How People Learn

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How People Learn

What do we ultimately know about student learning?

K. Patricia Cross, Higher Education Professor Emeritus, writes, "What we know about student learning is that students who are actively engaged in learning for deeper understanding are likely to learn more than students not so engaged." So student learning results from student engagement—the combination of time and energy committed. Therefore, if we are to stimulate student learning, we have to persuade our students to commit their time and energy. We must try to help them learn effective time management techniques (by encouraging them to keep on task during in-class workshops and by helping them break down large assignments into manageable pieces), and we must attempt to present issues in a meaningful way.

How can we present information in a meaningful way?

First we must carefully consider the various ways in which our students receive and process information. Learning modes are often broken down into four categories: visual, auditory, tactile, and reading/writing—titles which represent the different processes through which learners internalize new information. Visual learners, for example, respond best to information that they can see (such as graphics, pictures, and demonstrations) while auditory learners comprehend information best when it is spoken out loud. Auditory learners, therefore, tend to succeed in lecture-based environments. Tactile learners (also called psychomotor or kinesthetic learners) prefer to participate in activities in order to understand the concepts. They learn best by "doing" activities such as experiments, role-play, and discussion. Reading/Writing learners retain information by reading it first and then rewriting it in a...

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...or learning, and the means of connecting course content to students' frames of reference are all factors in creating a positive learning environment. A few simple Classroom Management (See the "Classroom Management" Teaching Tip) strategies can also greatly increase the potential for student learning.

Works Cited

Cross, K. Patricia. "What Do We Know About Students' Learning and How Do We Know It?" AAHE (American Association for Higher Education) 19 July 1998.

Felder, Richard. "Matters of Style." Richard Felder's Home Page: Resources in Science and Engineering. NC State University. 19 July 2004.

Fink, L. Dee. "Active Learning." Honolulu Community College Intranet. 19 July 1999.
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