01 SES 03 B, Neuro-education Implications for Professional Development
Students do not know how to learn, and in spite of new insights in how brains learn, they still use highly inefficient, ineffective and even harmful learning strategies and habits (Doyle & Zakrajsek 2013:1). Even good students such as medical students struggle to learn effectively, and most students use rereading text and massed practice as preferred study streagegies, even though they are the least productive stragegies (Brown, Roediger & McDaniel 2014:ix, 3). A reason for this is that, while at school, learners are coached to pass instead of guided to learn and study independently.
Recent developments in the neuro- and cognitive sciences yielded dependable results about how humans learn and study efficiently. Even so, many “neuromyths” still continues to dominate popular and even academic education publications (Hardiman 2012:6-11), and the reality is that effective skills are seldom taught or being taught continuously, with listening being taught the least of all (Coakley & Wolvin, 1997, Janusik, 2002). Emerging research in cognitive psychology and neuroscience is lending insight into how people learn, but teaching on most college campuses has not changed much, and faculty members still teach according to habits and hunches (Berret 2012). Effective learning strategies include effortful learning, retrieval practice, spaced repetition, problem solving before being taught the solution, focussing on underlying principles, linking to prior knowledge, elaboration instead of mechanical repetition, learning in context, creating mental models, interleaved learning and mindfulness (Brown, Roediger & McDaniel 2014:3-22, Hardiman 2012:95-124).
In order to address there realities, a program called Study 2 Succeed 57 (S2S57) has been developed at the University of South Africa. Based on recent well-researched and dependable Neuro-Educational research, it translated the theory into practical strategies, addressing seven critical aspects of learning.
Study strategies are actually complex sets of habits, formed over time and as such are stable and difficult to change. In order to develop new habits with effective strategies, a single exposure will rarely lead to long term change. The S2S57 program, however, introduces students to seven foundational aspects of effective life-long learning habits, namely Self-knowledge and Mindset, Focus and Grit, Listening, Reading, Memorising, Performing and Applying skills. It is done for 57 days in manageable and practical chunks (about 20 to 30 minutes per day), delivered electronically to smartphones, tablets or computers.
To evaluate the program, a group of fourth year medical and dental students participated voluntary in a pilot project. Their study habits and strategies were evaluated, after which they followed the Study 2 Succeed program. This was followed by six cooperative learning sessions, some face-to-face and others via mobile devices, where they applied the program while preparing for a test at the end of a particular block of study.
At the end of the intervention the participants evaluated the usefulness of the Study 2 Succeed 57 (S2S57) program, and their performance in the test was compared to previous results in tests and exams. Attention was given to how students with similar abilities appropriated universal learning and study strategies in unique ways.
The results have implications for how lecturers should teach subject content in ways that also develop the ability to master content, both in face-to-face and in distance education settings.
References Berrett, D (2012). Harvard Conference Seeks to Jolt University Teaching. The Chronicle of Higher Education, February 5, 2012. Brown, P. C., Roediger III, H. L., & McDaniel, M. A. (2014). Make it stick. The science of successful learning. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. Coakley, C., & Wolvin, A. (1997). Listening in the educational environment. In: M.Purdy & D. Borisoff (Eds.) Listening in everyday life: A personal and professional approach (2nd ed.) (pp. 179-212). Lanham, MD: University Press of America. Conaway (1982). Doyle, T & Zakrajsek, T (2013). The new science of learning. How to learn in harmony with your brain. Sterling, Virginia: Stylus. Hardiman, M M (2012). The Brain-Targeted Teaching Model for 21st-Century Schools. Thousand Oaks: Corwin. Janusik, L.A. (2002). Teaching listening. What do we know? What should we know? International Journal of Listening, 16, 5-39.
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