VIA Chron of Higher Ed: James Lang’s Teaching and Human Memory, pt. I

Some of the material from Jim Lang’s recent plenary talk has just appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education, as the first installment of a two-part series regarding cognitive theory and teaching practice.

Lang is wrestling with a problem that we in the CTE have been thinking about ever since our inception: how to align college faculty-members’  teaching experience with the long-term results of research into teaching and learning?  Lang writes:

Miller’s article in College Teaching [which is the subject of Lang’s post] opens with an explanation of why so few of us may count ourselves as even amateur enthusiasts for cognitive theory: The field remains a relatively young one and has evolved rapidly over the past several decades. If you did happen to pick up some ideas 10 or 15 years ago about learning and cognition in a how-to-teach seminar in graduate school, what you learned there might have been superseded or even overturned since then by new information and theories.

Part of the problem is the fact that faculty need well-placed mediators capable of translating these results into insights that could help generate better practice.  This is the kind of role that Lang excels at, and that multi-disciplinary CTEs like ours could perform as well.

Lang is in fact elaborating upon an important article by Michelle Miller published in College Teaching, but I’ll let you review Lang’s discussion as well as Miller’s original research findings.  In the meantime, I wonder if there are important differences in the role of the short- and long-term memory are for teaching in various disciplines?  It’s been a long time, for example, since most literature classes demanded oral recitation of memorized poems, though this was once a staple of literature instruction years ago.  And, as the commenters noted in the Chronicle, I think the immediate access to information via the internet (e.g., this post and its links), must be changing the dynamic, as well.



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