December 12, 2013 by Sheryl Barnes
Plenary Speaker: Daniel T. Willingham, author of “Why Don’t Students Like School?”
(disclaimer: these are my own personal notes. for authentic representation of Daniel’s work, please reference his publications directly.)
Talk will have two parts:
- Quick tour of basic findings re: learning & memory
- Talk about application
(start with a few questions, clap to answer… turns out they are false)
- What makes things go into memory (some things stick with us, others don’t)
- What causes forgetting? (not going to talk about this one)
- How do we know whether or not we know things? (our estimates can be faulty)
1. Getting stuff into memory:
We know a lot of things that we never intended to commit to memory > intention to remember is inconsequential, but that task that you do is important (how you think about what it is that you are intending to remember, it thinking about meaning makes memory better).
Encoding (what you think about at the time when there’s something you might remember)
Retrieval (asking about the walk…), if you focused on what the dog looked like & I ask if you saw something cute, you might remember.
Memory is the residue of thoughts; students mostly need to remember meaning.
“The moving men struggled to get the PIANO up the stairs” (encourages you to think about an uncommon piano characteristics); people do much better when they encounter a cue that aligns to the heaviness.
Repetition – tons of data showing that repetition helps memory.
Penny slide – if repetition alone were enough, we should be good at this task.
It is good, but needs to be repetition of deep thinking (thinking about meaning)
Not all repetition is created equal:
Spacing gap & testing delay – spreading out practice helps
Simplest rule of thumb: at the very least, you’d like students to sleep during the delay (at least 24 hours)
Study something once > (24 hr delay) > (delay) > test
Study > Test > Test better than
Study > Study > Test
Rummaging around for info is very good for memory (no one believes this)
“Testing Effect” > “Retrieval Practice” (what’s important is trying to remember)
3. How do we know whether or not we know?
Student study time is strongly influenced by their perception of what they know. (they study until they feel like they know it)
Errors: how can you think you know something when you don’t (e.g. physical directions)
“The toilet study” – 50 common objects, describe how they work – people thought they knew how a toilet worked but they didn’t (people make mistakes)
How do we make these mistakes? Familiarity & partial access
Familiarity: knowing that you’ve seen a stimulus before, but having little other info about it
Recollection: much richer associations with the target
The effect of familiarity – leads you to say you know something, but all you know is that you have experienced it before (you believe that you could dredge up more info if you had time, but you can’t) e.g. math problems repeating, thinking 36×48 was 36+48. Judgement is based on familiarity
Partial access: You know a lot about a topic, so you conclude that you know everything about it. Make a “feeling of knowing judgment” (FOK)
Many-example category – High FOK (many example categories), Low FOK (few examples), based on how many composers vs choreographers you know.
Where does this come from in students?
Rereading (shallow processing) > familiarity (students use the terrible strategy of re-reading, which is terrible because it boosts familiarity)
Recollecting related info > partial access (students know a lot, so they think they know it all)
Students make thjudgement that they are done at the wrong time (at the end of the study session).
Self test until 100%, doesn’t account for forgetting.
What teachers can do:
- Create assignments that unavoidably make students think about meaning (have to think about meaning to compete the task). End product is to help endure that you have the basics down.
- Repeat (spaced, fold into advanced skills)
- Tell students about the testing effect, or do class demo. i.e. “Retrieval Practice”
(NYT article – frequent tests can enhance college learning – quiz at beginning of each class; Pennebaker at al, 2003); Grades better overall & equalized the impact of economic status, attendance improved, students hated it at first.)
? Does testing need to be daily? (Rawson et all, submitted) 20-30 mins computerized review session, mastery approach; 3x/semester. Had students come back 3 days & 24 days after class. This seems to be a very successful intervention: distributed practice, testing. Seems to be really protective against massive forgetting.
You could try make testing unpredictable – don’t tell students when the mid-terms are. (ha!)
Tell students what they should do:
- Studying needs to be mentally active & mirror testing. Think about what instructor is likely to ask.
- (Concept mapping example)
- Lecture > Key conclusions > Supporting examples, logic, etc > Details.
- Nodes are “what”, connections are “why”
- Don’t think you are done because you have the facts in place, missing connections.
- Lectures have a hierarchical structure, but they come to you in linear fashion > students should unpack their notes so they are hierarchical.
