Despite the fact that the brain and learning are closely intertwined, neuroscience and classroom teaching are not often discussed together. And while parents and teachers don’t have to be neuroscientists to educate students, knowing how the human brain really functions can help us better understand how students learn and what they are capable of.
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Posts about Learning Styles
This week we’d like to spotlight A+ tutor Tom Spencer. Tom is a software development management consultant, with a bachelor's degree in math from Bucknell University.
Tom works with our ACT and SAT prep students on the math portions of the test. He also tutors our Philadelphia-area students in Algebra, Calculus, Geometry, Probability & Statistics, and Trigonometry.
For many students, it’s difficult to grasp this concept. If Emily has mastered a lesson, she wants to put her pencil down and walk away. If Scott has aced a test, he’s ready to throw away his notes from the cramming session the night before.
According to psychological studies, however, overlearning is important to successful retention of material and execution of tasks. “Don’t Just Learn -- Overlearn,” a blog post by Annie Murphy Paul, explains the empirical evidence behind overlearning.
A recent innovation in teaching is known as the “flipped classroom,” in which students watch recorded lessons at home, and work on homework and projects at school. With increased access to technology for the creation of educational videos, and a wide variety of instructional platforms and videos available online, this approach to teaching is gaining popularity.
Tina Rosenberg’s recent New York Times opinion article “Turning Education Upside Down,” focuses on flipped classrooms and how they work. Rosenberg advocates for this method of learning, citing proof from a couple of schools that have successfully adopted the approach.
There are many benefits to using the “flipped classroom” approach, but the following are our top five reasons why we love this teaching style:
1. A flipped classroom encourages hands-on or project-based learning.
The flipped classroom approach is centered on the student, and her progress in understanding material through practical application. The flip “frees up class time for hands-on work,” Rosenberg writes. “Students learn by doing and asking questions — school shouldn’t be a spectator sport.”
In addition, this approach stresses collaborative projects and group work, allowing students to partner together to find a solution. Collaborative learning can be one of the most effective ways to boost critical thinking and knowledge retention, according to a Journal of Technology Education article “Collaborative Learning Enhances Critical Thinking” by Anuradha A. Gokhale.
2. Teachers have more time to work one-to-one with students in a flipped classroom.
A flipped classroom provides students with the support they need, at the time they need it. Not all students have an environment at home that can provide help with homework. Sometimes these students get frustrated and give up on homework, Rosenberg notes.
With a flipped classroom, students can get immediate one-to-one answers to their questions. “In a traditional classroom, the teacher engages with the students who ask questions — but it’s those who don’t ask who tend to need the most attention,” according to Rosenberg. With a flip, the teacher can help coach students through the material, and has more time to monitor progress.
3. Students have time to digest the material and develop follow-up questions after viewing the material the night before.
If a student is confused about anything he’s watched in the online lesson, he can easily pause, rewind, and watch again. Teachers have transitioned from 20-minute videos to six-minute videos, Rosenberg says, to keep students’ attention and encourage repeated viewing.
4. Flipped classrooms bring creativity back to teaching.
The web provides access to thousands of lessons and videos that teachers can use to supplement their teaching. Technology has enabled teachers to have fun while filming a lesson, coming up with creative ways to teach a concept. One teacher interviewed in Rosenberg’s article said that “he feels like an ‘educational artist’ who doesn’t just talk and hand out sheets.” He continued, “‘I can create interactive lessons and exciting content. There’s so much more time to educate!’”
5. While further research on the efficacy of flipped classrooms is needed, initial results are encouraging.
Clintondale High School in Detroit is a fully “flipped school” with the results to back its change in teaching methods, according to the article. Graduation rates are up and the number of college graduates has increased dramatically since implementation.
To see more details on Clintondale’s success, click here for an infographic on Flipped Classrooms created by education software provider Knewton.
To read more about “flipped classrooms” and other approaches to learning, visit our blog, at aplustutoring.com/news.
While it is true that the efficacy of study techniques varies, based on each individual's strengths, aptitudes, and personality, according to research by the Association for Psychological Science, some study habits are more effective than others.
Writer Annie Murphy Paul describes some of the best and worst ways to learn in an article on Time.com, Highlighting Is a Waste of Time: The Best and Worst Learning Techniques.
Here are some of the techniques she discusses in her article:
The Most Effective Ways to Learn
- Distributed practice - "This tactic involves spreading out your study sessions, rather than engaging in one marathon," Murphy Paul writes. "Cramming information at the last minute may allow you to get through that test or meeting, but the material will quickly disappear from memory. It’s much more effective to dip into the material at intervals over time. And the longer you want to remember the information, whether it’s two weeks or two years, the longer the intervals should be."
- Practice testing - Self-testing or taking practice tests over to-be-learned material. "Practice testing could involve practicing recall of target information via the use of actual or virtual flashcards, completing practice problems or questions included at the end of textbook chapters, or completing practice tests included in the electronic supplemental materials that increasingly accompany textbooks." (Source: Improving Students’ Learning With Effective Learning Techniques: Promising Directions From Cognitive and Educational Psychology)
Less Effective Ways to Learn
- Highlighting and underlining - "Some research even indicates that highlighting can get in the way of learning; because it draws attention to individual facts, it may hamper the process of making connections and drawing inferences," Murphy Paul shares.
- Rereading - While this is a very common approach, it is a passive, rather than active study technique, and does not generally lead to better comprehension or retention.
- Summarizing - Noting the main points of a text in order to get the gist while leaving out unimportant details - while there may be some benefit to using this approach, distributed practice and practice testing have been shown to be much more effective.
Of course each student is unique and therefore the best approach to learning new materials will vary from one student to the next. However research on learning continues to provide insight into best practices.
A+ Test Prep and Tutoring is proud to provide our tutors with regular professional development sessions covering the latest discoveries in the science of learning. Our instructors bring the benefit of this knowledge to their tutoring sessions.
If your student is in need of a tutor or an academic coach, please call us today at 215-886-9188 or 610-520-0537.
How is the teenage brain different from an adult brain? Brain development happens over time and generally occurs back to front. This means that the frontal lobe, and pre-frontal cortex, which control executive functions, and are critical to decision making, are some of the last areas of the brain to fully develop.