Research-Based Teaching

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Online References

Below are a selection of practical, online references that the Bok Center recommends for the teacher interested in research-based pedagogy. Most are scientific, peer-reviewed studies or reviews; all give explicit attention to how research can inform an individual teacher's practice.

Cognition and Learning

  • How People Learn: Brain, Mind Experience and School from the National Academies reviews what scientists know about how people (not just students) learn. Chapter 2, "How Experts Differ from Novices", is a great starting place for teachers interested in cognition and learning. See also "The Expertise Reversal Effect" (Kalyuga et. al., Ed. Psych., 38(1), 23, 2003) for research on learning by students who are no longer novices.
  • Research into Cognitive Load Theory and Instructional Design at UNSW provides a good summary of many of the main results from cognitive research (ca. 1998, but still relevant) that bear on course and lesson design.
  • Nine Ways to Reduce Cognitive Load in Multimedia Learning (Richard E. Mayer & Roxana Moreno, 2003. Educational Psychologist, 38(1), 43-52). This article from a leading researcher in multimodal learning outlines several teaching situations in which human cognitive limits can adversely affect learning, and suggests strategies for avoiding such limits.
  • The first three chapters of Edward Redish's Teaching Physics With the Physics Suite (Wiley, 2003) provide a strong but readable overview, from a practicing teacher's point of view, of to plan cognitively-valid lessons. The examples used to illustrate ideas are from physics, but the bulk of the discussion is general to all disciplines.

Learning Outcomes

  • The Educational Value of Course-level Learning Objectives/Outcomes from CMU summarizes the research basis for teaching from the standpoint of learning outcomes.
  • Understanding by Design by Wiggins & McTighe is a standard reference for the teacher on outcomes-based teaching. The first chapter, "Backward Design", gives the foundation for instructors designing courses, lessons and assignments.
  • Critical Thinking: Why Is It So Hard to Teach? by Daniel T. Willingham (American Educator, Summer 2007) argues that research does support the idea of "critical thinking" as a goal of liberal education -- but with some unanticipated implications for our teaching.

Pedagogical Approaches and Student Learning

Sleep and Learning

Are students getting enough sleep? Research at Harvard shows that a full night's sleep leads to better consolidation of material learned the day before. Even mild sleep-loss leads to cognitive decline.

Other studies show that too much multitasking can induce stress and hinder retention of information.