How Can Learning Science Help Improve Teaching ?



how can the scientific study of learning be relevant and helpful to educators in their day to day classroom activities we asked researchers affiliated with Carnegie Mellon's Simon initiative for their personal and disciplinary perspectives anyone who's an expert at what they do does things in response to the situation in response to the environment based on their accumulated knowledge and they might make a lot of teaching moves automatically an expert teacher may not think of it as collecting data and making a choice they might just do things that seem like the most natural thing to do in this situation that expert view is it's sort of hiding a lot of tacit knowledge that the teacher has about what might work what might not work background knowledge about the student this context and so forth and so one way to think about it is that the teacher is making a lot of moves and it feels like art and maybe a lot of it is sort of implicit in its not explicit in their thinking and maybe some of it is even very finely tuned to the contextual factors so it seems like an art but one way of thinking of this science is that it's sort of just trying to unpack all that and study it systematically so that we can see is there something we can generalize from this other than when this teacher with this student in this context did that it worked well I had a friend a number of years ago who was a professor in a business school we went for lunch one day and I told him what I was working on he said oh I flipped my classroom once and tell me about it what was what was that like and he's like well you know they I've read I read some stuff and it sounded really cool and so I recorded some videos and I put them online and you know I had two TAS and it was just so much work to get the students doing the practice problems in class and you know I really it didn't work very well the students hated it my reviews plummeted and you know it just wasn't worth it I don't really understand what the heck's about I asked him if he had gone to a to a Center for teaching excellence or if he had used any of that there are there even a ton of articles and very accessible you know not peer-reviewed journals about these kinds of things and he had he had seen an article and then assumed that he knew what he needed to do there and in fact that assumption is there on the part of the researchers and the practitioners the teachers right the the assumption that we we put together the theory we know the things that we need to know and so we can just apply that that that's all that it is especially as faculty members who live in this realm of research that all you really need to do is understand the problem and the problem solved the fact that there's actually a lot of space in between those those two steps that there is a chasm there is really difficult to communicate let alone to bridge we tend to make assumptions about what's challenging for students in our classrooms that aren't always right you know one thing I found very effective which I do try to employ in my own teaching but I think it's pretty not so hard to do is I don't just make quizzes with a lot of questions on them I systematically doesn't design questions that are gonna help me understand say by this question or problem is so hard and I might have some hypothesis about it right and so I make another very similar version of that question but it doesn't have the hard part in it the hypothesized hard part right and so now I give the quiz and if I'm right then this problems gonna be a lot harder than than the other one but here it's really quite striking how often I'm not right and I don't mean that as me and anybody who does this I think you know you'll find that at least half the time you may be right but is almost half the time you're wrong and sometimes it's exactly the opposite in some of these kinds of stuff well one thing that I find in working with teachers especially those who already kind of work to hone their craft they think about teaching they think about their students and so this sometimes you can think of learning science is giving them a language and maybe it's a more formal language but just giving them kind of or some new labels or ideas for what they're already doing so a lot of the work that we do working with faculty is to say there's this body of work and there's kind of this model of how learning works that comes out of that set of results and ask teachers to respond to it and say oh yeah that could be an explanation for what's going on in my classroom and so what it might do is it might take that that expert teaching move that you make and give it an explanation give it an underpinning it might also prompt a teacher to say hmm I never thought of it that way I wonder if I try this if it would work better and I think it's that experimentation and reflection on what happens afterward that is a really interesting part of what learning science can do for our teachers

2 thoughts on “How Can Learning Science Help Improve Teaching ?”

  1. The people are very articulate and make interesting points, but what they are talking about, I would maintain, is developing craft, and while they make reference to learning science, they don't cite any. There are certain criteria that make something science (which doesn't by the way equate to truth) which aren't even gestured to in this video. I particularly was moved to question Laura's presentation, which clearly leaves the impression that a flipped classroom is good pedagogy, and she uses a colleague as a straw man to demonstrate that the reason it sometimes doesn't work is that people try it are paying scant attention to the science, without presenting any evidence that flipping a classroom does work or any references that suggest it has been tested in a scientific way.

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