Category: Learning Design

To Focus on Learning, Use Words Not Section Numbers

Since many faculty are now approaching that time when syllabi get written and course shells get built, let’s focus on a very simple change that can increase student attention to learning the vocabulary and learning objectives/goals associated with the subject. Take examine your syllabus, schedule, and course shell looking for places where you could have written the name of the course, the topics, or the learning objectives in words, but didn’t do it. When schedules and other course materials are passed out without any reference to the vocabulary of the subject, you are missing a great chance to put that vocabulary and learning objectives/goals front...

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The Importance of Findability for Learners

How do you feel when you go to find information on a website, and you just can’t find it? This happens to me all the time when I want to find out what some new ed-tech wonder product does, and I visit the website and can’t see any screenshots, any descriptions, or any videos of the product in action. I find it incredibly frustrating and this story generally ends by me giving up on even signing up for a trial. The same thing happens to students when they go to find information and it is buried in a non-sensical...

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Learners Need to Focus on Errors

Let’s move on to the excellent article It’s Not How Much; It’s How: Characteristics of Practice Behavior and Retention of Performance Skills, by Duke et al. (2009), which is another dive into analyzing what leads to good retention of learning in music education.  Just to be different, I’ll start with the conclusion, and then circle around to the study construction. “The results showed that the strategies employed during practice were more determinative of performance quality at retention than was how much or how long the pianists practiced” 17 students (advanced piano performance students) were given a 3-measure passage from a difficult Concerto to...

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Learning Math is Not a Spectator Sport

In November, I gave the keynote at the American Mathematical Association of Two-Year Colleges (AMATYC) Conference in Denver. I have given versions of this talk that are not specific for mathematics, but I don’t have recordings of those. I promise that the math in this talk is not inaccessible and is used more for examples than a framework for the talk. In other words, don’t let the word “math” scare you away. The alternate version of the talk is “Learning is Not a Spectator Sport.” The first half of the video is the awards ceremony, so I’ve directed the...

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Why high contextual interference?

This week I followed a hunch and, with the help of a friend who is a music educator, dug into some additional research around this idea of blocked and random practice. In music there are a few goals to achieve with any passage of music: can you play a passage accurately by itself? can you play the passage in the larger context of the piece? can you play the passage to tempo? can you play the passage with the right expression? Think about these goals in your own subject area and see if you can find a similar set...

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