Session 1: The Science of Learning

Research into how students learn has grown enormously over the last twenty-five years, and the field continues to expand. We know, for example, that students are not passive recipients of information, but, instead, actively construct their own knowledge and understanding. We also know that instructors who have a good sense of themselves as teachers—their instructional preferences, their beliefs about teaching—are particularly effective in the classroom. This session will provide an introduction to how people learn, and an opportunity to explore your own philosophy about teaching and learning. 

Learning Objectives

After completing this session, the participant will be able to:

  • Explain current theories on learning and cognition on student learning.
  • Apply cognition and learning research findings to your teaching.
  • Implement practices that help you reflect on your own teaching and whether or not you are being effective.

Pre-Session Assignments

Before the session begins, please complete the following items.

  1. Read the following articles:
    • Halpern, D. F., & Hakel, M. D. (2003). Applying the science of learning to the university and beyond: Teaching for long-term retention and transfer. Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 35(4), 36–41. [PDF]
    • Lang, J. M. (2008). Week 7: Students as learners. In On course: A week-by-week guide to your first semester of college teaching (pp. 153-177). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.  [PDF]
    • Pellegrino, J. W., Chudowsky, N., Glaser, R., & U. S. National Research Council. (2001). Chapter 3: Advances in the sciences of thinking and learning. In Knowing what students know: The science and design of educational assessment (pp. 59–92). Washington, DC: National Academy Press.  [PDF]
  2. Watch the three (3) part video titled Teaching Teaching & Understanding Understanding:

Part 1: “Learning” Student Perspective (YouTube, Length 8:14)

Part 2: “Understanding” Knowledge Perspective (YouTube, Length 6:19)

Part 3: “The Solution” Constructive Alignment (YouTube, Length 4:13)


Session Chat Room

For this session we will utilize a chat room to provide you with real-time interaction with your peers and instructors. During the session time, the instructors will be logged into and available in the provided chat room. This tool provides a wonderful opportunity for you to interact with your instructors and peers in real-time.

Please use the chat room during the scheduled times to send and receive real-time messages between your peers and instructors regarding the session content. The chat room is provided as a real-time interactive tool for you to post questions and comments to your instructors.

We recommend that during each scheduled session you have two browser windows open: one to display the chat window and the other to display the online course session page. By having two windows open at the same time, both the chat room and session content will be visible at all times.

Session Introduction

Welcome to the first of five sessions included in our Best Practices for Teaching and Learning course. During this session, we will interact with each other using pre-recorded video lectures that include pauses where you will engage in a variety of activities. Please ensure you have the chat room window available during this session for directions, questions, and comments from your instructors and peers. Some of the activities will require you to interact with your peers, watch additional videos, and post responses to provided discussion forums located within the online course room.

We look forward to the opportunity to interact with you in the online chat room as well as during this session.

During the video, be prepared to pause the video to participate in activities and discuss the questions posed.

Download the transcript for Session 1 Introduction video.

Session 1 Activity 2: Discussion Forum for Pre-Session Assignments

Strategies for Incorporating Research and Best Practices

Part 1 of this session will focus on strategies for incorporating learning research findings and best practices into your teaching to enhance student learning. This part of the lecture includes five video segments. They are provided on this page in the order in which they need to be watched.

During the videos you will be instructed to pause the video and post to the chat window or a discussion forum. Please complete the following videos in order.

Download the transcript for Strategies for Incorporating Research and Best Practices video.

To help students learn we need to know and understand…

1. How people learn (download the video transcript).

2. What students know prior to taking our courses (download the video transcript).

3. How novices differ from experts (download the video transcript).

4. How course design affects learning (download the video transcript).

Session 1 Activity 3: Discussion Forum for Think-Pair-Share Activity

Strategies for Reflection

Part 2 of this session will provide an opportunity for self-reflection on implementing the strategies in your own classroom. Use this segment of the session to reflect on the ideas introduced during the session and on whether your efforts in implementing these or other strategies have worked. 

Download the transcript for the Strategies for Reflection video.

Prior to leaving this session, follow the MUD card link and complete the survey to provide the instructors with information regarding your understanding and any remaining questions you may have. Remember that the MUD card helps us understand how you are doing and if there are topics that we still need to address. We look forward to your comments and feedback. Thank you!

Session 1 MUD card: The Science of Learning Feedback


Post-Session Assignment

Click the Post-Session Assignment link for the instructions and requirements for this sessions assignment. Note that this assignment will not be evaluated but is designed to help you enhance and reflect on your learning.

Post Session Assignment for the Science of Learning

Additional Session Files

Motivating Students (PDF)

Motivation To Learn (PDF)

Post Session Worksheet – How Research Into Learning Informs Teaching

Video Download

Download the Session 1 Science of Learning full video [325 MB, ZIP].