Applying the science of learning to your classroom

Professor Laura Frost with two students

Did you know there are some small changes we can make to our instruction that have the potential to make big differences in student learning? Guided by research into how people learn, there truly are small tweaks that we can make to our classroom practice that can change retention and learning for our students! In this webinar, I explore research from the science of learning and offer the following tweaks that can help students learn.

1. Re-reading a textbook passage does not help master content

In 2006, Roediger and Karpicke demonstrated that re-reading a passage does not help with long-term retention. Yet, most college students indicated in a 2009 study that they re-read their notes or textbook as their primary mode of studying before taking an exam! Students will do better to build structure while reading through taking notes and considering embedded questions.

2. We can boost retention of content through retrieval practice

Students will learn more when they have to retrieve information multiple times spaced over a time period versus waiting to retrieve the information once during an exam. This can be done through pre-class assignments, quizzing, online homework or other low stakes questioning that allows the students many opportunities to engage with content.

3. Mixing or interleaving topics boosts long-term retention versus blocking topics

Sometimes it is difficult for students to know which equation or concept to apply under what conditions. Practicing one type of problem before moving on to another (blocking topics) does not allow the learner to distinguish which concept goes with which type of problem. The learner can think that they understand a topic because they can do a problem set over that one topic when in fact they may not know when to use a particular problem-solving strategy. While mixing of topics requires more effort on the part of the learner because the learner must decide which strategy to use to solve a problem, the benefits of mixing (interleaving) are well documented (For a review, see Rohrer, D. Educ. Psychol. Rev. (2012) 24:355-367).

Most students need to build a structure to recognize which ideas are most important. Learning materials and their instructor can help them. While the examples shown in this webinar are from chemistry, these ideas are adaptable to any discipline. I hope you enjoy the webinar! Also feel free to share your own successes in improving classroom learning.



If you want to meet Dr. Frost she will be attending the 2016 Biennial Conference on Chemical Education at the University of Northern Colorado. Stop by tables #27 and #28, and Dr. Frost will be in the booth Monday, August 1, 2016 from 11:30 AM to 12:30 PM.


About the Author

Laura-FrostLaura Frost, Ph.D., is a professor of chemistry and director of the Whitaker Center for STEM Education at Florida Gulf Coast University. She has given invited talks on a variety of subjects including applying the science of learning to effective classroom instruction, using a guided inquiry approach in the STEM classroom, selecting and organizing GOB chemistry topics, and implementing classroom assessment techniques. She is currently principal investigator of an NSF-WIDER grant that provides professional development for faculty in evidence-based practices in STEM (DUE-1347640).

Dr. Frost is co-author of General, Organic, and Biological Chemistry, 3rd Edition, which is published by Pearson.