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And the twain will meet: Combining cognitive science, teaching, and learning

+ Panel Discussion

Gurung Dr. Regan Gurung, University of Wisconsin

PlayLink Beyond ROY G BIV: Enhancing memory for course information using mnemonics

McCabe Dr. Jennifer McCabe, Goucher College


Imaging the reading brain in children and adults

Joanisse Dr. Marc Joanisse, University of Western Ontario


Using local and provincial data to examine the influence of schools on student mental health and achievement

Georgiades Dr. Kathy Georgiades, McMaster University


The prevalence and consequences of mind wandering during live undergraduate lectures

Smilek Dr. Dan Smilek, University of Waterloo


Two solitudes: Bringing the scientists and the scholars of teaching and learning together

+ Panel Discussion

Norman Dr. Geoff Norman, McMaster University

Abstracts & Biographies

  • Presentation Title: And The Twain Will Meet: Combining Cognitive Science, Teaching, and Learning.

    Abstract: How can we best harness the fruits of multiple disciplinary labors to cultivate learning? The science of learning encompasses a wide array of disciplines, researchers, and practitioners. Over the last 20 years in particular, educators have had access to a wide realm of research findings all aimed to optimize how instructors teach and students learn. Unfortunately, there is often a large divide between the classroom and the research laboratory. Theory is theory and practice is practice and as in Kipling’s Ballad of East and West, the twain seemed destined never to meet. That has changed as a growing corpus of pedagogical researchers both employs cognitive theory in the classroom but also utilize classroom-based research to inform hypothesizing and theorizing. Consequently, there now exists a large number of pragmatic innovations educators can employ in the classroom to enhance learning. This opening plenary provides a useful heuristic to guide educators as they work to help students learn. I take the best results from a variety of disparate fields and provide a roadmap for effective course design capitalizing on evidence-based practices.

    Biography: Regan A. R. Gurung is the Ben J. and Joyce Rosenberg Professor of Human Development and Psychology at the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay. He has published articles in a variety of scholarly journals including Psychological Review and Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, authored a textbook (Health Psychology: A Cultural Approach) and is also the co-author/co-editor of 12 other books. He is the winner of numerous teaching awards including the CASE Wisconsin Professor of the Year, the UW System Regents Teaching Award, and the UW-Green Bay Founder’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. He is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association, the Association for Psychological Science, and the Midwestern Psychological Association. He has served as President of the Society for the Teaching of Psychology and is the newly appointed founding Editor of APA's journal SoTL in Psychology.

  • Presentation Title: Beyond ROY G BIV: Enhancing Memory for Course Information using Mnemonics

    Abstract: In order to pursue higher-order learning objectives in their chosen disciplines, students need to acquire basic definitional content as a first scaffold. Particularly at introductory course levels, mnemonics (i.e., memory strategies driven by organization, elaboration, and often visual imagery) have the potential to greatly enhance student learning for this type of information. In this presentation, I will focus on how mnemonics work at a conceptual level, how I have incorporated mnemonics into my own pedagogy (with particular emphasis on memory and metacognitive outcomes of classroom instruction in the keyword method and the method of loci), and what we know about students’ self-reported use and perception of mnemonics from web-based survey research. I will conclude with a broader discussion of the role of mnemonics in higher education, myths and misconceptions about mnemonics, and specific strategies for educators to incorporate mnemonics as impactful learning tools in their courses. Mnemonic training is applicable to many disciplines, and is one way we can support the development of our students’ metacognitive skills, in service of the big-picture goal that they will be successful self-regulated learners.

    Biography: Jennifer A. McCabe is an Associate Professor and Chair of the Psychology Department at Goucher College in Baltimore, MD. Her scholarly interests include memory strategies, metacognition/metamemory, and pedagogical techniques. Her research has been published in Memory and Cognition, Teaching of Psychology, Instructional Science, and Psychology and Aging. She has received two Instructional Resource Awards from the Society for the Teaching of Psychology, and was recently name a Consulting Editor for Teaching of Psychology. In 2007, she won the Edward G. Harness Outstanding Educator award from Marietta College.
  • Presentation Title: Imaging the reading brain in children and adults

    Abstract: There is no one “reading region” of the brain. Instead, we read words by coordinating multiple regions of the brain that are specialized for letter recognition, speech processing and semantic knowledge, along with vision and attention. My lab’s research has been studying the inner workings of this reading network using a range of behavioural and neuroimaging techniques, across a range of populations. My talk will discuss a few of our recent findings in which we are using eyetracking and ERPs to examine the time course of reading, especially as it relates to recognizing the phonological forms of visual words. These studies provide a novel window into how children and adults decode written words, and how this might differ in children with reading disorders. We are also using fMRI and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) to localize sub-regions of the brain’s reading network, both in skilled readers as well as in a patient with pure alexia. 

