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How Learning Works: Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching
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How Learning Works: Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  958 ratings  ·  100 reviews
Praise for How Learning Works "How Learning Works is the perfect title for this excellent book. Drawing upon new research in psychology, education, and cognitive science, the authors have demystified a complex topic into clear explanations of seven powerful learning principles. Full of great ideas and practical suggestions, all based on solid research evidence, this book i ...more
Hardcover, 301 pages
Published May 17th 2010 by Jossey-Bass (first published April 16th 2010)
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May 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
The 7 principles are...

1-prior knowledge (misinformation and otherwise) affects student learning. Consider pre-tests that ask them to use the skills you assume are prerequisite. Prior knowledge should be activiated, sufficient, appropriate and accurate
2-How student organize knowledge matters. Help students to clump information together. For example "part of the writing process," "Enlightenment philosophers," etc.
3-Students have varying degrees of motivation with the material. Help students to se
Feb 10, 2013 rated it liked it
I'm reading this text as a graduate student working as a teaching assistant and also teaching my own college-level courses. I think it's an excellent book for conceptualizing about how our students learn and how to approach teaching. I really enjoy the way that it's organized--a scenario before each chapter, followed up by a quick introduction to the concept, then in-depth research to support the concept. It's well researched and a great way for any college-level professor to really start knowin ...more
Apr 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I learned a lot from this book. It's a clearly-written, straightforward, practical approach to how to better facilitate student learning.
Jul 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing
There are endless books on teaching, fewer on learning. Still fewer books on learning that are approachable and readily usable by any instructor. This book helps to fulfill the need for the later. Many books focus on activities to use in the classroom (e.g. think pair share, muddiest point) emphasizing successful teaching. Or, they focus on specific skill sets (e.g. writing rubrics, giving feedback) and strategies for improving those skill sets. While there is room for teaching focused texts, we ...more
Apr 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: teaching
I appreciate how strategies that we have been using for a while get broken down into why they work, how they can be more effective, and practical applications for the classroom.
Aug 20, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2014
This is a pretty exhaustive catalog summing up the basic research in instructional psychology that's applicable to faculty across disciplines. While there are plenty of duh studies (did you know that providing your students with clear expectations for an assignment will motivate them because they won't see grading and evaluation as arbitrary???), this work is particularly useful as a gut-check reference. I used it this semester to make sure I had time built in to my courses to effectively help m ...more
Bidisha Banerjee
Nov 19, 2012 rated it liked it
Great survey of how to be an effective college-level teacher. Case-studies are excellent, and appendixes help you structure assessments. Terrific guidance on how to articulate learning objectives. The "research-based" principles are helpful for those of us who don't have an ed school background but the book doesn't problematize the methodology which leaves questions about applicability hanging. However, the authors (who have studied pedagogy in fields ranging from stats to biology and physics to ...more
Feb 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A teacher teaches so that students can learn. What could be more helpful than for a teacher to know how students learn? What motivates them? What do they bring to the course in terms of their own development and prior knowledge? What are the best ways for them to organize new knowledge, practice new skills, and receive useful feedback? How can a course create an environment that helps or hinders learning?

And why wasn't this book written in 1998 instead of 2010???
Paulo Ribeiro
Jan 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: learning
What a decent book! I wish more non fiction were written like this (Influence style, but a little lighter).

Alone it's really useful for professors , I wish I could make everybody on my college faculty read it.
Paco Nathan
Nov 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: workplace
Great for understanding pedagogy, the perspectives on learning from the podium. I appreciated the (over-the-top, anonymized) case studies.
Aug 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
Sensible, research-backed advice, conveyed with examples from many different academic fields. Probably worth skimming through again before next time I design/teach a course. The conclusion chapter is a nice review, applying each of their 7 principles to the process of learning to teach.

Below are just my notes-to-self. I read this while our department was discussing revisions to the curriculum, especially Intro to Stats. So most of my notes are aimed either at that, or at the Statistical Graphics
Pete Wung
Dec 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book is a part of a series from Jossy-Bass Higher and Adult Education series. I bought it on the recommendation of the learning resources center staff. They presented parts of the material during their new staff orientation.

I had two intentions, one was to have some resources at my disposal for the latest pedagogical theories to help my teaching and I also wanted to learn about these research based principles to help my coaching.

The structure of the book is straightforward, the introducti
Kevin Zhou
Oct 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: education
I really wish there were more books written like How Learning Works, not just on education but on academic research in general. The title sounds a bit like it could be one of a zillion popular science books, but it's far from that - rather, it is a collation and exposition of a wide body of research literature on teaching and learning, organized into seven major principles, and completed with a comprehensive list of applications and strategies based on those principles. It is written with the no ...more
Viet Dung Nguyen
Apr 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I come to this book to learn for myself first, then for my students.

