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Evidence based teaching strategies

By Timothy Cocks Education for all 05 Apr 2017

Nice article from the Society for Teaching of Psychology:

Four simple strategies from cognitive psychology for the classroom

Scientists focusing on educational research questions have a great deal of information that can be utilized in the classroom. In this article, we describe the science behind four evidence-based teaching strategies: (1) providing visual examples, (2) teaching students to explain and to do, (3) spaced practice, and (4) frequent quizzing…

Providing visual examples

Learning can be substantially enhanced if verbal information is accompanied by visual examples. This coupling of verbal and visual information is supported by the ‘dual-coding theory’. This theory attributes the mnemonic benefits of providing visual examples to different cognitive processes associated with processing words and images, or even words that describe concrete ideas. This can be particularly useful when teaching abstract concepts.

Teaching students to explain and to do

E Education Concept

One of the most effective methods to improve learning of information is to have students engage with the material more ‘deeply’, also known as elaboration. Elaboration has been defined in many ways, but most simply it involves connecting new information to pre-existing knowledge.

Elaborative processing can be fostered by having students question the material that they are studying; for instance, by asking them to produce their own explanations for why a fact is true, rather than just presenting them with a complete explanation

Spaced practice

We often tell our students that cramming “doesn’t work”. That is good advice–but is not entirely true. As many students have discovered, “cramming”–an intense study period that occurs shortly before one’s memory is to be tested–sometimes does work. Cramming often produces adequate performance on an imminent exam; unless the cramming is done instead of sleep, in which case the sleep deprivation outweighs any gains from cramming

The information learned through cramming, however, will subsequently be rapidly forgotten. In order for information to be retained more sustainably and over longer periods of time, it needs to be revisited on multiple occasions spaced out over time. This is known as distributed practice, or the spacing effect, which has been in the literature since Ebbinghaus first discovered it in the late 19th century. Despite much converging evidence over the past 100 years, this practice has not made its way into mainstream education

Frequent quizzing

The use of retrieval practice to aid learning has been a major focus of the applied cognitive literature in the past decade. As with spacing, the finding that testing strengthens memory is not new. It’s important to note that frequent testing does not have to be presented as a formal quiz; any activity that promotes retrieval of target information should help

In short

1.  Try to present information with both text and pictures

2. Get students to explain the information they are learning

3. Create opportunities to revisit information over the course of time 

4. Include low-stakes quizzes throughout learning to provide retrieval practice

Simple, evidence based and immediately applicable to any patient education, one would think.

Quick quiz, how could you (do you) apply these strategies in your clinical practice?


-Tim Cocks

, 26-28 May EP + GMI
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Sydney 3-5 November EP + GMI


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