is constructed by the learner in a social context. This is so important
and there is so much packed in here that it’s worth repeating knowledge is
constructed meaning it’s not transmitted. So even if I want to plug in cable from
my brain to my students’ and do a download, it won’t happen. I can’t do that.
It’s constructed by the learner, so one learner might construct the knowledge in
one way and somebody else might construct the knowledge in a totally
different way even if they’re in the same environment. And finally, it’s
constructed in a social context. The context matters. So if I am sitting here
in this room by myself trying to learn something from a video, I might construct
the knowledge differently than if I were with a group of people interacting, talking to each other, perhaps in a different language. So this has very many implications to teaching and I hope you can keep it in mind. But now we may ask, how do we actually construct that knowledge ? From neuroscience’s perspective learning is forming and breaking neural networks. Lasting learning is going to happen when we actually commit some of those
memories into long-term memory. How do our experiences, then, turn into memories? We experience the world through our senses and the perceptions of our
experiences get stored in sensory memory. Now, try to guess how long we can store things in sensory memory before they’re gone? Only half to three seconds.
If we pay attention, then they’re stored into working memory, and if we
encode them we can store them in long-term memory. However, we only have about 15 seconds in working memory to encode the memories. And we’ll talk about that in a little while. Once in long-term memory, they’re there, but we may not always be able to access those memories because
encoding happens via one path and retrieval happens via a different path.
So it’s important that when you assign homework or when you study that you practice not only memorizing the information, encoding it, getting it in there, but you
also practice the retrieval. Reading the textbook might help us in this direction,
but summarizing the textbook helps us in this direction. And there is a way to
actually expand the amount of time that the memory stays in working memory and
that is by practicing, by rehearsing. And then, we have a better chance of encoding it. We’ve condensed some research principles on learning into six. And the first one is that we learn best by doing. We’ve
heard that before. Now doing is not necessarily you doing a lab, of course
yes that helps, but it’s actually engaging with the knowledge. So if I am
taking notes and I’m writing my notes exactly like I hear them, I’m not really
processing. However, if I summarize the notes in my head and then write them
down, I’m doing something with it. So that’s better. All learning is active and
the more active you are with the knowledge, the better you learn it. And
this is good news for you because one of the best ways to learn something and to
engage with your learning is by teaching it. The second principle is we learn best
when we feel that we belong. And this comes into play at many different levels.
We need to feel that we belong in the field. We need to feel like we can be
programmers, and engineers, or scientists. Second, we need to feel that we belong in
the classroom, that we are part of that learning community. And third, we need to
feel that we belong at the University of Michigan. At the face-to-face portion of
the orientation there is an entire session dedicated to how we can help
students feel that they belong. Our third principle its connections. To
make encoding a powerful process it’s important that we recognize that
memories aren’t stored as faithful recordings. Each new memory is integrated into our existing body of knowledge Therefore, the most robust memories are
formed through elaboration and organization, where learners process the
new information as deeply as possible; they maximize the connections with what
they already know; and they situate the new knowledge into an existing framework.
Okay, so this icon is packed with ideas. We want to make sure as instructors
that we help the students make connections with their prior knowledge,
what they already know; with the larger picture, what is the bigger framework of
how everything fits together in the field, and in their models in their
brains; and finally, with what they value. This last one is very linked to
motivation. Students are going to be interested in learning if they
understand that there is a purpose to it, if they think it is important, if they
value it. Our fourth principle is deliberate practice. A lot of us have
heard that practice makes perfect. Well, if I’m a swimmer and I practiced the wrong stroke am I going to swim faster? Probably not. So, it’s very
important that our practice is goal-directed. We need to have a goal; we need to know where we’re going. Also, research has shown that it’s better to practice for short periods of time several days in a row, than cramming everything all in one day. It’s going to produce stronger memories. There are too many principles that I’d like to talk to you about. But first, we’re gonna stop and do a couple of cognitive exercises, which hopefully
will tie some of these ideas together. Are you ready? You might want to get some paper and pencil. Go ahead and read this paragraph, and think about what it’s about. What do you think is the topic here? Stop the video and take as long as you need. If I give you the title, does that
make more sense now? Was this the topic that you were thinking? Bransford
and Johnson in 1972 published some research using this same paragraph. And
they found that the number of ideas recalled afterwards more than doubles if
you have the title. So again, implications for teaching: framing, which is another
word for connecting to the larger context, helps students make meaning. Here’s another exercise. Study this list for 20 seconds. Don’t write anything down
just yet. Ready? Go! And stop! Now take 30 seconds to write
down what you remember. Alright, how did you do? How many did
you remember? We’re going to do this exercise again with the same letters, but they’re going to be reorganized. Are you ready? Go! And stop! 30 seconds, write them down. How did you do this time? When I showed
this slide in some of my classes, people laughed, and you might have too. Most people when we do this exercise remember many more letters in the second one. But the
idea is that arranging the letters into something that you already know, reduces
the effort that you have to do in order to remember them. It actually reduces the
number of things that you have to remember. It’s a process called chunking, and we like to relate it to our principle of connection as well. In this case, we’re
connecting to something that we already know. So there are two more learning principles that I’d like to present in this video. The first one is cognitive
conflict. Sometimes when the new knowledge that we are trying to
learn is different from the knowledge that we already have, there’s a conflict.
And in order to really truly learn something we, as students, have to
experience that conflict. And I bring this up here because as instructors
we often don’t want to see our students struggle, and we may want to give them
the answer. But sometimes, giving them the answer is depriving them of an
opportunity to learn. And the last principle is metacognition. We’re thinking about thinking. So in order to become better learners we need to pay attention to how we learn. And we can often help our students by modeling how
we learn. So, what’s going on in your brain as you’re trying to solve that
problem or trying to program that code? Pay attention and say it out loud to the
students. Also, you can ask students questions. How did you study for
that test? How did that work for you? Should we practice some retrieving as
well as storing? Those are our six principles. We hope that you remember these principles as you reflect and as you grow as a teacher. And remember that if you ever have any questions about teaching we at CRLT-Engin are here to help. There are many resources in our website and we also have great engineering teaching consultants that can help you. Thank you very much for being here today!

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