Teaching and Learning: Lost in a Buzzword Wasteland

Murphy, James


Chew, S. L., & Cerbin, W. J. (2017, December 5). Teaching and learning: Lost in a buzzword wasteland. Retrieved May 12, 2018, from https://www.insidehighered.com/views/2017/12/05/need-theory-learning-opinion

This article takes a critical look at trends in education and relates that innovation successes are largely attributable to teacher excitement. After the teacher is no longer excited, the innovation may turn out to be no better than the previous trend. Despite increased research in pedagogy, concrete, evidence-based improvement in results remains elusive. The authors attribute this to a “Lack of a comprehensive, empirically validated model of how students learn.” The authors then propose how educators could start down the path to developing this model. They also claim that students have individual differences that call for tailored teaching and learning, rather than a one size fits all approach. They also list many cognitive factors that should be addressed in teaching and learning theory. They conclude the article by positing that there is not one best teaching method, but that there are best teaching methods appropriate to different situations.

I thought this was a very interesting article as it proposes major theoretical changes, supported by evidence-based practices, in the field of pedagogy. It is an ambitious proposal, but one that has merit. I think anyone who has explained the same concept very differently to two different students can appreciate what the authors are trying to articulate. The challenge, of course, is that a classroom teacher cannot always do this for 20+ students.

Projects with Technology Do Good Things

Post by Lora Poser-Brown


Kingston, Sally and Lenz, Bob. “Blending Technology into Project Based Learning.” Partnerships for 21st Century Learning. Jan. 21, 2016. http://www.p21.org/news-events/p21blog/1832-blending-technology-into-project-based-learning

Overview: This article discusses many ways to incorporate projects and technology in regular instruction. In addition, justification is given for more projects with evidence that doing so increases attendance, scores, engagement, social skills, and more.

Analysis: The article was a quick read with great concrete examples for teachers. Furthermore, the ideas given can easily be adapted for different ages and subjects. The article makes project based learning seem less daunting for those new to the teaching style.

Video Record for Teacher Feedback

Post by Lora Poser-Brown


Gates, Bill. “Teachers Need Real Feedback.” Ted Talk. May 8, 2013. Viewed Nov. 8, 2016. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=81Ub0SMxZQo

Overview: Teachers are rarely evaluated for improvement. To improve best practices, though, far more discussion and reflection needs to be happening in US education. MET – Measures of Effective Teaching. Using video of self and “experts” to improve instructional quality. Project promoted and funded by the Gates Foundation.
Analysis: This video is a brief explanation of the Gates Foundation’s MET program. The video is too short to fully explain the program, like who watches the videos besides the recorded teacher and who is selected to provide feedback. However, good interview time was given to a teacher who has really grown – in her opinion – from participating in MET.

Older Video Explores Still Current Ideas

Cooper, E. J. (1991). Integrating thinking, reading, and writing across the curriculum. Hamilton, N.J.: Films Media Group.

I found this video in the Films on Demand database that the library where I work subscribes to. The item record showed the publication date as 2011, but that must have been when it was digitized and uploaded, because it was definitely made in 1991. Despite its age, I found it very interesting and relevant. It take the format of a panel with an audience, and in between the panelists answering questions, there are clips of teachers applying the techniques discussed in their classrooms. These clips include interviews with students who discuss how they feel about these classes compared to their classes with teachers who use more traditional methods.

Although no one ever claims these methods as adhering to any particular theory or philosophy, the methods and ideas that are discussed are clearly constructivist, and it is illuminating to see theory put into practice. The term “cognitive coaching” is used a lot, and it seems to refer to encouraging inquiry and metacognition. This video is pretty old, but the ideas hold up. 

Behaviorism, Cognitivism, Constructivism, and Social constructivism

Panneck, Brook


Hung, D. (2001). Theories of Learning and Computer-Mediated Instructional Technologies. Educational Media International, 38(4), 281-287. doi:10.1080/09523980110105114

This article describes the major schools of thought in educational theory, namely- Behaviorism, Cognitivism, Constructivism, and Social Constructivism. The paper proposes a framework for using these theories in online instruction and lists technologies for supporting the different theory implementations. I proposes that all of these theories have a place in the classroom.

Not only does it provide explanations for these theories, but it has a table that shows each of the theories, and explains the instructional design/delivery respectively. It has a table outlining, the processes of learning, type of learning, instructional strategies, and key concepts. Additionally, it has a table showing the different types of learning tools and technologies to support each of these technologies. Lastly it illustrates tools used to support active learning among groups and individualize learning.

This is a great paper for those that want to get a basic foundational understanding of what these theories are, how they can be taught and the technologies that support the teaching. It is also a great jumping off point to learn more about these theories individually. I recommend checking out the references at the bottom of the article to find more great articles that this author used.

Building a Better Teacher

Beverly Rupe

ET-Learning Styles, cognitive theory, teaching, teacher assessment

Green, E. (2014). Building a better teacher: How teaching works (and how to teach it to everyone). New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company.

This book explores the history of efforts to transform teaching from ineffective rote methods to more creative approaches. It includes a discussion of the academic research leading to teaching reform beginning in the 1980s, and uses examples from classrooms to illustrate the differences between effective and ineffective methods. Engaging students, encouraging them to talk (using “academic discourse”) and then listening to them to determine their needs are areas of focus in each of the classroom stories detailed in the book. The focus is on improving the art of teaching, which, according to the author, is a skill that can be taught. I found this book fascinating and very readable, and very pertinent to classroom teachers and TLs alike.