- Distribute study over time
- Explain need for overlearning (though they will ignore)
- Tell them what not to do:
- Highlighting is generally a bad idea (fine for experts in their field – we know what’s important, students are novices, they don’t know what is important). Unread text does not get unread again,.
- Rereading – what kind of test would that be good for?
- Hunt and Gather – (Gurung & Daniel, 2005), online reading the preview & summary, glossary. Pedagogical aids don’t work if you don’t do the reading.
Become a better judge of what you know:
- Jog folks out of familiarity & partial access
- Clickers (can be too factual, patronizing), bring in new material
- Ask students to explain to each other in class
- Begin or end class with a written sefl-test (force people to dredge around in memory); (clearest/muddiest point); good to draw in shy students
Make sure they know the criterion of what it means to “know” something; “I know it, I just can’t explain it” – what they mean is: “I know it when you explain it, it makes sense when I read it in the book” (familiarity); make this explicit to the student. How?
- Look up from book chapter & explain what you just read
- At least some of your studying should be without notes/textbook (team up with someone else – quiz each other)
Discussion: How does the science of learning impact our teaching?
Big overlap between her & Dan.
Now organizes her courses to maximize potential student learning
Onus on faculty to scaffold course structure/organization to interface with the cognitive system
There’s a tension between content & process: Need to “cover” the material (prereqs to other courses, etc… good base of knowledge for anyone in the field)
Dan’s ideas take time – in the class, preparation; so that’s where the tension arises; the more useful stuff you do for learning, the less content you will cover.
More over time view> the process is more important than the content; content is the context in which to teach the process.
There are some commonalities across disciplines (building a logical argument, etc…)
What will my students remember 10 years from now? Not content,
How to use the content in order to get students to think in the way you want them to to process new information in the future
e.g.: I didn’t see the patterns in the data you were talking about until I graphed it in Excel
Writing (cool projects – virtual classroom with Bulgaria); learned about effective communication of scientific info to less-advanced audiences
Likes what the students are doing: having ideas, holding each other accountable to the principles of physics, assessing the quality of their ideas; assessing the quality of ideas is key.
Shows the beginnings of physics – why don’t Tufts students arrive doing it as well as these 3rd graders? Conjecture: prior ed experience has been organized around remembering someone else’s information. Much more about epistemic activity, than knowledge.
1. Instructor listened to the students
2. Assessment is part of what we teach
3. There are both similarities & differences across disciplines (students need time & experience with faculty tossing out ideas & having them taken seriously); see doing Physics as about them having ideas, holding them up & deciding whether they are good ideas. Physicists are professional learners about the physical world.
Couldn’t get sweater to fit into the box > realization that sweaters have changed over time (more material)
Analogy for Higher Education > Model designed long ago to be model of efficiency for that time; now more about knowledge production everyday.
Med faculty – why constantly seeking new info? Knowledge of hematology had grown so much, he didn’t know how to teach so much in the time allocated.
Mismatch – univ curriculum structure to new research on teaching, how mastery develops.
Expect widely different students to simultaneously cover the same info & get to the same place
How do I squeeze in more in less time?
How do I feel confident that students have achieved the learning objectives?
Discipline thresholds – new concept for her
Can’t cover all the material, have to make decisions
Have to think like a teacher rather than a discipline expert (Kansas – Wesch); engage students in a quest
What will make my students curious, make them want to go on a quest?
What are the key concepts (pared down) that students must learn, what does it mean to learn? (they have the meaning of core concepts) Deep vs surface.
Help them make the connections – how does this class relate to the entire discipline?
Assessment is important – as pedagogical tool. Need to know what they do/don’t know & assumptions/beliefs.
Need techniques for encouraging students to reflect & make meaning
Align final assessment to objectives – are you testing the way you teach? (build up to the final test)
Individual differences in learning need to be respected, but don’t dictate
Job – help students broaden how they learn
Students will not be experts at the end > life long learning
Spends more time on writing & communication skills, process of analysis, think like teachers (less theory), information literacy.
Knowledge is constantly changing, students need to know more about how to learn & self-assess
Most depts are reluctant to talk about curriculum, because faculty enjoy “being royalty” in the classes they teach.
What matters is mental activity/engagement
Hypothesis: faculty can reduce cognitive overhead & create efficiencies for students if they explicitly collaps/generalize across disciplines. (see saw between general & specific)
Set up situations where students cannot remain passive – ask “why” students do/did something
Every week or two: write journal entry: what is your progress toward the objectives & what are the activities getting you there?