How Learning Works

Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching

by Susan Ambrose , Marie Norman , Marsha Lovett , Michele DiPietro , Michael Bridges

Number of pages: 336

Publisher: Jossey-Bass

BBB Library: Education

ISBN: 9780470484104

About the Authors

Susan Ambrose : Ambrose is associate provost for education, director of the Eberly Center


Marie Norman : Marie Norman, PhD, joined the ICRE faculty in 2016 to spearhead


Marsha Lovett : Dr. Marsha Lovett is Director of the Eberly Center and a


Michele DiPietro : Michele DiPietro, Ph.D., is the Executive Director of the Center for


Michael Bridges : Michael Bridges, Ph.D. is the Director for Educational Excellence for iCarnegie,


Editorial Review

Any conversation about effective teaching must begin with a consideration of how students learn. Yet instructors who want to investigate the mechanisms and conditions that promote student learning may find themselves caught between two kinds of resources: Research articles with technical discussions of learning, or books and Web sites with concrete strategies for course design and classroom pedagogy. Texts of the first type are written in accessible language but often leave instructors without a clear sense of why—or even whether—particular strategies promote learning. Neither of these genres offers what many instructors really need—a model of student learning that enables them to make sound teaching decisions. In other words, instructors need a bridge between research and practice, between teaching and learning. This book provides such a bridge.  

Book Reviews

" Richard Mayer suggests that this book “is the latest advancement in the continuing task of applying the science of learning to education — particularly, college teaching.” That is a key point." - Bob Morris

" The book “How Learning Works: 7 Research-based Principlesfor Smart Teaching” provides an insightful discussion of 7 learningprinciples that all teachers should know and practice. The authorsmanaged to integrate research evidence drawn from the field ofpsychology, education, and cognitive science in a simple man-ner with practical consideration and opportunity for real world application." - Research Gate

" The authors aim to provide "a bridge between research and practice" for teaching and learning, very much in the spirit of Practical Advice Backed by Deep Theories. They concentrate on widely-supported results that are independent of subject matter and environment, so while the discussion is directed towards instructors in K-12 and college classrooms, there are also implications for essentially anyone in a teaching or learning role." - Less Wrong

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Wisdom to Share

Understanding what students know can help us design our instruction more appropriately, identify and fill gaps, recognize when students are applying what they know inappropriately, and actively work to correct misconceptions.

First, students learn more readily when they can connect what they are learning to what they already know.

However, instructors should not assume that students will immediately or naturally draw on relevant prior knowledge.

Instead, they should deliberately activate students’ prior knowledge to help forge robust links to new knowledge.

Look for patterns of error in student work because students’ misconceptions tend to be shared and produce a consistent pattern of errors.

As an instructor, to activate accurate prior knowledge you can use exercises to generate students’ prior knowledge.

First, because knowledge organizations develop to support the tasks being performed, we should reflect on what activities and experiences students are engaging in to understand what knowledge organizations they are likely to develop.

As an instructor, to reveal and enhance knowledge organizations you can create a concept map to analyze your own knowledge organization.

Learning is a process, not a product. However, because this process takes place in the mind, we can only infer that it has occurred from students’ products or performances.

Learning involves change in knowledge, beliefs, behaviors, or attitudes. This change unfolds over time; it is not fleeting but rather has a lasting impact on how students think and act.