Materials on teaching

Bruce Hayes

Science-based learning in general

The world is changing and increasingly people do their work in ways guided by systematic research (e.g., baseball managers, stockbrokers, candidates for public office).  Why not study this way? For instance, the book Make it Stick, by Brown, Roediger, and McDaniel, offers advice based on research in experimental psychology.  In brief, it says:  don't read the text over and over, do try to restate and resynthesize the material for yourself.  Don't study all at once, but at intervals.  Strive for "effortful retrieval", which is resynthesis of the course material, coming from within your own mind (consulting the text where necessary), and carried out with a bit of delay after initial exposure, to make it (usefully) harder.   

Topics covered:

Does testing help you learn?

A couple of papers in which research by psychologists suggests that testing produces more effective learning than just studying -- part of the "effortful retrieval" mentioned above.  This is my main rationale for beginning every class with a short quiz.

Is it better to take notes by hand than on a laptop?

My main reason for discouraging laptops in intro class is that you just can't keep up with all the phonetic symbols and trees I use. But it's encouraging to note some experimental evidence that taking notes by hand helps you learn better.

Does everyone have their own best individual "learning style"?

People tend to believe this but according to these researchers there is no evidence to support this view:

See here for a quick summary (look under "Myth #4").

What is the best medium in which to read -- paper or screen?

There's now quite a bit of research that supports paper as the best choice.

I don't know about  the effect of reading tiny font sizes (from printing two-up) but it's hard to imagine that this is a helpful practice.

Daylight in classrooms

I have always intuitively raised the blinds when I use a classroom; there is at least some research (on elementary school teaching) that suggests that this is a good idea.

Last updated February 17, 2016