Lawrence Lowery: Effective Teaching for Effective Learning | GSI

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Profile Lawrence Lowery is Professor Emeritus in the Graduate School of Education at UC Berkeley. He was the Principal Investigator for both the EQUALS math program and FAMILY MATH at the Lawrence Hall of Science. In addition, he was the Principal Investigator for the Full Option Science System (FOSS), a science curriculum for grades K–8 developed at the Lawrence Hall of Science. He remains active, making presentations around the world on math and science education. He continues to publish and edit articles and books, the most recent being The Nature of Inquiry (Science, Technology, and Children, National Research Council, 2002), and Investigative Questions are the Sparks that Ignite Inquiry (Science and Children, December 2010, National Science Teachers Association). Professor Lowery has also received numerous awards, including Outstanding Science Educator of the Year, 1992 from the Association for the Education of Teachers of Science, the Distinguished Career in Science Award from the National Science Teachers Association, and the Outstanding Teacher Education Program for Elementary Science award from the California State Department of Education.

Video of the Presentation

GSI Center Programs and Services Teaching Conference for First-Time GSIs GSI Professional Standards and Ethics Online Course Workshops, Seminars, and Institutes Certificate in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education Grant Programs The How Students Learn Project The How Students Learn Working Group and Speaker Series Daniela Kaufer: What can Neuroscience Research Teach Us about Teaching? Jean Lave, Learning as a Socially Situated Activity Rosemary Joyce: Remarks on Legitimate Peripheral Participation Arthur Shimamura: Active Learning AND Testing: The Key to Long-Lasting Memories John Kihlstrom: How Students Learn: A Perspective from Cognitive and Social Psychology Martin Covington: Why Students Learn and (Sometimes) Don’t Learn Lawrence Lowery: Effective Teaching for Effective Learning Kathleen Metz: The Interplay of Conceptual Understanding and Engagement in Disciplinary Practices Alan Schoenfeld: Learning to Think Mathematically (or like a scientist, or like a writer, or…) Applying the Research to Teaching Select Bibliography on How Students Learn About the How Students Learn Project

Language Proficiency Program Consultations with GSI Center Staff Award Programs Talk by Larry Lowery for the How Students Learn Working Group on March 29, 2011.

Summary of the Presentation Professor Lowery began his talk by giving the audience an “advance organizer” to provide a framework for his talk — a technique that enhances learning. In this case, the advance organizer showed the interconnection of content knowledge, the learner, and classroom instruction. Effective teachers must attend to all three of these aspects of the learning process.

Content Knowledge Obviously effective teachers must thoroughly know the content that they teach, but Lowery also reminded us that expertise in a field does not mean the ability to teach that field well. We need to work at becoming experts in how learning works as well as being experts in our subject areas.

The Learner Effective teachers make sure that learners have the prerequisite knowledge to learn the content of their courses. In general, people are prepared to learn and interested in learning under two conditions: fright and curiosity. Fright, of course, is not necessarily something we want to mobilize in the classroom, so we need to work by provoking curiosity with surprises and anomalies. Effective teachers therefore capitalize on discrepant events, mysteries, and novelty in order to engage students’ thinking. Lowery distinguished between the teaching of skills and the teaching of knowledge. In order to teach skills, instructors need to tutor and coach their students, give immediate corrections and refinements, and encourage students to practice the skills repeatedly until they are automatic. Teaching knowledge, however, is different. The best way for students to learn knowledge is for them to do “rehearsal teaching,” i.e. trying to explain the concepts themselves. Stabilizing knowledge in the long-term memory happens by repeating the content with some differences each time. Thus, effective teachers are flexible and present content in many different ways. This requires, of course, that we as teachers know our material very well indeed! If we only present content once, or we are only capable of presenting it in one way, then our students tend to simply memorize the information, rather than developing a detailed critical understanding of it. Memorizing often leads to misconceptions, so we should aim for our content to be “memorable” rather than “memorizable.”

Instruction Effective teachers pay close attention to the physical arrangements of their classrooms in order to make sure that they are optimal for different types of learning. Typical classroom arrangements include didactic, individual task, tutorial, collaborative/cooperative, and Socratic; a breakdown of these different arrangements, including diagrams, is available in Lowery’s article “Strategies for Instruction” in FOSS Newsletter #11 (Spring 1998). All of the arrangements are useful, but changing the arrangement can provide for different kinds of learning. In addition, simple changes like teaching from a different position in the room can promote student engagement, simply due to novelty. Lowery also suggested that students learn more effectively when the questions used to guide discussion are generated by the class, rather than posed by the instructor. He cautioned that the questions teachers tend to pose are often too narrow — looking for the “right answer” — or too broad — exploring questions that don’t have clear answers. Professor Lowery closed by recommending further reading for anyone interested in knowing more about how learning works: Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home and School by John Medina (Pear Press, 2008) and How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School (National Research Council, 2000).

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Lawrence Lowery: Effective Teaching for Effective Learning | GSI

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