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How Learning Works: Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching 1st Edition

81 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0470484104
ISBN-10: 0470484101
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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

Any conversation about effective teaching must begin with a consideration of how students learn. However, instructors may find a gap between resources that focus on the technical research on learning and those that provide practical classroom strategies. How Learning Works provides the bridge for such a gap.

In this volume, the authors introduce seven general principles of learning, distilled from the research literature as well as from twenty-seven years of experience working one-on-one with college faculty. They have drawn on research from a breadth of perspectives (cognitive, developmental, and social psychology; educational research; anthropology; demographics; and organizational behavior) to identify a set of key principles underlying learning-from how effective organization enhances retrieval and use of information to what impacts motivation. These principles provide instructors with an understanding of student learning that can help them see why certain teaching approaches are or are not supporting student learning, generate or refine teaching approaches and strategies that more effectively foster student learning in specific contexts, and transfer and apply these principles to new courses.

For anyone who wants to improve his or her students' learning, it is crucial to understand how that learning works and how to best foster it. This vital resource is grounded in learning theory and based on research evidence, while being easy to understand and apply to college teaching.

About the Author

Susan A. Ambrose is Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning and Professor of Education at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts.

Michael W. Bridges is director of faculty development at UPMC St. Margaret Hospital in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Michele DiPietro is associate director for graduate programs at the Eberly Center and instructor in the Department of Statistics at Carnegie Mellon.

Marsha C. Lovett is associate director for faculty development at the Eberly Center and associate teaching professor in the Department of Psychology at Carnegie Mellon.

Marie K. Norman is a teaching consultant and research associate at the Eberly Center and adjunct professor of anthropology at Carnegie Mellon.

The Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence at Carnegie Mellon University was created in 1982 with a mission to distill the research on learning for faculty and graduate students and to collaborate with them to design and implement meaningful educational experiences. The center's work is based on the idea that combining the science and art of teaching empowers college faculty to create the conditions for students to learn and, through this learning, transform their world.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Jossey-Bass; 1 edition (May 17, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0470484101
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470484104
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (81 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #14,834 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a Dean of a school within a University, I am always on the lookout for well researched, practical and effective ways to educate our own faculty about student learning, especially for the various levels of university students (Bachelors, Masters, PhD). Any faculty member or university administrator seriously concerned with education desires to find a trustworthy and research-informed body of content, that has been carefully crafted to be usable and practical, that can serve as a tool or workbook for understanding student learning in ways that lead to clear suggestions for improving curriculum design and course delivery.

Yet, that search has been something like a quest for a holy-grail. Sure, everyone teaching at the university level wants to find this type of book. And we have all looked at numerous books on learning and teaching. But none of them were "just the thing."

Well, now "just the thing" is here. I have read this book cover to cover. It is exceptionally well done. In fact, I thought it was so well done that I called the publisher to order enough copies to give to EVERY ONE of our faculty and teaching support staff.

There is a reason why it has taken "the community" so long to finally create "just the right thing" in terms of a summary of student learning (university level) that is used as a basis for establishing principles for improving teaching.

* The work on cognitive science and its extension into the science of learning beyond the laboratory, into classroom and university settings, needed several decades to evolve and mature.
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Carolyn Turnbull on September 15, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This book is full of citations from the learning sciences, which may suggest a bias toward instruction in math and the sciences. Nothing could be further from the truth. As an English teacher, I found every chapter both reader-friendly and essential reading for teachers of the humanities. After reading each enjoyable chapter, I could form a mental checklist of what I was doing to support student learning in my classrooms and where I could improve. I have read many good academic books about teaching and learning and many good practical books. But I have not read a single book that mixes research and practical advice as well as this book.
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Therese Huston on February 15, 2011
Format: Hardcover
There are plenty of great books out there on how to teach a college class, and now there's a great one on how college students learn. "How Learning Works" tackles topics that most books on teaching ignore, such as how students' prior knowledge helps or hinders what they learn in your class. We've all had the experience of trying to remind students of material we know they've had before, only to be met with blank stares, or worse yet, comments that reveal a deeply flawed understanding. This book offers a better way. Don't be put off by the multiple authors - this book is written in a clear, single voice. It's smart, it's well-written, and even though the word "principles" is in the title, it's practical.
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Format: Hardcover
At the outset, having read and then re-read this book, I wish to share a few introductory observations. There are hundreds (if not thousands) of ways that informal as well as formal education works. Also, how learning occurs in public schools tends to differ significantly from how it occurs in public suburban and private (day or boarding) schools. Moreover, how learning occurs in colleges and universities differs significantly from how it occurs in corporate education programs, be they formal or informal. In the Introduction, 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.

Here's another. Whenever I read a book or article about the "learning environment" in inner-city schools in the United States, I am again reminded of an incident one evening in Concord (MA) long ago, after Ralph Waldo Emerson delivered a lecture on the principles of transcendentalism. He agreed to answer a few questions. And elderly farmer in bib overalls stood up and removed his cap. "Yes sir? You have a question?" Long pause. "How do you transcend an empty stomach?" The context, the culture within which education is offered usually is a major factor in terms of how receptive students are. Most of the material in this book is, as Mayer suggests, relevant to higher education.

The co-authors -- Susan Ambrose, Michael Bridges, Michelle DiPietro, Marsha Lovell, and Marie Norman -- introduce and focus on seven research-based principles for smart teaching. Here they are, accompanied by a comment of mine.

1. Students prior knowledge can help or hinder learning.
Comment: The same can be said of those who teach them.

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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By GeminiNYC on July 30, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
great book. easy to read review of relevant research to help teachers communicate lessons more effectively and get a better understanding of the learning process.

I really enjoyed reading How Learning Works. I thought the book was really great because it covered the essentials of the learning sciences behaviors using simple language and clear analogies. The book can help teachers increase student performance. Alternatively, the book can help students think about what a "good teacher" might do for them. For example, teachers can provide targeted feedback to help students find their way through tough concepts as GPS systems can help people find their ultimate destination.
This book is
-a good review for people in learning sciences, (lots of citations)
-an easy read for parents interested in how their student learns
-business managers interested in understanding about learning aspect of the education
-a great read for people who want an introduction to the learning sciences
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