How Learning Works – Lessons from the Pros

How Learning Works: Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching is an outstanding reference for teachers. It holds particular value for college instructors who are subject matter experts but may lack expertise in the principles of teaching and learning which includes many adjuncts and new full-time instructors.

7 Principles for Smart Teaching

The seven principles put forth in this book are teaching lessons for us all to learn. In future articles I will give my interpretation of these seven and how they can be applied.

The authors brought this book down to a basic level that virtually every college instructors can understand. But having reflected on the principles below, my goal will be to make them even more “hands-on” for my readers, especially those who teach potentially problematic courses such as general education math and sciences courses and career/technical education courses.

Having said all that, PLEASE PLEASE read this book yourself to get the full benefit. How Learning Works is one of the most valuable references I have in my personal library. But if I have not convinced you of its value, read the accolades others have given the book in the How Learning Works Recommendations section below.

For now, let me just share those seven principles:

  1. Students’ prior knowledge can help or hinder learning.
  2. How students organize knowledge influences how they learn and apply what they know.
  3. Students’ motivation generates, directs, and sustains what they do to learn.
  4. To develop mastery, students must acquire component skills, practice integrating them, and know when to apply what they have learned.
  5. Goal-directed practice coupled with targeted feedback are critical to learning.
  6. Students current level of development interacts with the social, emotional, and intellectual climate of the course to impact learning.
  7. To become self-directed learners, students must learn to assess the demands of the task, evaluate their own knowledge and skills, plan their approach, monitor their progress, and adjust their strategies as needed.

 


 

How Learning Works Book Recommendations

Don’t take my word for it; read what prominent professional educators had to say about How Learning Works:

“How Learning Works” is the perfect title for this excellent book. Drawing upon new research in psychology, education, and cognitive science, the authors have demystified a complex topic into clear explanations of seven powerful learning principles. Full of great ideas and practical suggestions, all based on solid research evidence, this book is essential reading for instructors at all levels who wish to improve their students’ learning.

Barbara Gross Davis, assistant vice chancellor for educational development,University of California, Berkelely, and author of Tools for Teaching

 

 

This book is a must-read for every instructor, new or experienced. Although I have been teaching for almost thirty years, as I read this book I found myself resonating with many of its ideas, and I discovered new ways of thinking about teaching.

Eugenia T. Paulus, professor of chemistry, North Hennepin Community College, and 2008 U.S. Community Colleges Professor of the Year from The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education

 

Thank you Carnegie Mellon for making accessible what has previously been inaccessible to those of us who are not learning scientists. Your focus on the essence of learning combined with concrete examples of the daily challenges of teaching and clear tactical strategies for faculty to consider is a welcome work. I will recommend this book to all my colleagues.

Catherine M. Casserly, senior partner, The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

 

As you read about each of the seven basic learning principles in this book, you will find advice that is grounded in learning theory, based on research evidence, relevant to college teaching, and easy to understand. The authors have extensive knowledge and experience in applying the science of learning to college teaching, and they graciously share it with you in this organized and readable book.

– From the Forewords by Richard E. Mayer, professor of psychology, University of California, Santa Barbara: coauthor. “e-Learning and the Scence of Instruction”: and author. “Multimedia Learning”.

 

Reference:

Ambrose, S., Bridges, M., Lovett, M., DiPitietro, M. & Norman, M. (2010) How learning works: seven research-based principles for smart teaching. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

 

About Dr. Paul A. Hummel, Ed.D.

My name is Paul Hummel, and I often introduce myself to others as a recovering engineer. If you are familiar with the Dilbert cartoons, let me simply say that I lived all of that. I started my college saga at Illinois Institute of Technology. Eventually, I earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering and a Master’s Degree in Engineering Management. I worked for many years in industry, and during this time I did some college adjunct teaching. During my career I held several managerial positions in industry, the last as Director of Technology of a division of a Fortune 500 corporation. Then, in 1996, with minimal planning or forethought, I found myself working as a manufacturing consultant on behalf of Elgin Community College (ECC).

My career in higher education began to take shape. I fell in love with ECC and with the mission of community colleges in general. I worked fulltime and occasionally taught college courses for my institution and two other colleges. After a couple years I set a goal to move over to the “credit side of the college” and eventually become a college administrator. In 2006, having earned my doctorate in education, I achieved that goal. I was hired by Waubonsee Community College as Dean for Technology, Mathematics and Physical Sciences.

I have had the great fortune of working at two excellent colleges. The insights I want to share are drawn from the various college positions I have held. At ECC, in addition to my consulting role, I coordinated non-credit professional development training programs for three years and spent four years advising students in the TRiO Student Support Services program. That position helped me understand college education from the perspective of today’s college students.

After seven years at Waubonsee, I retired April 30, 2013. I now devote my knowledge and skills to upgrading and expanding the websites I created beginning with Adjunct Assistance. I have three other websites: College Teaching Tips, Keys for College Success and Lighthouse for Learning. A lot of work lies ahead for me in terms of upgrading and expanding each of these websites, but I could not be more excited about fulfilling the vision I have for helping college instructors and their students succeed.


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