This site synthesizes common themes from the pedagogical literature about student learning that have a solid foundation of research behind them.
These five principles will help guide your teaching approach. For each principle we list concrete strategies that you can use or adapt in your teaching.
- Working memory is limited
- Retrieval of information strengthens learning
- Spaced and interleaved practice improves recall
- Active engagement with the material improves learning
- Metacognitive strategies improve learning
How do I use the learning sciences literature to make decisions about my teaching approaches?
Upon learning about a suggested approach from the pedagogical literature, consider these questions when deciding whether to incorporate it into your teaching:
- What is the strength of support in the literature?
- Does this approach make sense for my subject and my comfort as an educator?
- Does this approach make sense for my students? Could this do harm?
- How can I find out more about using this approach?
How do I use this resource?
The strategies are suggestions of what to do. The principles are proposed explanations for why the strategies work. We suggest exploring each principle by asking yourself how you address the principle in your course design and teaching practice. Being aware of the underlying principles can inform your decisions to modify or adapt some of the strategies. Not every suggestion will be appropriate for your students, discipline, and unique teaching and learning context.
Whether new to or already aware of these principles and strategies, when making decisions about teaching approaches consider the evidence-based principles and strategies presented here while weighing your own expertise as an instructor as well as the learning needs of your students. We hope the evidentiary basis will provide support for their continued use.
What about Learning Styles?
The concept of "learning styles" refers to the idea that individuals have preferred ways of learning such as visual, auditory, or kinesthetic in which they learn best and that teaching to students’ preferred learning style will improve their learning. However, this idea is not supported by research evidence. Studies have failed to find consistent, empirical evidence to support the idea that individuals have a specific learning style and that teaching to that style leads to improved learning outcomes (Coffield, 2004; Dinsmore, 2022). Instead, the research suggests that individuals may have preferences for certain types of information presentation, but these preferences do not necessarily translate into improved learning.
The idea of learning styles can be problematic because it can lead to students pigeonholing themselves into a particular learning style category and believe they need to be taught in that style, rather than being open to a variety of instructional methods. This can limit students' exposure to new and diverse learning experiences and reduce their ability to adapt to different learning environments.
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