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A brief look at teaching and learning research

Because the Creating the One-Shot Library Workshop book is more of a how-to handbook for design, I didn’t take much time to show how the practical aspects of the instructional design process are supported by a rich body of research in learning theory. But when I work with librarians and staff, they are sometimes interested in having this background information in order to create a more compelling argument to make changes to current practices.

Here, I’ll bring three important bodies of research into the discussion: Chickering and Gamson (1987), Marchese (1997) and Merrill (2002). These are seminal works that are used regularly in university courses and in university centers for teaching and learning as guiding principles for effective teaching.

Chickering and Gamson’s work is focused on good practice in undergraduate education, but we can apply much of this to adult learners in general as you will see with Marchese and Merrills’ work.

Chickering and Gamson learned that good practice:

• encourages contact between learners and teachers,
• develops reciprocity and cooperation among learners,
• encourages active learning,
• gives prompt feedback,
• emphasizes time on task,
• communicates high expectations, and
• respects diverse talents and ways of learning.

Notice the connections to the PAF model in step 12 of Creating the One-Shot Library Workshop which emphasizes application of learning and feedback during the workshop. Keeping students engaged via contact, active learning and feedback is critical to good teaching practice.

The next researcher, Marchese (1997), drew from neuroscience, anthropology and cognitive science to encourage teachers to emphasis certain approaches to instruction that includes engagement, but that also adds among other things, active involvement in real world tasks.

Marchese shows that the more a teacher can emphasize

• learner independence and choice
• intrinsic motivators and natural curiosity
• rich, timely, usable feedback
• coupled with occasions for reflection and
• active involvement in real-world tasks
• emphasizing higher-order abilities
• done with other people
• in high-challenge, low-threat environments
• that provide for practice and reinforcement

. . . the greater the chances he or she will realize the deep learning that makes a difference in student lives.

David Merrill’s research come along more recently and also points out that learning is facilitated when

• learners are engaged in solving real-world problems.
• existing knowledge is activated as foundation for new knowledge.
• new knowledge is demonstrated to the learner.
• new knowledge is applied by the learner.
• new knowledge is integrated into the learner's world.

There are a number of common themes here that can help guide us in our instructional design process. The next article will examine 4 of these: interaction, feedback, problem-based learning, and application to real life.

Thanks to the Digital Media Center at the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities for their "Teach" handout on this research.

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