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Learning Theories

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 I searched for sites that summarized different learning theories, and I came across "How Students Learn -- and How We Can Help Them" a working paper by John Kihlstrom. There were a lot of theories (and links to the research) that supported my teaching style.

 

I encourage students to organize information and draw connections between old and new content. This strategy is supported by elaboration and organization principles. In class, students work in groups to make concept maps to explain complex topis. Students link their assigned topic to  topics that were assigned to the rest of the class. It's important that they understand the facts, but I don't want them to get lost in the details. I believe students benefit from activities like this, helping them zoom out and see the big picture/concepts.

 

1. Wallace, J. D., & Mintzes, J. J. (1990). The concept map as a research tool: Exploring conceptual change in biology. Journal of research in science teaching, 27(10), 1033-1052.

 

 

2. Khodor, Julia, Dina Gould Halme, and Graham C. Walker. "A hierarchical biology concept framework: a tool for course design." Cell Biology Education3.2 (2004): 111-121. 


Functional context theory proposes that there are greater learning gains when students perceive information to be functionally important. I try to avoid students asking "Why do we need to know this?" by illustrating situations where the knowledge is beneficial or even necessary. This is much easier in my intro bio and personal genetics courses. This theory ties in with the situated learning theory - knowing students' current knowledge base and teachig from that point. 

3. Allen, Deborah and Tanner, Kimberly. "Approaches to Cell Biology Teaching: Learning Content in Context—Problem-Based Learning." Cell Biol Educ Summer 2003 2:73-81doi:10.1187/cbe.03-04-0019

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