Cognitively Priming Students for Learning

Amy Jessica McMillan

Willis, J. (2014). Cognitively Priming Students for Learning. Retrieved November 7, 2014, from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/cognitively-priming-students-for-learning-judy-willis

Judy Willis, a neurologist turned elementary school teacher turned education professor, writes an ongoing blog for Edutopia about brain-based teaching strategies. This article explains how to grab students’ attention so their brains will work to learn more. Willis’s advice involves inviting students to make predictions about upcoming units. For example, the teacher might choose a particularly thought-provoking image or video and provide more hints and clues about it as the unit goes on. According to Willis, “When students want to know required information to create solutions to problems that interest them or to create products that they care about, the brain applies the effort to learn what is required to achieve desirable goals” (para. 8).  In other words, our brain is automatically set up to be curious and to take steps to satisfy this curiosity. We teachers have the job of making students want to know more.

I am a frequent reader of Dr. Willis’s blog. She gives practical ways that we teachers can work with students’ brains to help them learn. In this article, she reminds readers that students who have “relevant goals” are motivated to achieve them. Their brains are hardwired to work towards goals that make sense to them personally. On the other hand, students who don’t see school as relevant, do not see the value in working hard. Then, they reinforce that feeling by failing and therefore seeing even less worth in trying. Their brains are telling them that the effort would be better served elsewhere. This explanation makes a lot much sense to me because I see this all the time in the classroom. The trick is to make the students curious, to make them want to know more. Their brains will take it from there.

ET: Inquiry–Five Ways to Integrate by Julia Marshall

Sullivan, Maureen

Five Ways to Integrate
Dr. Julia Marshall

Summary: This article has been a staple of mine for the last six years when thinking about shifting pedagogy to integrate across content areas, particularly spanning art and science. The five creative strategies Dr. Julia Marshall describes are used by both artists and scientists alike in the real world, and are fantastic strategies to implement in the library setting to embrace student choice, collaboration, and synthesis of their ideas. They are cognitive strategies, that are used to communicate the creators’ ideas through depiction, metaphor, mimicry, formatting, and projection.

Julia Marshall is an Art Education professor at San Francisco State University and I had the pleasure of working with her closely on a science and art integration initiative in San Francisco public schools.

Evaluation: In thinking about the cognitive processes that span art and science, Julia offers some specific ways in which both artists and scientists are manipulating information to communicate their thinking. I highly recommend it!

Five Ways to Integrate

Good IDEA: Instructional design model for integrating Information Literacy

Blaylock, Solomon


Mullins, K. (2014). Good IDEA: Instructional design model for integrating Information Literacy. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 40(3-4), 339-349. doi: 10.1016/j.acalib.2014.04.012

A presentation of IDEA (interview, design, embed, assess) – an instructional design model created specifically for librarians, with a theoretical foundation in cognitive and behavioral learning. The model is explained in detail from theoretical foundations to practical implementation. The article features several explanatory flowcharts and even templates and rubrics, providing a suite of tools enabling the reader to make use of IDEA out of the box.


Although the theoretical underpinnings of Mullins’ model are in some conflict with those being championed by this course, it seems to me that the author has something of great value to impart, and has gone to pains to ensure that this is done so with a thoroughness clearly aimed at results-oriented praxis. The behaviorist underpinning of the model, particularly in the area of assessment, might actually make it particularly valuable to academic librarians who so frequently these days find themselves the direct and immediate necessity of providing quantitative data to back up any claims to continued relevance against a rapidly shifting backdrop of upsets in scholarly publishing and information retrieval.

How to Reinvent Project Based Learning to Be More Meaningful

Shawn Pomatto


Educational principles are changing the way we teach throughout the entire country.  Our educational system is going through a reboot of educational processes and the development of skills.  There is a pressing need to increase problem solving skill sets and inquiry within our students.  Gone are the days of a teacher centered classroom where students mindlessly listen to boring lectures.  Students themselves are now becoming the presenters, collaborating amongst themselves in an attempt to create unique projects.  But now even the projects based learning model (PBL) is under evaluation.  The PBL model of instruction is designed to get students involved in research that is dependent upon collaboration.  Students analyze information and evidence, then they think about a problem and remedy a solution.  Like any other means of instruction, PBL has its flaws if not performed correctly.  The proper way to conduct a project based learning environment lesson  is to first and foremost develop skills, not content, through a process of inquiry.  Teamwork and presentation are the means of achieving this goal.  PBL allows students to go deep into any particular issue.  Every subject across the curriculum will have varying levels of how deep a project might be.  But the underlying principles will remain constant.  Students will work from a knowledge base which will allow them to design a creative, authentic product.  Individual personalities can flourish as students take ownership of their learning.  Collaboration allows students to create and analyze content while teachers merely facilitate their learning experience.  One of the more powerful aspects of a PBL environment is peer review.  Students are encouraged to identify strengths and weaknesses of student projects.  This evaluation will then lead to more creation and a means to make the end product even better.

Project based learning allows for a deeper, more personal learning experience to take place.  Differentiation can occur more freely as teachers can now allow students to reach goals never before available under the old system of learning.  The facilitator role which teachers are now using allows for more leaders to arise within a class.  Peer review allows students to be accountable for their work.  The fundamental principle of evaluation and inquiry itself allows for PBL lessons to be challenged in their design as well.  Constant modifications will only support students creativity, helping to foster ingenuity.  This open ended form of lesson design positively affects the learning experience of so many more students, allowing them to grow and experience new ideas on their own.