Stephen M. Kosslyn

President and Chief Learning Officer, Foundry College;

John Lindsley Professor of Psychology Emeritus, Harvard University

Primary Market: university and college professors & administrators; students in teacher

education courses; and teachers & administrations of grades 6-12

Courses:  Instructional Design, Educational Psychology, Foundations of Teaching, Distance 

Learning/Online Education, Learning Science, Active Learning, Learning & Memory


  • Preface

  • About the Author

  • Chapter 1. What is Active Learning and Why is it Important?: This chapter provides an overview of the nature of the problem to be solved and the approach to solving it. The concept of "active learning" is developed, as is the idea of a "Learning Sandwich," which provides a template for how to integrate active learning into more traditional lecture-based formats.

  • Chapter 2. The Science of Learning: This chapter summarizes key facts about cognitive functioning that form the foundations for  the principles that are the core of the book. In particular, it reviews the relationships between "learning" and "memory" and describes several different types of "memory stores" that exist in the human brain. It also discusses factors that affect different phases of learning, from encoding, to storage, to retention, to retrieval of stored information.

  • Chapter 3. Deep Processing: This is the first of five chapters that summarize the principles from the science of learning. The key  idea here is that the more mental processing a person performs on information, the more likely it is that the person later will remember it. This principle lies at the core of all active learning, and thus we begin with it as a foundation. Crucially, mental processing must focus on the learning objectives, which can be induced by many forms of active learning.

  • Chapter 4. Chunking: People can only take in about three or four organized units of information ("chunks"). Chunking applies          to all forms of information, ranging from perceptual (e.g., visual, auditory) to conceptual. This principle guides not only how instructors should structure their course materials and activities, but also how each class should be organized so that it can  function well online.

  • Chapter 5. Building Associations: Associations play a crucial role in organizing information when it is first encountered, in  integrating information into what is already known so that it is retained well, and in providing cues that make information easy  to retrieve. Associations help to solve the greatest single problem in the science of learning: the problem of transfer, of applying information learned in class to situations in work and daily life.

  • Chapter 6. Dual Coding: Learning and memory are more effective when information is presented in multiple modalities, such as visually and verbally: showing and telling is better than either perceptual or verbal modes alone. This principle reflects the fact that our brains have multiple different memory stores, and we learn information better when it can be entered into more than one   such store.

  • Chapter 7. Deliberate Practice: Deliberate practice requires producing a behavior, receiving feedback, paying attention to what is different between the initial behavior and the feedback, and using the feedback to refine the behavior. Perhaps counterintuitively, learning is best when students make errors; only after they make errors can they receive the kind of feedback that will best   improve learning. This chapter explains how the process of "deliberate practice" works.

  • Chapter 8. Combining Principles: Although the principles can be drawn on individually, they gain force when used in combination. We here consider a range of practices, from the power of testing to the use of mnemonics to gamification, and see how these practices can be designed to draw on combinations of the principles and thereby enhance learning.

  • Chapter 9. Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation: None of the principles of the science of learning will have any effect unless students participate and are engaged. This chapter discusses ways to motivate students, based both on theories of intrinsic motivation and on theories of extrinsic motivation that are derived from standard behavioral psychology. We focus on how to bake such motivational factors into online active learning.

  • Chapter 10. Exercises and Activities: We conclude with many examples of active learning exercises and particular types of activities; all of these exercises and activities can be done effectively online, often both in synchronous and in asynchronous settings. Using these examples as a starting place can help instructors to make online education not just "good," but truly superb.

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