How science can improve teaching and learning for students

As a teacher, you would certainly like your students to remember what they read. Yet one of the most common sights on high school and college campuses across the land is that of students poring over textbooks, yellow marker in hand, highlighting important passages—which often end up including most of the page. Later in the semester, to prepare for their exams, students hit the textbooks again, rereading the yellow blocks of text.

Studies reveal that highlighting and rereading text is among the least effective ways for students to remember the content of what they have read. A far better technique is for students to quiz themselves. In one study, students who read a text once and then tried to recall it on three occasions scored 50 percent higher on exams than students who read the text and then reread it three times. And yet many teachers are seen advocating these learning techniques that science has rejected. Learn more techniques suggested by Scientists and researchers here: 

Sit In Front:

Multiple research shows students who sit at the front tend to get higher exam scores. Regardless of the method of seating, students in the middle and the front sections achieved scores considerably higher than those in the rear sections. The study found, The average scores of students, depending on where they sat in class, are as follows:

  • Front rows: 80%
  • Middle rows: 71.6%
  • Back rows: 68.1%

Published here: Eye Contact and Grade Distribution by Max R. Rennels, Ramesh B. Chaudhari

Study Multiple Subjects:

Changing the way you learn makes you learn faster. A study was conducted at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. When practising and learning a new skill, making slight changes during repeat practice sessions may help people master the skill faster than practising the task in precisely the same way.

Read more about the study here.

Study in 30 Minutes sessions:

Don’t take a break before 30 minutes while learning. Anything less than 30 is just not enough, but more than 50 minutes is too much for your brain to take in at one time.  Louisiana State University’s Center for Academic Success suggests so and there is no reason to doubt that.

Write Notes by Hand:

The Pen Is Mightier Than the Keyboard. Pam A. Mueller from Princeton University and Daniel M. Oppenheimer from the University of California suggests taking notes by pen on a notepad is far better for the students. In three studies, the researchers found that students who took notes on laptops performed worse on conceptual questions than students who took notes longhand. When students took notes by hand, they listened more actively and were able to identify important concepts.  Read more about the study here. 

Mental Spacing or Repeat:

Getting some sleep in between study sessions may make it easier to recall what you studied and relearn what you've forgotten, even 6 months later, according to new findings from Psychological Science. Psychological scientist Stephanie Mazza from the University of Lyon suggests. " that sleeping between two learning sessions greatly improves retaining of the subjects."

Sleeping after learning is definitely a good strategy, but sleeping between two learning sessions is a better strategy for learning. Read more about the study here.

Take a quiz:

When you want to learn faster, Take a quiz. So after the class, the teacher can quiz students on the learning in the classroom.

Psychologist Keith Lyle from the University of Louisville did an experiment and in this experiment, he taught the same course to two groups of students. For the first group, Lyle asked the students to complete a four- to the six-question quiz at the end of each lecture. For the second group, Lyle didn’t give the students any quizzes.

At the end of the course, Lyle discovered that the first group significantly outperformed the second on all four midterm exams.

Many of the pervasive ideas about education defy scientific principles of thinking and learning. For example, a common misconception is that teaching content is less important than teaching problem-solving strategies or critical thinking skills.

Teachers ought to keep up with science but teaching is already a labour-intensive profession. And it is difficult for the nonspecialist to separate scientific research from the usual flood of pseudoscience and quackery. Peddlers of expensive and supposedly research-based nostrums lobby school districts. Other products that may have scientific validity have not yet been thoroughly tested. For example, theories of mathematical learning suggest that linear (but not circular) board games may boost math preparedness in preschoolers, but the idea needs large-scale testing.

The U.S. Department of Education has, in the past, toiled to bring some scientific rigour to teaching. The What Works Clearinghouse, created in 2002 by the DOE's Institute of Education Sciences, examines classroom curricula, programs and materials, but its standards of evidence are overly stringent, and teachers do not play any role in the vetting process. Teachers also play no role in the evaluation, and their participation is crucial. Researchers can evaluate research, but teachers understand education. The purpose of this institution would be to produce information that can be used to shape teaching and learning.

It is also important that insights provided by a clearinghouse come from basic science. For example, many teachers give place to this flawed concept in their mind that children have different learning styles and that boys brains are hardwired to be better at spatial tasks than girls.

This job of bringing accurate scientific information about thinking and learning to teachers might arguably fall to schools of education, districts, states and teachers' professional organizations, but these institutions have shown little interest in the job. A neutral national review board would be the simplest and quickest answer to a problem that is a big obstacle to broad improvement across many schools.

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