The more I work with grad students, postdocs and faculty on teaching and learning, the more I realize how effective teaching and learning follows the key findings outlined in How People Learn by Bransford, Brown and Cocking (Eds.), published by the National Academy Press in 2000.
Key Finding 1 Students come to the classroom with preconceptions about how the world works. If their initial understanding is not engaged, they may fail to grasp the new concepts and information that are taught, or they may learn them for the purposes of a test but revert to their preconceptions outside of the classroom. (How People Learn, p. 14)
Key Finding 2 To develop competence in an area, students must:
- have a deep foundation of factual knowledge,
- understand facts and ideas in the context of a conceptual framework, and
- organize knowledge in ways that facilitate retrieval and application.
(How People Learn, p. 16)
Key Finding 3 A “metacognitive” approach to instruction can help students learn to take control of their own learning by defining learning goals and monitoring their progress in achieving them. (How People Learn, p. 18)
The editors thoughtfully connect each Key Finding with implications for teaching and designing the classroom environment. If you teach, and you haven’t read it, you should. The PDF is available for free.
When I’m asked to come and give a talk about teaching and learning, I go back to How People Learn. From these 3 Key Findings, it’s easy to tweak the presentation, tailor it to the audience, focus on specific instructional strategies, go long, or go short. This week, I have an opportunity to speak to a group of medical residents in Preventative Medicine at the med school at the University of California, San Diego. This is my first time speaking with medical folks and I’m excited because medical educators are starting to embrace peer instruction with clickers. “Starting to?” Heck, they’ve been doing it as long and as thoughtfully as the physics folks. While preparing for this presentation, I stumbled onto this terrific paper in the Journal of the International Associatation of Medical Science Educators by Frazier Stevenson, M.D.: Clickers: the Use of Audience Response Questions to Enliven Lectures and Stimulate Teamwork.
Despite having given the HPL talk many times, I still manage to re-do my PPT slidedeck each time, re-arranging here, re-formating there. One of my favorite slides this time suggests that clickers can bridge the gap between the novice preconceptions of the students and the expertise of their instructors.
Here are the rest of the slides I’ll be using.