DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.

The Big Ideas Blog


This assignment required students separated into small groups to work together in thinking about and reflecting on their most meaningful moments of learning in this course. Those big ideas. The ah-ha moments. Together we created a blogging persona with a fully realized vision of how we wanted to approach this task.


The three blogs that follow are the direct results of the combined efforts of:

Elisabeth Cheries, Laurie LaChapelle and Joanne Ray (with the Primary writer of each blog listed first).

DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.

Blog Number One - Laurie LaChapelle, Joanne Ray, Elisabeth Cheries

Minerva Bellweather, Executive Director of the Adjunct Faculty Association (AFA), a 6,000 member professional organization devoted to advocating nationally for strengthening the position of adjunct faculty members on campuses across the nation.  In addition to her position as Executive Director of AFA, Ms. Bellweather also blogs about issues related to adjunct faculty on Inside Higher Education (Inside Higher Ed).  And, of course, she teaches philosophy, as an adjunct, at several area universities.


Learning Curves

How do people learn and what steps can we, as educators, take to facilitate the process? As 21st century instructors, with access to technological platforms and greater insights into the psychology of learning, it is imperative that we understand and incorporate the best practices available to lead a new generation of students into a future filled with as-yet undefined opportunity. 

As adjunct professionals, we are learners, just as our students are. It is critical that we recognize our own level of expertise on a given subject and understand our students’ positions on the continuum of learning. Prior knowledge influences how students process new information. Knowing that, skilled instructors should create flexible classroom modules that work for both the novice, who may need to process information through reading, visual cues, and lectures and also the subject matter expert, who may need only the reading or the lecture. In combination with new technologies and through reflection of our own learning processes, we can better assist the learning of our students, no matter where they reside on the learning continuum.

Just as dedicated athletes practice, so to do scholars when they apply themselves to gain expertise.  Rick Reis tells us that “situations make us smarter,” and urges us to “create situations” that help our learners reach their potential. We know that IQ is not a significant indicator of learning success, so what factors should educators consider when designing courses and lesson plans?  What does the science tell us?  What are the most effective tactics to create positive learning situations for our students?  Mayer advises us to utilize a mix of teaching methodologies -- providing visual, verbal, and hands on exercises to assist students in processing information. 

By reflecting on how we learn, we can provide a more dynamic and meaningful learning experience for our students: one that incorporates Competency Based Education into methods of delivering learning materials. With the rising popularity of Competency Based learning methods, it is essential that adjunct faculty be aware of the urgency to incorporate the principles of degree-reflecting valid competencies, foster students’ learning at a variable pace, assure the availability of effective learning resources at any time, and use assessments that are secure and reliable in their teaching practice. Competency based learning creates a bridge between academics and the working world and results in a better understanding of the skills needed to succeed in real life. 



Mayer, R. E. (2011). Applying the science of learning. Boston: Pearson. Retrieved from https://nuonline.neu.edu/bbcswebdav/courses/EDU6319.71273.201615/EDU6319.71273.201615_ImportedContent_20150903081624/Readings/Wk2-Mayer2011.pdf


Paul, A. M. (2013). Eight ways of looking at intelligence. Tomorrow’s Professor. Retrieved from http://cgi.stanford.edu/~dept-ctl/cgi-bin/tomprof/posting.php?ID=1273 WK1-Eight Ways of Looking at Intelligence.pdf

DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.

Blog Number Two - Elisabeth Cheries, Joanne Ray, Laurie LaChapelle


The Landscape of Learning

The landscape of learning is constantly evolving as we push the boundaries of the status quo, and reach for something deeper, more significant and more purposeful. The extent to which a student’s prior learning experience and motivation affects his/her current learning has been the subject of much examination in the past several decades. In the case of motivation, it is not so much that motivation compels learning as it is that motivation compels the types of behaviors that influence learning, such as studying, paying attention, and participating. This is not to say that motivation in the absence of ability is enough to produce learning, but it is to say that motivated students are more receptive to making connections with prior knowledge and committing the type of effort that produces understanding.  


