Monthly Archives: June 2018

Do Expert Teachers See More Meaningful Classrooms?

Why do chess experts win more chess matches than novices? This question has a perfectly straightforward answer: they know more about chess. Obviously. Forty-five years ago, William Chase and Herbert Simon tested another hypothesis. Perhaps, they speculated, chess experts see



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How To Be A Critical Psychology Consumer

Teachers who want to shape our practice with research find ourselves taking on extra responsibilities. In particular, we should probably hone our skills at investigating the research we use. Are we sure — or, sure enough — that the research



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Don’t Just Do This Thing; Think This Way

Do hard-to-read fonts improve learning? The answer is: that’s the wrong question. Instead, we should ask: how can we set the right level of difficulty as students learn material? And: are hard-to-read fonts a useful tool in getting to that level. Only the classroom teacher can answer those questions. Continue reading



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Conflicting Advice: Mind-Wandering Is Bad, or Just Fine

Some researchers say that mind wandering is “just fine.” Others say that it interferes with comprehension. Which is true? When looking at conflicting findings, focus on the research that best resembles your classroom. In this case, you should probably worry about mind wandering — except under specific circumstances. Continue reading



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Just Not a Useful Debate: Learning Styles Theory [Updated]

At one of the first Learning and the Brain conferences I attended, a speaker briefly mentioned that learning styles theory doesn’t have much good evidence to support it. That comment turned into a heated debate. Several attendees asked vexed, unhappy



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The Power of Different: The Link Between Disorder and Genius by Gail Saltz

Gail Saltz, author of The Power of Different: The Link Between Disorder and Genius, argues that given the heterogeneity in human brain functioning “the very phrase brain differences is a redundancy.” This book describes traits and gifts associated with seven



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Capture Intergalactic Criminals; Feel the Mental Burn

I’ve posted a good bit recently about the dangers of working memory overload. (For instance: here and here.) Teachers can understand the dangers of WM overload. However, we rarely experience WM overload in school. Because we’re in charge of the lesson,



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Putting Research to Work in the Classroom: Success?

Some study habits have been shown to work in psychology labs. Do they work in college classrooms? A recent study shows that “retrieval practice” clearly helps students learn. The findings on “the spacing effect” are harder to interpret… Continue reading



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A Hidden Adolescent Struggle: Identifying Complex Emotions

Recent research offers a helpful insight into adolescent emotion processing. Children and adults are relatively good at distinguishing among their emotions. They can say “I’m feeling angry, but not sad.” Adolescents, however, have a harder time sorting out their feelings. For them, negative emotions all churn together. Continue reading



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The Best Way to Take Notes: More Feisty Debate

When teachers contemplate asking students to take longhand notes, we should think about the level of desirable difficulty this strategy creates. We should also beware the working memory challenges inherent in note-taking, especially on complex material. Continue reading



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