I have created this site to provide higher education faculty free teaching resources that can assist them in moving from a teacher centered practice to a learner centered one. I am in my 35th. year in higher education at Ferris State University. From 1998 to 2009 I worked as the senior faculty developer at Ferris State. In that role I focused my work on designing effective ways to help higher education faculty become learner centered teachers. This site includes most of my work.
You will find a significant amount of research that strongly supports the move to a learner centered teaching practice on this site. It also contains all of my most recent presentations and more than 30 instructional resources designed to assist faculty and students in making the changes they will need to make if learner centered teaching is to be a successful learning practice for both groups.
I hope you find the site helpful and thanks for visiting.
Ferris State University
Below you will find the introduction to my new book, coauthored with Dr. Todd Zakrajsek of the University of North Carolina College of Medicine with Forward by Neuroscientist Dr. Jeannie Loeb also of the University of North Carolina to be published by Stylus summer 2013. The book is written for college students and describes the most current research about how the human brain learns. The book is titled The New Science of Learning: How to Learn in Harmony with your Brain.
Learning is a complicated practice. Several thousand years ago the primary obligation of the human brain was to figure out how to find food, not get eaten by a predator (including finding a safe place to sleep), and how to fine a mate. Now, in addition to those basic human functions, our brains are inundated with things that need to be learned. Unfortunately, the evolution of a biological structure such as the brain does not allow for change as rapid as the pace at which our society is currently changing. Just imagine how much more complicated the human life has become in just 80 years, approximately three generations. College alone is a challenge that many of our great grandfathers never faced. The good news is that although our brains have not changed significantly in the past several hundred years, our understanding of how our brains work is light years ahead of where we were just a short time ago.
New insights into how the human brain learns make it clear that many of the learning practices faculty used in the past, and students continue to use, are highly inefficient, ineffective or just plain wrong. Better learning does not always require more effort or more time, but rather effectively aligning how the brain naturally learns with the demands of the college classroom. This book succinctly outlines several easily adapted changes that will significantly enhance your college experience by helping you to learn how to learn in harmony with your brain.
Why is it particularly important to learn how to learn as effectively and efficiently as possible? The rate of new information, innovation and challenges facing our world are not going to slow down. College students today face a new world order where global competition for jobs is the norm rather than the exception. India and China have twice as many honor students as the United States has people. These honor students will be seeking the same professional positions that you are seeking. The U.S. Department of Labor recently reported that the average 18-year-old will have 10-14 different jobs by age of 38, with each subsequent position requiring new information and skills. As a result, as a student in college right now you are the first generation in U.S. history that must be lifelong learners in order to remain employed. It is essential that you become a highly efficient and effective learner who retains learned knowledge and skills for a lifetime, not just for a test, if you are to compete effectively on a world stage.
This brief book, based on what is currently known about how the human brain learns, will help you to change the ways in which you prepare to learn, make your learning easier and more effective, and help you to more effectively recall newly learned material whenever you need it. Taking the time to read and reflect on the material in this book will be one of the best decisions you have ever made as a learner. At this point you might be thinking, “there must be a million books out there about how to study and be successful in college.” This is not a book designed to teach you specific study skills, learning strategies or how to improve your attitude towards learning. This book explains the research about how the human brain learns in a way that is easy to understand and act upon. This book gives you a foundation to learn study skills as needed, but with a much better understanding as to why and how those skills can be best implemented. As just one example, did you know that neuroscientists have shown that understanding of new material and subsequent recall of that material is enhanced if you don’t take classes back to back? The human brain needs downtime between different learning experiences in order to process and begin to make new memories of the newly experienced material. The brain needs to work to learn new things and we need to give it time to do that work. Neuroscientist Lila Davachi of New York University said “students would be better off taking a coffee break where they just chat with friends for an hour following a college class—it would actually be better for their learning.” Strategically implemented leisure time in which the brain is not processing a lot of new material, when not overdone, is actually an effective part of the learning process.
The authors of this book have a singular goal for anyone reading or listening to this material: to better understand how you can learn how to learn in harmony with your brain! It is not difficult to make the changes suggested in this book. But it is critical. Becoming a skilled and efficient learner will be one of the most important determinants of what you can and will achieve in your life time. Our purpose in writing this book is to help you reach your full potential by providing you a simple way to understand the learning process. That simple way, will allow you to get to places in your lifetime that people have not even dreamed of yet.
A Special Note to the Reader
As authors we have purposefully written each chapter of this book to be a standalone body of information about a certain aspect of the human brain. As a result some information is repeated in multiple chapters. Also some information is also discussed in multiple chapters because it happens in the brain as a result of different activities or causes. For example making new memories is affected by sleep in chapter 2, exercise in chapter 3, attention in chapter 8 and practice and elaboration in chapter 6. We believe the repetition will serve to reinforce the important information about the human brain and learning and that the reader will find it helpful to consider the information in multiple ways.