It’s hard to understand why we are not taught how to learn at first. After graduation, I heard about metacognition for the first time. And that’s the first time I know the power and meaning of education, the first time I know what I had been doing wrong for 17 years of education. I don’t know why students don’t learn about how powerful their brains are and how they works. That’s why most of my friends as well as students believ
Corey Wrenn
Oct 11, 2017 rated it it was ok
Extremely repetitive and really doesn't offer anything novel; a lot of common sense. It is based soundly on research, however, and the book is cleanly organized with practical points highlighted at the end of each chapter. While I did not learn much of anything new from this book, it did strengthen some points for me and helped me hone in on some areas I would want to strengthen in my teaching (it also validated many of the techniques that I already use, which is always a good feeling!). The mai ...more
Christina Brandsma
Nov 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I actually really liked this one! The authors are clear communicators, topics and concepts are laid out in an organized way, and actionable steps are understandable. As someone who very much appreciates the practical and tangible aspects, in tandem with the philosophical and theoretical ways of thinking, of learning and teaching, this book was perfect. It is easy to ignore the suggestions that are already intuitive to me, while gleaning so much from all the tips that are new to me or at least un ...more
Apr 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: cognition, teaching, 2020
This is a really good book for teachers, as the authors do a nice job integrating academic research with practical classroom concerns. They don't get lost in the weeds of t-tests and sample size, but neither is the advice simply platitudinous. The first four chapters, on prior knowledge, knowledge organization, motivation and the development of mastery, are particularly good. Chapters 5 and 6 on practice and feedback and classroom culture and student development felt like a bit of a letdown, wit ...more
Mar 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I love the book. Being a novice teacher for one year, I often find myself overwhelmed and lost into which practices work best for my students. The book provides concrete and research based principles for teaching with detailed explanations and specific examples, which makes it so much easier to understand. The book also gives direct advices on what to do, how and when to do it so as to achieve the most effective results. What I find particularly inspiring is the last chapter where all 7 principl ...more
Oct 27, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: education
This book reviews seven principles of effective teaching: prior knowledge, organization, motivation, how to develop mastery, practice, course climate, and self-directed learners. All of the principles are well grounded by research. It's geared to college but has broader applications. Each chapter begins with two fictional challenges (based on real ones) faced by teachers. These are really good. They all ring true and are a great insight into how one's perspective of a problem is very important. ...more
adam aero
Dec 27, 2015 added it
Shelves: a-pedagogy
Do - misconceptions tend to be shared and produce consistent patterns => find MOOC data for specific subject content areas

Negative reinforcement doesn't mean punishment. It means removing something adverse to increase a desired behavior.

How can technology combat global poverty?

Understand what to do and why. "Is this a reasonable answer?" "What assumptions am I making here?"

Reflect, is the current approach working? "Is this strategy working?"

p 13 If that knowledge is inactive--it may not facilita
Robin Malcolm
Feb 04, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Clear, solid and helpful

This book is a tidy summary of research in seven areas of learning. It includes not only research on the abstract principles involved, but each chapter discusses the implications of the research in real classrooms, and strategies for incorporating the research into practical methodologies. The final gem at the end is the way the author turns the seven principles around to summarize how they impact teachers themselves and their own professional development.

An easy read.
Jul 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: work
Pretty good book with solid advice. I like that they use examples (here are two cases where professors are frustrated by X) and then use those throughout the chapter to illustrate the relevant concept.

They also include rubrics and other assessment ideas both at the end of chapters and in the appendix. However, I still wanted more on this. I did really like the takeaways at the end of the chapters and feel the information was well-organized.
Blue Gargoyle
May 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
A very useful book for post-secondary educators. I was pleased that I already adopt several of the authors' suggestions, and I will soon incorporate more. The main frustration is that several other suggestions would simply require diverting more time in class away from the introduction of required (for professional registration) content.
Nov 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
I started this book as a part of an instructor training course ( in 2014 and only used a few sections; I was excited to start back at the beginning for another read-through. It's so useful I've made a basic outline of all recommendations to reference when I'm working on designing or revising courses. ...more
Alex Hayes
Jan 04, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Useful, albeit a bit dry. When I design my first course I'll return to this and use it as a reference, but in remaining discipline independent much of the advice is too general to quickly connect to my actual experiences teaching. The statistics/math examples were most useful. I'm consider following this up with Gelman's "Teaching Statistics: A Bag of Tricks".
Mar 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
I was assigned this book for a graduate level class in Nursing Education, and I must say it’s one of the most accessible books I’ve seen on learning! It’s focused on undergraduate university students, but the concepts easily translate to other settings. I love the way this book separates the explanation of the research to really highlight the recommended strategies for teaching.
Andrew Mackie
Dec 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book. As a university professor, it gave me a number of ideas that have modified (and hopefully improved!) my instruction. My favorite chapter was the last one, so I'm glad I stuck it out to the end!
Allison Vining
Jan 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
I read this book not as a professor, but as a camp director who trains (teaches) college staff. While not everything was applicable (I expected such), I got some great tips for designing the best staff training possible.

This book is easy to read and full of examples and studies.
Julia Stevens
Aug 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Incredible. So many of my own experiences throughout college made more sense after reading this book! Not only do they discuss the evidence behind learning, they provide concrete strategies to harness students' minds and teach material in a productive and meaningful way.
Mar 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is an excellent resource! I highly recommend reading this prior to creating a syllabus and referring to it often when building or updating a course. Not only are there great recommendations, there are useful ways to easily apply these research-backed strategies for effective teaching.
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