Session 1

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 provides an introduction to how people learn, and an opportunity to explore your own philosophy about teaching and learning.

1. In this session…

You will first read articles and prepare ideas that will be discussed in the videos. Next, we will interact through pre-recorded video lectures where you will be instructed to pause and engage in a variety of activities, as well as think about the questions posed.

Download Complete Session 1 Video [ ZIP, 325 MB, 540 p ]

2. 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.

3. Pre-Session Assignments


  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Think About

  • Which readings are most relevant to you and your teaching? Why?
  • Is there a particular reading that challenged your view of how students learn? Why?


Teaching Teaching & Understanding Understanding:

  • Source: Brabrand, C., & Andersen, J. (2006). Teaching teaching & understanding understanding [ Video ]. University of Aarhus, Denmark: Aarhus University Press.
  • 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 ]

4. Session Introduction

Welcome to the first of five sessions included in our Best Practices for Teaching and Learning course.


“Test Your Awareness: Whodunnit?” [ YouTube , Length 1:54 ]

5. Strategies for Incorporating Research and Best Practices

This section focuses on strategies for incorporating learning research findings and best practices into your teaching to enhance student learning. It includes five video segments.

Helping Students Learn

In the following videos, we will discuss about the nature of learning, to better understand how students learn. We will be focusing on:

  1. How people learn
  2. What students know prior to taking our courses
  3. How novices differ from experts
  4. How course design affects learning

5.1 How people learn

5.2 What students know prior to taking our courses

Transcript [ PDF ]

5.3 How novices differ from experts

5.4 How course design affects learning

6. Strategies for Reflection

Strategies for reflection provides an opportunity for self-reflection on how to implement the strategies in your classroom. Reflect on the ideas introduced during the session and on whether your efforts in implementing these or other strategies have worked.

7. Post-Session Activity


Choose 4 of the 8 findings below, and for each, 1) Write a short description of the finding, and 2) Provide examples of how you have used this finding in your own teaching or could use it in the future. The names in parentheses refer to the authors of the readings and video assigned in this session.

  • Learners construct their own knowledge (Halpern, Lang, Pellegrino, and Brabrand)
  • Learning depends on prior knowledge (Halpern, Lang, and Pellegrino)
  • Successful learners develop mental models and strong frameworks of related concepts (Lang and Pellegrino)
  • Practice with feedback promotes learning (Halpern, and Pellegrino)
  • Beliefs about learning and the ability to learn affect learning (Halpern, and Pellegrino)
  • “Chunking” information extends the limits of working memory (Pellegrino)
  • Learning and under-standing can be “deep” or “superficial” (Brabrand video)
  • College students move through stages of intellectual and ethical development (Perry as described in Lang)

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