There are many different methodologies that exist today that claim to improve learning for the student. They promise to improve the way students learn as well as the way teachers teach. Having worked with services like EssaysOnTime.com, and also running an essay service, I can confidently say that I am firmly in the education industry. I have attended tons of seminars, team meetings, conferences, and watched a lot of media on the matter and all I see is a plethora of different methodologies by well-meaning speakers that claim they will work.
Granted, some of the information out there is actually helpful. However, some of the stuff that is being peddled to teachers really has no empirical data to back it up and turns out to have little to no utility in the classroom.
I decided to go out and do some thorough research, and I came across a publication by the Coalition for Psychology in Schools and Education (CPSE). The whole idea behind the document was to outline 20 principles that are based on psychological science and seek to show what parts of a student’s psychology are the most instrumental to learning. While the principles are 20 in number, they are divided into 5 thematic areas that cover individual psychological functions in a student. These are:
- Cognition and Learning
- Social and Emotional Dimensions
- Context and Learning
It doesn’t end there, either. There was also a study done by Dunlosky, et al. that looked into the utility of various learning techniques that students can use with or without the assistance of teachers to help them learn more effectively. While there were ten techniques, they were grouped according to their utility, with some having high utility, some having moderate utility, and some having low utility. There were 5 techniques that had either a high utility or a moderate utility, and they are:
- Practice Testing
- Distributed Practice
- Elaborative Interrogation
- Interleaved Practice
These 5 techniques were shown to be the most effective when it came to enhancing a student’s learning outcomes.
So what we’re going to do today is start by looking at the psychological principles that affect a student’s ability to absorb and retain information, and then focus on the specific techniques they can apply to become more effective at it. In a sense, we will start with the broad strokes and then fill in the details with more actionable techniques.
Division 1: Cognition and Learning
There is plenty of research out there on how to improve the learning and thinking methods used by students in the classroom. There are at least 8 principles that relate to this:
- Having a growth mindset – Essentially, how a student thinks about the limits of their ability and intelligence has a profound effect on their ability to learn new things. A growth mindset lets a student believe that they can always improve their abilities and intelligence through practice, while a fixed mindset lets them believe that they will have to make do with the hand that they were dealt at birth. The student that writes the best dissertation isn’t necessarily the smartest or most talented; they are just the ones that never gave up due to limiting beliefs.
- Having prior knowledge – The knowledge a student already has when they enter a novel situation will affect their learning. They add to what they already know, and they correct errors and misconceptions that they previously had.
- Stage theories are limited – Contrary to what many stage theories say, the cognitive development of a student is not limited by their general stage of development. The interactions they have with challenges and those more capable than them can cause their cognitive development to be far ahead of their general development.
- Context facilitation – The kind of learning a student does is based on their context. In order to take learning to a new, general context, that shift needs to be facilitated by the instructor. They need to ‘hold the hand’ of the student.
- Practice – Knowledge, and skill only stick in the long term through practice. Specific types of practice are a lot more effective than others, as we will see when we explore techniques.
- Feedback – Feedback that is timely, clear, and explanatory is very crucial to a student’s learning progress.
- Self-regulation – Skills like organization, planning, self-control, memory strategies, and attention improve the ability of a student to learn and engage better in the classroom.
- Creativity – It is possible to foster creativity in students, especially by encouraging them to design their own projects.
Division 2: Motivation
Generally, motivation is an important factor for success. Here are the principles related to motivation.
- Intrinsic motivation – Students will enjoy the learning process and also succeed more when they are motivated intrinsically, rather than extrinsic motivation.
- Mastery goals – Students that adopt mastery goals will persist more when faced with challenges and absorb new information better than those with performance goals. Mastery goals are about getting better and mastering a skill. Performance goals are about just showing that you’re good enough.
- The expectations of the teacher – What a teacher believes about a student, and the beliefs they communicate to the student through their expectations, have an impact on the motivation of the student to learn and their learning outcomes. Higher expectations translate to higher outcomes and vice versa.
