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Faculty Working Groups to Implement Cognitive Science’s Insights in the Classroom


This grant will support two major workshops and monthly follow-up meetings for an interdisciplinary team of Lake Forest College faculty. This faculty working group will study, discuss, and pilot cognitive science techniques in their classrooms. The group will comprise the project leaders, representing the departments of Art and Psychology, and colleagues from Biology, Education, Mathematics, Modern Languages, Physics, and Library and Instructional Technology. The group will meet to learn about cognitive sceince, to identify specific cognitive science-inspired techniques, and to develop plans for implementing these techniques, along with assessing their utility.

Team members will implement one technique a month each semester; they will meet monthly to review their experiences with each cognitive science initiative (discussing strengths, challenges, and best practices) and to determine the next cognitive science technique. At year’s end, the group will host a faculty forum to discuss their experiences, create a cognitive science resource guide for other faculty, and host a speaker for a wider faculty development workshop. The training at the end of the year will be aimed at new and junior faculty. Through this interdisciplinary team, we hope to inspire the whole faculty to experiment with or adopt pedagogical innovations based on the latest advances in the Cognitive Sciences.

Note: Content below is adapted from project proposal.


Our goal is to bring to faculty colleagues the insights about learning that Cognitive Scientists have been discovering, in a way that will overcome the challenge of faculty time constraints and inertia. Facing an increasingly diverse student body that includes greater numbers of underprepared students, our faculty are looking for research-based techniques that will enable them to help all students succeed. Faculty report their classrooms are made up of a mix of students, including those who are well prepared for college level work alongside students for whom college level work is extremely challenging. We believe that Cognitive Science techniques can help bridge this gap and benefit all students.

This project will fund a Faculty Working Group that will test cognitive science-based pedagogies with our diverse student body and in the context of our current curriculum. Our aim is to create a space for all faculty at the College to discuss these techniques and their application in the classroom. Upon completion of grant-funded activities, we will sustain successful initiatives with existing on-campus resources and encourage continued faculty development.

The College’s current strategic plan identifies improving student success as one of the College’s top strategic goals. Enhancing the effectiveness of our teaching is, therefore, of critical importance for us. Efforts to nurture and invigorate teaching techniques are called for in the strategic plan because high quality instruction and strong student outcomes will enhance our retention and graduation rates.

The project will encourage individual faculty to teach more effectively, provide peer support and encouragement for faculty experimenting with new Cognitive Science techniques, and, finally, provide opportunities for the faculty as a whole to learn how specific techniques drawn from Cognitive Science can help them alleviate common classroom challenges and better meet the needs of our students. In sum, this project will result in improvements in pedagogy, student learning outcomes, and institutional capacity to serve our increasingly diverse student body.


The Faculty Working Group will provide a sustained and unique opportunity for faculty to interact and support each other. The group of colleagues who have indicated they will join the Working Group include, in addition to the proposers: Jill van Newenhizen (Math), Ying Wu (Chinese), Matt Kelley (Psychology), Amy Abe (Physics), Desmond Odugu (Education). Other colleagues from Biology, Theater, Sociology and Anthropology, Psychology and the Library wish to participate at different levels. The FWG will be diverse by rank. Members are full-time faculty at the Assistant, Associate, and Full Professor levels, and the project will also engage part time instructors and adjunct instructors. The FWG is also diverse by discipline, engaging faculty from the Humanities, Natural Sciences & Mathematics, and Social Sciences. Because there are limited opportunities on campus for faculty to interact in significant ways across divisional lines, the FWG will be able to foster connections between faculty that are meaningful and mutually beneficial.

The project will begin and end with a Faculty Workshop that will introduce all interested faculty to the insights into teaching and learning afforded by recent advances in Cognitive Science. This event will feature a speaker and a hands-on workshop for all faculty members. At this meeting, the Faculty Working Group (FWG) will organize summer reading and plan for the subsequent academic year. The FWG will complete summer reading of current literature introducing cognitive issues relevant for teaching and learning, and identifying specific teaching methods informed by recent research in cognitive science to be field tested in the subsequent semester. The FWG will also meet to determine a schedule for implementing these techniques and set expectations for work during the semester. Each meeting during the term will discuss: preparing the ground for the field test, the implementation of the technique, and a means of assessing it.

These meetings and the resulting assessments will allow the FWG to describe the successes and challenges associated with each field test and to identify best practices. Each term will conclude with a Faculty Forum in which the FWG presents each technique and summarizes best practices to colleagues. Presentations in other venues, such as at a meeting of the full faculty, will also be planned. We will aim the final faculty workshop at newer and junior colleagues to encourage a new generation of faculty to adopt the best practices and to emphasize the importance of faculty development from the beginning of one’s career. 

The project will take place in the Academic Year 2016-2017, starting in May 2016 and ending in May 2017. The first workshop will take place in May 2016. All faculty would be invited to this workshop to hear a specialist discuss what Cognitive Science can teach us about thinking and learning, to have lunch, participate in a hands on workshop and attend a reception following. Members of the Faculty working group would read and develop course activities in the summer. Members of the Working Group will pilot test techniques and pedagogies 3 times per semester in the Academic Year 2016-17.

During the Academic year the Faculty Working Group will meet at minimum 8 times to discuss and evaluate their progress in implementing the techniques. Once each semester the Faculty Working Group would present their current findings to the faculty. A final faculty workshop will be scheduled for May of 2017 open to all faculty, but focused on new and junior faculty. A speaker would be invited to inspire further work, and working group members will report to colleagues.

Dissemination Strategies

In addition to a Faculty forum each semester, we will produce a web page to house our materials and recommendations. Through the Learning and Teaching Center Forums, the work of the Faculty Working Group will be shared among all colleagues with a view to enhancing, through example, the climate for continued faculty development. The Faculty Working Group members will also provide mentorship and guidance at the 2017 workshop and serve as ongoing resources for other faculty members seeking to adopt teaching methods informed by CS research. The College’s Learning and Teaching Center will continue to facilitate dissemination of this information after the project ends.

We will share our summary reports of best practices and other resources with other ACM institutions through the ACM website and listservs. We are also happy to participate in ACM sponsored gatherings and symposia. We will also encourage Faculty Working Group members to author journal articles about their experiences.

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