Many of the traditional teaching methods we currently employ have been shown by cognitive science research to be either ineffective, or less effective than other methods. Our faculty often have little time for research into teaching and learning methods. They also have little time for developing their own techniques or pedagogy. Our campuses frequently don’t have in-house expertise on pedagogy, especially pedagogy as informed by cognitive science research. Our campuses are also all stretched for project funding. This FaCE grant enabled Knox faculty to get outside expertise and support for activities and resources that allowed for this kind of faculty development to happen effectively.
The grant provided support for workshops, meetings, and discussion that brought outside expertise. This allowed for the sharing and developing of the expertise of our own faculty. These activities also carved out time for faculty to learn new techniques and strategies, and to share and discuss these in relation to their specific disciplines and courses. Working together with Lawrence University, we also created a repository where materials on teaching with an awareness of cognitive science principles (including specific activities, templates, assignments etc.) could be gathered in one place.
Note: Content adapted from project proposal.
One challenge liberal arts colleges face is effectively teaching today’s students the content, principles and skills we aim to impart. We have high expectations for our students, especially in terms of their ability to transfer knowledge and critical thinking skills to future endeavors. We could be more successful if we knew more about how effective learning works. What can we change about how we encode knowledge in our students so that they can more effectively retrieve it in new circumstances?
One opportunity is our smaller classrooms and student/teacher ratios. We have more flexibility than schools required to impose a higher level of uniformity. This means we have more opportunity to try new teaching strategies and to change assignments. This project enables faculty to gain new insights into teaching effectively in light of what cognitive science research tells us about how students best learn, recall and transfer knowledge. It allows time and resources to plan and develop new strategies and assignments.
By working collaboratively across departments and disciplines, bringing expertise to our campus, carving out time for assignment development, and providing a repository of examples and templates, our faculty can take better advantage of cognitive science research to improve teaching and learning. Ultimately this will improve outcomes for our students as they are better able to recall and transfer what they’ve learned.
This project fosters innovation and collaboration among faculty at Knox from multiple disciplines, by providing them with an opportunity to learn new things about how teaching, learning, recall and knowledge transfer work. The structure of the workshops allows them to learn this from the speakers and from each other. They also have the opportunity to innovative ideas from the teaching resources and templates that Knox and Lawrence University gather in an online repository. The workshops (one per term) introduce key findings from the science of learning and engage faculty from multiple disciplines in discussing and applying these findings to their actual courses and assignments, making the principles real and applicable in the context of their programs.
The workshops provide time both for sharing and responding to each other’s questions and ideas and for individual faculty or groups to hammer out innovative assignments and pedagogy changes. The repository set up by Knox and Lawrence together allow for more collaboration as ideas, sample assignments, and teaching strategies are shared on campus, between ACM campuses, and with other colleges and universities. Innovation and collaboration will continue as Knox faculty share what they learn and what they change in their own teaching with other Knox colleagues, and then with colleagues at other places as they carry these new ideas and successful pedagogies over into discussions at meetings and conferences, publications, and professional presentations.