Deep Learning Practice: Create Lecture Note Systems

Your experience in college Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) classes likely include lectures. A lecture is an oral presentation, combined with visual aids, that is designed to introduce information to a group audience. Many professors use lectures as their primary “teaching” tool. As a student, you need to be very careful about confusing the act of sitting through a lecture with your process of learning. While lectures are popular on college campuses, they are notoriously bad at inspiring deep learning. Cognitive scientists have shown that human beings have limited short-term memory. Because of this limitation, much of the information presented in a typical lecture comes too fast and is quickly forgotten. This is a problem! One of the most popular presentation styles in your college classes (lecture) does not allow you to fully process the information being presented in real time. If you have ever felt overwhelmed, under-prepared, frustrated, uncomfortable, mystified, or anxious during a lecture, you’ve encountered the disconnect between your needs as a learner and your experience in lecture.  In this blog post, we discuss useful strategies you can use in your STEM courses to protect yourself against the harmful practice of lectures.

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The problems with lecture

The lecture-based model for instruction forces you to do the hardest learning tasks when you are by yourself outside of class. In this model, a teacher dedicates in-class time to low-level learning tasks. Specifically, in the lecture-based model for instruction, a student gets their first exposure to course content during in-class meetings via a live lecture delivered by the teacher to a room full of students. Such lectures are usually given in a monolog-style speech where the vast majority of the speaking is done by the teacher to the students. By the end of the lecture, teachers have presented a long list of technical content to the students sitting in the room. After the in-class meetings end, students are expected to engage in higher-level learning activities like sense making, problem solving, and creative work. In a lecture-based classroom, the out-of-class activities typically involve deeper thinking and harder intellectual tasks. But, because in-class meetings are filled by the teacher talking at you, this leaves no time for collaborative group work to support deeper learning. Thus, in a lecture-based classroom, you are expected to do the hardest part of learning when you are alone outside of class, isolated from your peers, and away from the teacher.  

In this post, we explore some of the problems with the lecture-based model for instruction. Identifying these issues is an important first step in creating learning routines that center deep learning and protect you against the harms caused by traditional lectures.

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Schedule to Succeed: Draft Your Term-Long Calendar

Balancing the demands of life in college can be overwhelming and stressful. This is particularly true because so many of our current educational policies are designed to train assembly line workers in an industrial economy rather than to support knowledge workers in a knowledge economy. Crucial skills in knowledge work include the ability to manage complex projects and to stick to self-imposed deadlines. To build these skills, you to need to develop systems to track your commitments, work efficiently, and ensure that nothing slips through the cracks. One low-level scheduling tool that can help you earn the grades that you want is a term-long calendar. While your weekly schedule is designed to capture your recurring weekly time commitments, your term-long calendar stores all non-repeating commitments you have throughout the academic term. This term-long calendar is a crucial tool you can use to accomplish your academic goals, unleash your creativity, and get things done. In this post, we explore more about why it’s so important to create a term-long calendar and help you develop a system to draft this calendar before the start of each academic term. As soon as you master your skills in creating your term-long calendar, we’ll move onto more advanced scheduling tools that will prepare you to thrive in our knowledge economy.

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Schedule to Succeed : Beware of Scheduling Traps

A powerful and nuanced aspect of college-student life is your ability to create your own schedule. You decide which classes to take, what times to attend these classes, what you will do to learn, and when to study. This is an awesome level of autonomy. However, with great power comes great responsibility. By enrolling in a college course, you sign up to learn at an accelerated pace. In each of your college classes, you will be asked to perform under challenging circumstances on assignments, quizzes, exams, projects, term papers, and during in-class discussions. At the end of the term, your teachers will likely assign your final grade based on your performance on submitted work. Part of accomplishing your academic goals is to acknowledge that learning takes time. When designing a course schedule, it is very easy to underestimate the amount of time you will need to accomplish your academic goals. In this post, we discuss some strategies you might use to avoid common scheduling traps.

