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Research on Learning

Learning to improve one's teaching is a process of progressive refinement, which, like other learning processes, is informed by learning principles.
Susan A. Ambrose, Michael W. Bridges, Michele DiPietro, Marsha C. Lovett, and Marie K. Norman

Effective teaching requires more than disciplinary or professional expertise. In the National Research Council's landmark study, How People Learn, the authors note, "Expertise in a particular domain does not guarantee that one is good at helping others learn it." This distinction is keenly appreciated by faculty who puzzle over student work which does not meet our expectations.

Whatever our teaching circumstances and disciplinary or interdisciplinary backgrounds, we ask similar questions: Why are students' misconceptions so difficult to dislodge? Why do students focus on details but miss essential ideas? Why are assignments that invite application especially difficult? And, most challenging, what feedback would help students improve their learning?

Fortunately, these questions which get at the relationship between teaching and learning are addressed in a burgeoning literature which introduces non-specialists to research on learning—including how the brain works—and the implications for teaching practice.

Being knowledgeable about this research informs learning community programs done well, from the quality of ongoing professional development for teaching teams to the design of integrative learning experiences for students.


How Learning Works: Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching
Susan A. Ambrose, Michael W. Bridges, Michele DiPietro, Marsha C. Lovett, and Marie K. Norman. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishing. 2010.

The Talent Code: Greatness Isn't Born. It's Grown. Here's How.
Daniel Coyle. New York, NY: Bantam Dell. 2009.

Why do Beliefs About Intelligence Influence Learning Success? A Social Cognitive Neuroscience Model
Jennifer A. Mangels, Brady Butterfield, Justin Lamb, Catherine Good, and Carol S. Dweck. Social, Cognitive, and Affective Neuroscience 1. 2006.

How Students Learn: History, Mathematics, and Science in the Classroom
M. Suzanne Donovan and John D. Bransford, editors. Washington, DC: National Academy Press. 2005.

The Art of Changing the Brain
James E. Zull. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing. 2002.

How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School
John D. Bransford, Ann L. Brown, and Rodney R. Cocking, editors. Washington, DC: National Academy Press. 1999.

How People Learn: Bridging Research and Practice
M. Suzanne Donovan, John D. Bransford, and James W. Pellegrino, editors. Washington, DC: National Academy Press. 1999.

Thinking About Thinking: Metacognition
Linda Darling-Hammond, Kim Austin, Melissa Cheung, and Daisy Martin. With contributions from Brigid Barron, Annmarie Palincsar, and Lee Shulman. Stanford University School of Education. nd.

The Learning Classroom: Theory Into Practice
Website. Linda Darling-Hammond, John Bransford, Helen Featherstone, Sharon Feiman-Nemser, Kay Lovelace-Taylor, Richard Navarro, John Porter, Lee Shulman, and Dennis Sparks, advisors.


Complete list of resources