Prior knowledge is of course a key component in learning and motivation; it shapes all future understanding, whether by enriching it or by limiting it. Yet a student is not restricted by what they know or what they have experienced. A teacher can instill a sense of control and ownership within their students. When a student understands how the brain works and how knowledge is created, that student can make the connection between learning and practice versus learning and innate ability or “talent”. Is there anything more motivating than knowing that you have the power to change something? 


Perhaps equally as important and even more difficult to understand is the value of an error, the inherent power of making mistakes. In the article, “When and Why Introducing Difficulties and Errors Can Enhance Instruction”, Robert A. Bjork states that, “as teachers, we may think it is our responsibility to make learning easy for students and protect them from making mistakes.” Quite the contrary, according to other researchers who find that making and correcting errors can enhance learning.


One teaching method that all instructors can incorporate into their classrooms is the use of practices tests. Research has shown that taking practice tests during study increases the likelihood that information will be recalled at a later time. Practice tests work because students can learn by selecting both right and wrong answers. When a student gets a right answer, it confirms what they already know. When a student gets a wrong answer, and the right explanation is available (the proper feedback), then learning also takes place.


Bjork also points out the “desirable difficulties” concept when conditions (in this case testing) are manipulated to make learning more difficult and/or challenging, which can increase the number of errors and often leads to more long term retention and transfer.

DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.

Blog Number Three - Joanne Ray, Elisabeth Cheries, Laurie LaChapelle


Learning Styles

Learning is a deeply complex organism, with many layers and moving parts. And every layer and every part is highly debated. As with learning styles, the structure of learning finds little solidarity with either scholars or instructors. Guided learning and unguided learning fuel the fires of the structural debate; however G. Siemens adds a new element - technology.

Indeed, Siemens insists that technology has changed the landscape of education and learning and that all theories of learning need a full-scale revolution - modification is no longer enough. I implore you though to consider that the unprecedented technological advances that have dramatically changed our environments do not negate the slow evolution of human biology. Our brains are largely the same; we are working with the same limitations in cognition. And until our bodies adapt to this “new” environment, I believe that current and even classic learning theories remain largely relevant.

What we know, is that all people have different learning styles - auditory, visual, or kinesthetic. Research has shown that when developing learning materials, it is best to develop for all styles. It goes without saying that all faculty, whether tenured, full time, or adjunct, must stay up to date on current research in their subject areas and in the field of education in general.  Keeping current with new trends and developments is an essential piece of maintaining relevance in the field and providing students with the best possible chance to be successful.  However, it is especially important to pay attention to the science behind the research.  What were the results?  How were they achieved?  What evidence exists to demonstrate that the concept or process improved student outcomes? 

Richard E. Mayer says that people learn more deeply from words and graphics than from words alone. This assertion is known as the multimedia principle, and it forms the basis for using multimedia instruction.Mayer demonstrably proved that his multimedia design principles, which reduce cognitive load in students learning online or from videos, had an effect on learning.  Students retained more information from multimedia presentations that followed Mayer’s principles.  

In contrast, the theory of “learning styles,” which is widely embraced by many educators, is not supported by scientific research.  Articles abound that describe students’ “learning styles” however, there is no evidence that a students’ “learning style” has any effect on their ability to learn subject matter. 




Mayer, R. E. (2014). Research-based principles for designing multimedia instruction. In V. A. Benassi, C. E. Overson, & C. M. Hakala (Eds.), Applying science of learning in education (pp. 59–70). American Psychological Association.  Retrieved from: https://nuonline.neu.edu/bbcswebdav/courses/EDU6319.71273.201615/EDU6319.71273.201615_ImportedContent_20150903081624/Readings/Wk7-ASLE_Mayer.pdf 


Riener, C. & Willingham, D. (2010). The myth of learning styles. Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 42(5), 32-5. Retrieved from:https://nuonline.neu.edu/bbcswebdav/courses/EDU6319.21690.201525/EDU6319.21690.201525_ImportedContent_20141223030626/EDU6319.21564.201525_ImportedContent_20141214074427/Readings/Wk8-TheMythOfLearningStyles.pdf


Siemens, G. (2005). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning, 2(1).

DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.