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Schedule to Succeed: Draft Your Weekly Schedule

In this post, we create the first draft of your weekly schedule. We are not yet ready to finalize this draft nor to commit to a weekly study routine. The point of this draft is to help you assess your current time commitments. In fact, this first draft of your weekly schedule is designed to assess your current priorities and make scheduling decisions about your academic course load for the upcoming academic term. This work is part of our Schedule to Succeed series. Our major focus here is to help you think deeply about our learning principle that Learning takes more time than you think you need. If you can be mindful of this principle as you practice scheduling, you can free yourself up to be less stressed, more productive, and to have fun while achieving the grades you want.

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Teaching and Learning for Liberation : Winter Roundtable 2022

Last updated: Wednesday 2/16/2022 @ 5:25am
Lead presenter: Dr. Katherine Lee
Co-presenters: Henry Fan, Jeff Anderson

This is a companion blog post for our talk Teaching and Learning for Liberation Through Community Building and Interdisciplinary Collaboration that our team gave on Friday 2/25/2022 from 11:00AM – 12:00PM EST as part of the Columbia University’s Teaching College 39th Annual Winter Roundtable Conference.

As is stated on the Winter Roundtable homepage, “the Winter Roundtable is the longest running continuing professional education program in the United States devoted solely to cultural issues in psychology, education, and social work.” This year’s Winter Roundtable conference is titled “Collective Action & Liberation in Psychology and Education, is a call to students, scholars, professionals, and activists to come together as we chart a path forward toward our collective liberation.”

In this blog post, we share all resources we generated for this talk as well as other resources that might be helpful for participants who want to return to these ideas after the talk ends. Enjoy.

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Get Paid to Learn : SIMIODE Expo 2022

This is a companion blog post for a breakout session, entitled Get Paid to Learn that I co-facilitated with Henry Fan on Friday 2/11/2022 from 4:00pm – 4:45pm EST as part of the SIMIODE Expo 2022 Virtual Event.

SIMIODE is “a community of practice focused on a modeling first method of teaching differential equations.” The acronym SIMIODE stands for “A Systemic Initiative for Modeling Investigations and Opportunities with Differential Equations.”

In this blog post, we share all resources we generated for this talk as well as other resources that might be helpful for participants who want to return to these ideas after the talk ends. Enjoy.

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The no-teacher-training-for-college-professors problem

College classrooms are supposed to be spaces where learning happens. However, far too often, neither college professors nor their students explore fundamental questions about the nature of teaching and learning in college, questions like:

  1. What is learning?
  2. How do people learn?
  3. What models for learning inform the design of my college classes?
  4. What types of instructional methods lead to significant learning experiences?
  5. How can teachers and students work together to create highly engaging learning environments?

That these questions frequently go unexamined in college courses relates to a series of problems within many U.S. higher education systems. In this post, we name and identify one such problem that results from the fact that most college professors have almost no training in the science of learning and have little experience with effective teaching practices.

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To thrive in college, become a scapper

In many colleges in the United States, almost half of first-year college students do not make it to graduation. Stop and think about this for a minute. Our current US higher education system is designed in such a way that it kills the dreams, hopes, and aspirations of almost 50% of the students who enter through its gates. As you meditate on this reality, let’s run a related thought experiment. What would you say about an airline company that designs and flies planes that kill 50% of it’s passenger? Would you buy a ticket from that company? Would you support letting that company maintain the status quo?

To me, when I think about how our current policy choices fail to support so many students, I see a need for major reforms. I want to avoid blaming students and faculty for this failure. While I believe each of us has a moral responsibility to challenge current policies and advocate for reform, I also realize that no individual shoulders the entire weight of the injustices that are baked into our current system. Instead, I believe we should learn to focus our collective energies on policy changes to better support our local communities in creating significant learning experiences in college and beyond. Such policy changes will require decades (if not centuries) of sustain activism at the grass-roots level.

In the meantime, if you are part of the current generation of college students, our community here at The Learning Code wants to help you develop and refine system-navigation skills so that you can thrive in an environment that is designed to weed you out. As part of this effort, I want to help you develop a scrapper’s mindset, which is exactly what we explore in this post.

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