    Biography: Dr. Marc Joanisse is a Professor and Faculty Scholar at the University of Western Ontario, where he is a member of the Psychology department as well as Western’s Brain and Mind Institute. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Southern California. His research examines the cognitive and brain bases of language and reading; his work spans a range of populations and techniques, but focuses on the study of developmental dyslexia in children, using both behavioural and neuroimaging techniques. He serves on the editorial board at the Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology and has previously served as an Associate Editor of the Journal of Speech Language and Hearing Research. His research has been funded by the NSERC and CIHR in Canada, and by the National Institutes of Health in the USA.
  • Presentation Title: Using local and provincial data to examine the influence of schools on student mental health and achievement

    Abstract: Over the past 30 years, substantial changes have occurred in the demographic and economic conditions of Ontario, including unparalleled levels of immigration, growth of visible minorities and non-English speaking populations and steady increases in discrimination, income inequality and concentrated poverty in neighbourhoods. Little is known, however, about the impact of these changes on child and youth mental health and academic achievement. Moreover, we have very little evidence that characterizes the mental health and academic needs of immigrant and visible minority children and youth – populations that are now growing rapidly in numbers, appear to be at elevated risk for exposure to poverty and are often under-represented in general population studies. To fill these evidence gaps, we are conducting two province wide studies: the 2014 Ontario Child Health Study (2014 OCHS) and the School Mental Health Surveys (SMHS), and recently completed a local study of 1,450 immigrant and non-immigrant youth attending 36 schools in Hamilton. The presentation will focus on the SMHS and our local, Hamilton Youth Study, and will present evidence that examines the role of schools on student mental health and achievement.

    Biography: Kathy Georgiades is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neuroscience and the Offord Centre for Child Studies at McMaster University. She holds the David R. (Dan) Offord Chair in Child Studies and is supported by a CIHR New Investigator Award. Her program of research examines the nature, causes and effective responses to reducing inequalities in child and youth mental health and academic achievement. Emphasis is placed on specific populations (i.e., children and youth from immigrant and ethnic minority backgrounds) and specific contexts (i.e., schools) where interventions can be implemented to reduce inequalities. She is currently co-leading to province wide studies –the 2014 Ontario Child Health Study and the School Mental Health Surveys –that will provide up-to-date evidence on the mental health needs and service utilization patterns of children and youth in Ontario.
  • Presentation Title: The prevalence and consequences of mind wandering during live undergraduate lectures

    Abstract: Across two semesters of a second-year undergraduate course we examined students’ mind wandering and how levels of mind wandering relate to short-term retention and long-term test performance. We assessed frequency, intentionality and depth of students’ mind wandering by periodically presenting thought probes during almost every lecture. Student responses to these probes were collected using iClicker electronic response devices. We assessed learning by including multiple-choice quiz questions at the end of each class and by obtaining students’ midterm test scores. Contrary to commonly held views derived from laboratory studies, we found that (1) unintentional mind-wandering rates were strikingly low, (2) mind-wandering rates did not increase as time progressed during a lecture, and (3) mind-wandering was only minimally related to midterm test performance. 

    Biography: Dr. Daniel Smilek is an Associate Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience in the Department of Psychology at the University of Waterloo. Dr. Smilek’s research focuses on uncovering the basic mechanisms of human attention, with a specific focus on sustained attention, attention lapses and mind wandering. Dr. Smilek has coauthored an undergraduate textbook on human cognition and over one hundred peer-reviewed research articles, some of which have appeared in top journals such as Nature,Psychological Science and Cognition. In recent years Dr. Smilek has extended his work on human attention to address problems with driver inattention in the transportation industry and to address student inattention in educational settings.
  • Presentation Title: Two Solitudes: Bringing the Scientists and the Scholars of Teaching and Learning Together

    Abstract: It takes little time in the field to recognize that people who are passionate about postsecondary education (and education in general) fall neatly into two camps. Like Cronbach’s “two disciplines of scientific psychology” (1957), they have different qualifications, go to different meetings, publish in different journals and have different standards of scholarship. I will call them the “Scientists” and the “Scholars”. The labels are not mine;, the “S” in SoTL (Scholarship of Teaching and Learning) is not the same as the S in SOL-SOI (Science of Learning – Science of Instruction).

    Scholars are a diverse bunch, from nearly every discipline on the campus, united by a common passion about teaching and a desire to enrich the learning experience. By and large (but of course with some exceptions), they have no particular methodological skills or interest in advancing the research enterprise. Instead, they simply want to share their experiences to enhance the educational experience. By contrast, the Scientists are a much more homogeneous group. Almost all have postgraduate training in psychology – educational or cognitive. Indeed, the teacher is almost never identified as an important variable in their research publications. Their interest is in curriculum and instruction, not teaching, and they view postsecondary education to apply some of their theories to practical problems.

    What is not recognized is a mutual need. The Scientists have repeatedly demonstrated that many of their strategies, although simple and often counter-intuitive, can have dramatic effects on learning with very little investment of time and money. But the demonstrations are almost without exception occurring within the same psychology department that spawned the research. Conversely, the Scholars genuinely desire to make education more effective, but often lack the tools to achieve this.

    There is one area where there is a meeting of the minds. Within health sciences education, there is long tradition of scholarship, including active research and publications, in education. Qualitative and quantitative researchers happily coexist, publishing in the same journals and attending the same meetings. Moreover the journals cover the gamut from theory to practice and the meetings are viewed as an opportunity for sharing between researchers and practitioners. In this talk, I will attempt to dissect this phenomenon, now a half century old, to help bring the two solitudes in postsecondary education together.

    Biography: Geoff Norman's academic interests focus on the psychology of expertise particularly as applied to expert clinicians. His research is focused on the psychology of clinical reasoning, particularly in the relative contribution of rapid processing based on prior experience (so-called pattern recognition) and analytical rules, and educational strategies to improve reasoning. Additionally, he has strengths and interests in measurement and statistics. Other research interests include methods of student assessment, and psychometric methods.