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Learning Theories

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Leonard, William H. (2000) How do college students best learn science? Journal of College Science Teaching;  29(6):385 

This article discusses constructivism vs objectivism. Constructivism is learning by building on what is already known. The learner adapts what they already know to new concepts, and actively build that knowledge into a new framework. Objectivism is the notion that we can impart knowledge – we distribute it to the students and they pick it up and then know it. The article then discusses learning styles and how best to help students in each category. I am struck by the ubiquity of active and cooperative learning that helps a wide variety of the learning styles mentioned. The article closes with some suggestions for how to apply constructivism in the classroom, along with references for more information. This resonates with my teaching style because I know that I would have benefited from a constructivist approach, but I was more comfortable with the standard lecture style.   

Bernot, Melody J.; and Metzler, Jennifer. (2014) A comparative study of instructor- and student-led learning in a large nonmajors biology course: student performance and perceptions. Journal of College Science Teaching 44(1):48-55 

This article describes an experiment in which a very large course was split into two sections, one that was taught traditionally, and one that was taught in an active learning ‘no lecture’ format. Each section was taught by different instructors that had both taught the course before. The active learning section did not have any lectures, during the class time the students worked in groups on the student learning objectives. There was a large amount of student dissatisfaction and push back in the active learning section, but both sections performed similarly on exams, quizzes and homework. I am not surprised that the students didn’t like the no lecture format – it is much different than teaching has been for them before. There were some that expressed the feeling that the professor wasn’t teaching them, and they didn’t see the point in coming to class. I am sure that they got more out of the experience than they are willing to admit. This article resonates with my teaching style because I am aware that my microbiology students are very good at memorization and regurgitation, but not showing much evidence of critical thinking. I think that the authors’ suggestion at the end of the article – incorporating more structure and some lecturing into the active learning process will meet with better success. 


Evans, Darrell J. R., Zeun, Paul, and Stanier, Robert A. (2014) Motivating student learning using a formative assessment journey. Journal of Anatomy 224:296-303 


This article describes a formative assessment journey provided for students in an anatomy course which consisted of timed release of assessments the student could use to practice material in the course. The assessments included word search puzzles, in lecture quizzes, dissection checklists, self-assessment quizzes, among others. There was a mix of in lecture assessments, and Learning Management System online assessments, with some that provided immediate feedback, while others delayed answers for a week. The object was for students to be using the assessments throughout the semester so the knowledge could build upon previous work. This article was useful for me because this is exactly what I would like to do in my course next fall.  

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