How Learning Works

While scholarship in teaching and learning often provides empirical evidence that particular pedagogical methods work, the theory behind why they work is more likely to come out of scholarship in neuroscience, cognitive psychology or social psychology that examines how people learn and the factors associated with successful learning. As a whole, this literature is often called ‘learning science’ and has been popularized in trade books like Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning (Brown, et al, 2014) or Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home and School (Medina, 2014). The literature is vast but there are now several accessible books and resources that discuss its key lessons and what they mean specifically for college instructors:

While there is a lot that instructors can do to make sure their teaching methods are consistent with what we know from learning science, it can also be useful to make sure our students know, since many of the study methods students use are actually quite ineffective. The following resources are meant to be shared with students: