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6 Strategies That Need To Be Part of Every Learner’s Study Routine

While your brain isn’t a muscle, in many ways it learns like one. Just as exercises involving little physical exertion won’t build strong muscles, study techniques that require low mental effort won’t produce strong learning outcomes. Effective studying requires slowing down, using strategies that increase mental challenge, and embracing errors as necessary steps on the path to knowledge. While this will feel uncomfortable and less productive at first, it’s important to always remember: when learning is harder, it’s more lasting!

Unfortunately, our brains are naturally lazy and prefer study techniques that involve low mental strain. This results in learning that is shallow and quickly lost. While many popular studying strategies (e.g., rereading, highlighting, & cramming) create a sense of rapid learning, this is often an illusion — revealed the moment you try testing yourself later or using your new knowledge in a different context.


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Every day countless students are flagged as ‘at risk’ by academic early alert systems. These tools notify faculty and/or advisers of students who are in danger of failing or dropping a course, enabling them to proactively target students for interventions and outreach. The adoption of these systems in higher education has been rapid and enthusiastic. A recent survey by Educause found more than a third of higher education institutions have institution-wide deployments of early alert systems, with another third reporting targeted or initial deployments.

But despite widespread excitement around early alert systems in higher education, their impact on student success remains unclear. To better understand the lack of consistently positive outcomes observed with these tools and appreciate their limitations, I want to share a story about fire alarms. …


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Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

“The case against science is straightforward: much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue. Afflicted by studies with small sample sizes, tiny effects, invalid exploratory analyses, and flagrant conflicts of interest, together with an obsession for pursuing fashionable trends of dubious importance, science has taken a turn towards darkness.” (Horton, 2015).

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Recent years have witnessed a rebirth among education companies. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, large edtech companies have been reborn as learning science companies. …


Is It Time to Press Pause on Educational Videogames?

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Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

Halfway through 2019, the hype and excitement around videogames as learning tools continues largely unabated. Previously bold statements about the potential of videogames to “fix our educational systems” (McGonigal, 2011, p.14) and “solve our current crisis in education” (Shaffer, 2006, p. 67) are now viewed as uncontroversial platitudes. Influential educational pundits regularly cite video games as critical in our efforts to reimagine how we educate future generations. And a growing chorus of scholars have stressed the importance of increasing research into how videogames might improve student learning (e.g., …


Visualizing my children’s question-asking during spring break

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The primary subjects of this study

As many readers with young children understand, vacations with young children are rarely the peaceful and rejuvenating experience the word connotes. Some parents (not me) might even be crazy enough to suggest that being at work is more relaxing than spending time with one’s children. Like I said, not me.

In fact, when colleagues ask, “Did you have a relaxing break?” I’ll invariably nod politely and smile, but inside I’m thinking, “Whew, I’m so happy I am to be back in my quiet office with the children at school!” Don’t judge me.

And while there are many factors that contribute to a stressful “vacation” as a parent — tantrums, whining, and uncategorized craziness — an often overlooked aspect is the torrential deluge of questions. Seriously, young children are perpetual question machines. Forced to occupy the same space as my children on “vacations”, I’ve found it rare for more than a few minutes to pass (assuming my kids aren’t occupied by a screen) without a question being asked. …


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Photo by Saffu on Unsplash

I recently read a meta-analysis on the effects of feedback in computer-based learning (Van der Kleij, Feskens, & Eggen, 2015) and one of the authors’ primary conclusions was that their analysis supported the broadly accepted claim that delaying feedback has a negative impact on learning outcomes. This belief that educational feedback is best if provided immediately and frequently is widespread and repeatedly espoused in learning design and educational research circles. This is understandable given that it mirrors the recommendations of most major literature reviews on the topic (e.g., Kulik & Kulik, 1988; Mory, 2004). It’s also is a principle widely employed in modern adaptive homework and intelligent tutoring systems, which often provide instantaneous feedback to students after answer submission. …


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Photo by: José Alejandro Cuffia

If the quality and informativeness of education research is to improve, it will need to kick a bad habit — focusing on whether or not an educational intervention ‘works’.

And efforts to answer that question through null hypothesis significance testing (NHST), which explores whether an intervention or product has an effect on the average outcome, undermines the ability to make sustained progress in helping students learn. It provides little useful information and fails miserably as a method for accumulating knowledge about learning and teaching.

How does NHST look in action? A typical research question in education might be whether average test scores differ for students who use a new math game and those who don’t. Applying NHST, a researcher would assess whether a difference in scores is large enough to conclude that the game has had an impact, or, in other words, that it ‘works’. …


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Psychology is filled with compelling stories about the human condition; fantastic tales of the unconscious factors that influence our behaviors and the hidden attributes that subtly shape our lives.

Consider several research stories that have captured the public imagination:

  • Reading words associated with the elderly cause us to walk slower (Bargh et al., 1996).
  • Striking certain poses cause people to instantly become more powerful (Carney et al., 2010).
  • Exposure to first class passengers increases flyer antisocial behaviors (aka, “air rage”) (DeCelles & Norton, 2016).

These stories, and countless others, make for satisfying and surprising explanations of our world. The worry, however, is that a good research story can tempt us into letting down our intellectual guard. And unfortunately, like many findings in the social sciences, additional research has revealed the tantalizing stories listed above are likely fantasy, and initial support for them has eroded under additional scrutiny. …


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Photo by Carson Arias on Unsplash

Personalization. It’s the big thing in education right now. Everyone in education is talking about it, selling it, and investing heavily in it.

The Mark Zuckerberg backed educational foundation CZI has recently committed to the goal of “bringing personalized learning to every child,” and the Bush Foundation is funding schools designed to enable “mass customization” of instruction.

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The interest in personalization is but one example a broader shift across edtech toward the prioritization of services, algorithms, recommendations, analytics, platforms, etc., and away from content. …


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Pretty much everyone thinks they are above average (Williams & Gilovich, 2008). This finding has been observed in studies examining participants’ estimations of their driving skill, workplace attendance, leadership ability, recovery times, IQ, susceptibility to the flu, academic performance, and much, much more. People’s persistent overestimation of their ability is sometimes referred to as the “Lake Wobegon effect” (certainly one of the best effect names in psychology!) …

About

Jay Lynch

I think about learning, a lot

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