December 15, 2008

Workshop Extension: Science of Learning (Diane Halpern DVSS Keynote & 25 Principles)

A group of several BGSU instructors, from tenured professors to a graduate teaching assistant, attended the “Science of Learning” discussion session last Friday. The discussion centered on Diane Halpern’s keynote from earlier this spring at the 2nd Annual BGSU Teaching and Learning Fair. She began her keynote with the quizzical, yet rhetorical question:
If I taught something and no one learned it, what happened?
(In other words, can I say that I really TAUGHT it?)
Some of the key points the group discussed during the session were the nature the science of learning and importance of faculty knowing about the implications for their courses and the students they teach. Halpern encourages faculty to think about the big ideas of their course (Ten years after your course, what do you want students to remember or be able to do?); be clear about learning outcomes, and encourage/foster a learning environment that allows for practice at retrieval of knowledge and establishes challenging learning opportunities that addresses and transforms their mental models.

Furthermore, it’s important for students (and faculty) to realize that learning is “effortful,” yet rewarding – often most difficult initially, then easier with more efforts and practice… like most things in life. The diverse group of participants provided and discussed examples from foreign languages, musical performance, and the sciences.

Later, participants reviewed Halpern’s list of 25 principles (full list with citations available here or as MS Word file) and selected individual principles that are essential for student success, such as:
• Perceptual motor grounding
• Testing effect
• Spacing effect
• Stories and Example Cases
• Discovery Learning

One concern brought up in Halpern’s address as well as in this discussion session that is an important question for all teachers – (paraphrased) “So, if these methods lead to better, durable learning, don’t these take up more time in the class? What goes and how do we choose?” A great question for all instructors, department chairs, and deans as well!

Halpern suggests focusing your planning on students’ lives today and in the future – What are or will be their needs? What skills and knowledge will best prepare them for a world that doesn’t exist yet? These questions will continue to be explored and certainly more will be generated as additional findings emerge from the "learning sciences" discipline, as well as from the cognitive and neurological sciences.

For the BGSU community, to view this keynote, visit the DVSS (digital video streaming server), log in, and search for "Halpern" -- the video is approximately 70 minutes.

For those who attended this session or just want to leave a thought), click on the Comments link below this post to share your thoughts on the keynote, this discussion session, or any related issues.

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