Tag Archives: learning

Imagine if the only way you were allowed to learn something was to first hear it in a lecture and then study it on your own. Sounds restrictive, doesn’t it? Obviously, lectures prove perfect for certain educational endeavors, but then again, so do lab work, flipped classrooms, independent research, and a host of other multimodal approaches. And yet, no matter how a student is initially taught something, he’s expected to master that information alone, usually by sitting at a desk for hours reviewing notes. Here’s a revelation: maybe self-study isn’t the best path to content mastery for every student… maybe even not for you! One surprisingly effective strategy to learning is devilishly simple: teach it. The infamous Learning Pyramid, based loosely on the work of educator Edgar Dale, touts teaching as the most effective route to knowledge retention. More recent research helps provide the evidence this idea has needed. For…

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Like it or not, none of us are born perfect. Even worse, very few of us achieve perfection in any area or task. But those of us who strive to do our best must develop a thick skin, because failure always precedes success. Unfortunately, failure doesn’t always sit well with a person. Neither does criticism, which can be a problem as constructive criticism is one of the essential drivers of incremental improvement. Can anyone really learn or accomplish anything of consequence without dealing with criticism? Research, not to mention experience and common sense, says no: Research has overwhelmingly supported that providing feedback is one of the most powerful influences on learning and an integral part of the teaching/learning process. Into each life, Longfellow assures us, some rain must fall. Sometimes we’re showered with criticism too. How we handle constructive criticism makes all the difference. Do you see yourself on this…

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Sophisticated standardized exams like the SAT & ACT are, by their very nature and purpose, designed to be challenging yet accessible to all test takers. The architects of these instruments accomplish those twin goals by testing fundamental reading, writing, and math skills that everyone, in theory, should know in ways that exploit what they don’t know. That said, most teens bring little awareness of how these tests are designed the first time they sit down to take one. How hard can a test like this be anyway for someone who has been learning reading, writing, and math since kindergarten? Instead, like the fabled citizens of Lake Wobegone, most of us suffer from a tendency to overestimate our achievements and capabilities in relation to others. Yet, we cannot all be better than average on a test meticulously scaled to ensure that exactly half of test takers fall at or below the…

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For most of us, life consists of constant moments of analysis, definition, and reevaluation. Basically, we’re always trying to figure ourselves out. A strong sense of self can, in certain contexts, provide great clarity and comfort. Other times, however, we place ourselves in boxes that restrict our options and limit our successes. One of the great modern insights into achievement and success comes from psychologist Carol Dweck, who introduced the concept of mindset. Mindsets are essentially the beliefs we hold about ourselves and our abilities: — A fixed mindset believes that abilities are innate and static. — A growth mindset believes that abilities are able to be improved. Essentially, as the saying goes, if you think you can or think you can’t, you’re probably right. Since achievement depends so directly on mindset, we should be careful to cultivate a growth mindset in ourselves and others. Doing so, however, requires more…

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If you’ve been a student or educator within the last ten years, you might have taught or learned in a “flipped” classroom, where students study the basics of the material at home and spend their class time in collaborative groups, and teachers serve more as moderators than lecturers. There’s a lot to like about this model, but there’s no denying that it takes a lot of work to pull off. To successfully “flip” a classroom, a teacher usually has to arrange study materials for students to work on at home, like recorded lectures and PowerPoint presentations, and then design lesson plans that encourage critical thinking and teamwork and can be carried out in an hour. It makes sense that teachers want to know before trying it: does any of it actually make a difference? The short answer is, yes. It’s difficult to objectively assess teaching methods, and there isn’t much…

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We’ve all heard the expression, “Practice makes perfect.” In fact, most of us are guilty of repeating that old bromide, typically to encourage some extremely imperfect activity. Nonetheless, this hoary oyster holds within a pearl of pure truth. Neuroscience tells us that practice makes perfect because of myelination. Our incredible brains never stop changing, which can be a bad thing depending on how we invest or squander our time. As they say, you are what you do, thanks to myelination. Everything we think, say, or do involves the firing of long chains of neurons in our brains. Myelin is an insulating tissue that forms a layer or sheath around the axon of a neuron. Apparently, myelin develops along neural pathways that fire over and over, and its function is to increase the speed of neural impulses along these pathways. In essence, the more we perform a certain task, the faster…

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