Make It Stick: A Professional Learning Community

In February and March, the Faculty Center is hosting a professional learning community devoted to Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning (Belknap Press, Harvard, 2014). The book makes the cognitive science of learning accessible to readers of all disciplines. It explodes some popular assumptions about how we learn best—by cramming for a test the night before, by working on one single skill until we’ve mastered it, by tailoring our learning to a particular “style.” Instead, Peter C. Brown, Henry L. Roediger, and Mark A. McDaniel recommend that learners space out their practice, work on multiple topics or problems at once, and focus, not on our so-called learning styles, but on the stories we tell about ourselves as learners.

Faculty from Human Ecology, Education, Library Instruction, Music Industry, and more have been meeting to talk about how these and other strategies speak to our teaching practices. We’ve discussed how to update our classroom activities to align with learning methods that cognitive science supports. Some instructors reflected, for instance, on ways to offer more opportunities for retrieval practice in class (such as in the form of low stakes quizzes), as we read that recalling information from memory without aid is an effective strategy for long-term retention. Others celebrated how research supports curriculum they’ve developed in their classes. One faculty member talked about how giving feedback throughout a unit helps students identify areas for improvement so that they can return and fill in gaps. Another identified with the “write to learn” approach that encourages students to reflect on their own learning and to connect new concepts to previous knowledge.

Those interested in joining a future professional learning community can contact Racheal Fest.






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