Q&A with Dr. Barbara Oakley on teaching and learning tips

New course on Uncommon Sense Teaching from Dr. Oakley, the instructor from the blockbuster Learning How to Learn course

As digital transformation rapidly transforms the world, learning has become a fundamental skill — one McKinsey calls “a critical driver of long-term career success.” 

To help teachers equip the next generation of students with tools to learn better, Dr. Barbara Oakley launched a new course today, Uncommon Sense Teaching Part 2: Building Community and Habits of Learning.

The second course, which complements the first released last summer, provides neuroscience-backed tools and practical insights to help anyone — from seasoned educators and instructors to parents — draw out the best from learners. 

We caught up with Dr. Oakley to learn how her new course can help teachers solve classroom challenges.

What is one takeaway educators can learn in your new course? 
In increasingly diverse and often online learning environments, teachers are grappling with how to bring out the best in all their students, channel their abilities, and keep students engaged. 

I truly believe that teaching online can help match the outcomes possible in a traditional classroom, and indeed, even surpass it! Way back in 2014, I started creating online courses about learning because of my own experience. I wasn’t a natural at math or science, so I had to rewire my own brain as an adult to learn them! At that time, I remember wondering why had no one written a book or taught a course about learning effectively based on what we know from science on how the brain learns. Once I saw how many learners’ online courses could reach — over 3.8 million people have taken my course Learning How to Learn — I knew I needed to share similar tips on how teachers could instill these lessons in their students around the world.

This new course, taught alongside Dr. Terrence Sejnowski and Beth Rogowsky, is based on my latest book, which was recently named a top ten book for educators. The cognitive psychology and neuroscience-linked insights we teach will enhance your teaching skills and consequently, the way students learn. So every kind of learner develops the ability to master anything — be it math, science, dance, literature, or art.    

Can you share a few tips on how we can teach and learn more effectively?
There are some key elements to incorporate on a daily basis: 

  • Students can be faster (‘racecar’) or slower ( ‘hiker’) learners. So, structure the teaching. Give hikers smaller pieces of information. As slower learners, they learn more deeply and often, more creatively. Racers may learn faster but also jump to conclusions more quickly and find it tough to correct themselves when they make errors. 
  • Understand that the way we learn facts or information is very different from our knowledge of skills, like say, learning to ride a bicycle. The former (declarative pathway) is mostly conscious learning, the latter (procedural pathway) develops through practice and happens subconsciously. 
  • The more you retrieve what you’ve learnt, the more you remember, learn, and understand it. But don’t cram all the information at once. Space it out and try explaining it to someone else. 
  • Try the Pomodoro technique to learn most efficiently. Avoid all distractions (including your phone). Set a time limit to focus fully on the task at hand. Once time is up, relax for five minutes and, no scrolling Instagram Reels!

Does this course focus on in-person or online teaching?
Classrooms have changed drastically today and are often blended learning environments. So, you can utilize this course as a primer of sorts if you are new to teaching lessons online. Observe the personalized tone we use throughout. Or how visuals and simple animation convey complex ideas. Note how fun metaphors, puns, and analogies are great tools to keep learners engaged. Besides, every module has quizzes plus additional reading to broaden your knowledge and test your understanding.  

How have learners responded to the course?  
It has been wonderfully rewarding to know that many have found it tailor-made to hone their teaching and learning skills. As one learner remarked: “How can we teach, without knowing how learning works?” It’s heartening also to find that many have come away with inspiration, guidance, and hope in these uncertain times — when the teaching experience itself has changed so much. This very evolution in the way we teach has, in fact, led me to start working on another course. Teaching Online, the final course in this series, will launch soon!   

Complete Uncommon Sense Teaching: Part 1 before enrolling in Part  2: Building Community and Habits of Learning.

The post Q&A with Dr. Barbara Oakley on teaching and learning tips appeared first on Coursera Blog.

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