- Setting goals – It is better to set specific short term goals that introduce medium challenges to the learning process than long term goals that are general and very challenging.
Division 3: Social and Emotional Dimensions
Basically, the well-being of their student, their community, culture, and relationships will all have an impact on learning.
- Social context – Learning happens within social contexts. A student’s community and culture will affect how they approach learning, and therefore, this dimension should never be ignored.
- Interpersonal relationships – The relationships the students have with their instructor and each other will affect not only the learning process but also the social development of the students.
- Well-being – The emotional well-being, including such things as self-esteem and motivation, have an effect on the learning, development, and performance of the student.
Division 4: Context and Learning
This division is all about developing the right climate in the classroom for learning.
- Conduct in the classroom – The expectations for social interaction and conduct in the classroom should be taught early enough to make for a conducive learning climate.
- Expectations and support – The effective management of the classroom is based on setting high expectations and communicating them, nurturing positive relationships consistently, and providing a high level of support to the student.
Division 5: Assessment
This is all about the methods in which the students are assessed. It has to be fair, valid, and enhance the learning process for the student.
- Formative and summative assessment – Formative assessments are basically everyday practice done in the process of learning. Summative assessments are overall evaluations of how much a student has learned or how effective a program was. Formative assessments should be done as frequently as possible, which would lead to better performance on summative assessments.
- Assessment development – For a student to develop their knowledge and skill, the assessment processes should be fair, of high quality and standards, and be based on psychological science.
- Assessment evaluation – The interpretation of assessment data should be fair, appropriate, and clear.
The most effective Learning Techniques
So now that we know all of these principles, what learning techniques can we apply? How do we get the skills of the student with the best essay transferred to the rest of the class? Well, here are the 5 most effective techniques;
- Practice Testing
Basically, this technique involves taking practice tests or self-testing. A lot of research, done over more than a century, shows that practice tests are the most effective way to get students to absorb material for exams. While most testing is of the summative kind, where the stakes are high, and the climate is formal, formative tests are proven to be more effective for knowledge retention. When coupled with clear, explanatory, and timely feedback, the result is an enhanced learning process for the student.
- Distributive Practice
The idea behind distributive practice is that study and practice sessions should be spread out over time, such as the semester, or the day, rather than being done in a flurry near the deadline. Studying a little bit every day for the entire term is a lot more effective than doing some last minute cramming near the exam. Also, cramming is better than not studying at all.
“We’ve always found it better to distribute your practice. If you can’t do it beforehand, you’re better off outsourcing it to an essay service at the end,” Says Peter Marsh, a researcher at essayshark.
The distributed practice should be combined with practice testing to make it more effective.
- Elaborative interrogation
This is the generation of an explanation for a concept or fact. It is the answer to the “why” questions behind facts. It is most effective when the students have a high amount of pre-existing knowledge, when they are encouraged to generate the elaborations themselves, and when the elaborations are not too general, but rather precise.
This is all about encouraging the student to put the information they have learned in their own words and to relate it to what they already know. It helps them to connect the dots between what they already know and what they have just learned, helping them integrate new knowledge into the knowledge tree in their head.
- Interleaved Practice
Interleaved practice is all about mixing different study material and associated problems in a single section. To understand it better, we can compare it to the conventional approach. Take learning the volume of solids, for example. Students are taught about how to calculate the volume of a single type of solid first, and then do practice problems on that solid. Then they move to the next type of solid, and so on. With interleaved practice, students are taught about calculating the volumes of the different types of solids in a single session and then given practice problems that involve calculating the volumes of all the types of solids. This helps them to better understand the interrelationship between the solids and their volume calculations, which are clearly related in certain ways. In the process, they absorb the information better.
Student performance is very possible to achieve, provided the correct psychological principles are applied. With the right techniques, you can raise the level of all of your students and ensure they realize their full potential.