Mike Atkinson - Welcome to My Classroom: Engaging Students in Large Lecture Classes

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  • The large lecture classroom poses a number of challenges for any instructor.  You need to use different techniques, deal with noise levels, try to make sure that students do not feel anonymous…and you have to be engaging.

    In my 800 student classroom, about thirty percent believe they will continue in psychology. Another twenty percent have not completely decided, and the remainder are taking the course as an elective. The challenge for me is to light the fire of knowledge for the thirty percent and convince the rest that they really want to pursue psychology too. To engage students I use a number of techniques in a lively, fast-paced delivery that maintains attention, creates rapport, and challenges students to think about issues. In my presentation, I will model some of these techniques and then invite the audience to think about how to use these in their own classrooms.
  • Mike Atkinson was born in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia and received his B.Sc. from Dalhousie University in 1975. With an interest in social psychology (particularly aggression and nonverbal behaviour), he received his MSc (1978) and PhD (1982) from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Over the years, he has become increasingly interested in the process of education and have moved to the educational psychology area. How can we teach large classes most effectively? Are there any benefits to using multimedia in the classroom? Do students really learn from instructors who use a variety of engaging techniques? Important factors include student involvement, structure and organization of the material, and the ability to “engage”. Mike is the recipient of a number of prestigious teaching awards including: 3M Canada Teaching Fellow, USC & Alumni Western Teaching Award of Excellence, Edward G. Pleva Award for Excellence in Teaching, Six time recipient UWO Psychology Professor of the Year, and has been featured in: Maclean’s magazine, Media television Globe & Mail, APA Monitor.


Bruce Wainman - X Reality and the Concorde Fallacy in Education

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  • Since the invention of stereoscopes in the 19th century technology-mediated reality (X Reality or XR) in anatomy education has been dominated by extravagant promises of educational efficacy. Careful testing of XR anatomy over the last 8 years has shown that 3D projections, mixed reality and virtual reality are about as effective for learning cadaveric anatomy as pictures showing the key views of a specimen and 15-20% less effective than solid models. The superiority of the solid, physical model appears to be the result of stereopsis not, as one might expect, handling the model or the similarity between the model and the test material. The huge investment required to make and market consumer-ready products and the prestige of making the “killer app” for anatomy has led to considerable sunk monetary and emotional costs which has subverted much of the rational evaluation of this technology.

  • Bruce Wainman, PhD, is the Director of the Education Program in Anatomy and the Surgical Skills Laboratory at McMaster University, a Professor in the Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine, an Associate Member of the Department of Ob/Gyn and the Coordinator of Biological Sciences for the Ontario Midwifery Consortium.

    Bruce’s research is on various aspects of anatomy education and the effects of environmental contaminants on fertility and the menstrual cycle. Recent eBooks produced by Dr Wainman include “Pharmacology Revealed” and “Physical Assessment of the Well Woman and Newborn.”

    Dr Wainman lectures at McMaster mainly on anatomy, pharmacology and reproductive physiology to the MD, undergrad Health Sciences and Midwifery programs. For his teaching activities he has received the McMaster Student Union Award numerous times, the President’s Award for Education, the Canadian Association for Medical Education Certificate of Merit Award for 2015, Osler Lecture Award and a 3M National Teaching Fellowship. 


Megan Sumeracki - Applying the Science of Learning from the Laboratory to the Classroom

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  • Decades of cognitive research can inform classroom learning. However, the research is not always translated into practice. During the talk, Dr. Sumeracki will describe the way in which cognitive research spans the laboratory to the classroom, providing examples from her own program of research on retrieval-based learning. She will then discuss ways that she and her colleagues have worked to create more bidirectional communication between learning researchers and classroom teachers through The Learning Scientists.
  • Megan Sumeracki (formerly Smith) is an Assistant Professor at Rhode Island College. She received her Master’s in Experimental Psychology at Washington University in St. Louis and her PhD in Cognitive Psychology from Purdue University. Megan studies human learning and memory, specifically applying the science of learning in educational contexts. Her research focuses on retrieval-based learning strategies, and the way retrieval can improve meaningful learning. Megan’s work has been published in journals such as Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, & Cognition, and Applied Cognitive Psychology. Megan has given talks at regional and national conferences in the US, and abroad such as a lecture at the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study and delivering the Keynote at ResearchED in Rugby, England. Megan is also passionate about bridging the gap between research and practice in education. In an effort to promote more conversations between researchers and practitioners, she co-founded The Learning Scientists (www.learningscientists.org). 


Veronica Yan- A Toolkit for Building Better Learners

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  • Given that the majority of learning takes place in the learners’ own hands, it is important that we understand how to manage our own learning effectively and efficiently. Despite being engaged in learning throughout our lives, research shows that our intuitions about how we learn are oftentimes exactly wrong, leading us to choose suboptimal learning strategies over more effective and efficient ones. While intuitions tell us that we should find strategies that make learning feel easy, the most effective study strategies are in fact the ones that introduce challenges to the learner and engage them more effortfully (aka “desirable difficulties”). Being an effective, self-regulated learner therefore not only requires knowing the right toolset of strategies to use, but also requires holding the right mindsets to appreciate that difficulty is important and integral to the process of learning. That is, having the right mindset for learning not only encourages learners to study harder, but is also important for teaching learners to study smarter.
  • Dr. Veronica Yan (PhD, University of California, Los Angeles) is an assistant professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. Bridging cognitive, social, and educational perspectives, Dr. Yan's research explores how we can empower people to become motivated and effectively self-regulated learners. Dr. Yan is presently focused on examining the mechanisms underlying 'desirably difficult' strategies and the motivational mindsets that encourage learners to not just study harder, but to study smarter. Her own educational background has spanned three continents: She studied at an international school in Hong Kong, before heading to the University of Cambridge for undergraduate studies in England, and completed her doctoral studies and postdoctoral training in California in the US.


Panel Discussion - Is there validity to surface and deep approaches to learning?

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  • This panel kicks off with a brief presentation that questions the validity of the often-cited surface & deep approaches to learning construct. Based on a critical review of the literature that uses the Study Process Questionnaire (Biggs, et. al., 2001) to distinguish between students who use deep approaches vs. those who focus on surface-level memorizing as well as data from a pilot lab/classroom study, we find no correlation between either group and their performance on a learning-transfer task. These preliminary findings raise broader questions for the panelists to respond to interventions in education that are not rooted in evidence which not only contribute to enduringly powerful mythologies in teaching and learning but also widen the gap between theory and practice. The panelists will also share reflections on specific areas of inquiry and practice bridging gaps in bringing together researchers and practitioners that Education & Cognition Symposium aspires to address.
  • Geoff Norman, PhD, is an Emeritus Professor of Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, McMaster University. He is the author of 23 books and book chapters in education, measurement and statistics, and over 300 journal articles. He has won many awards, including the Distinguished Scholar Award of the American Educational Research Association, and the Karolinska Prize for Lifetime Achievement in Medical Education . He held a Canada Research Chair from 2001-2015. He was elected to the Royal Society of Canada in 2007.

    Arshad Ahmad received his MBA and PhD in Educational Psychology at McGill University, in Montreal, Canada. He is currently the Vice-Provost, Teaching & Learning at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada and the Director of The Paul R. MacPherson Institute for Leadership, Innovation and Excellence in Teaching and Learning. Arshad was recognized as a 3M National Teaching Fellow in 1992 and was past president of The Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, a national association of teachers and education developers in Canada and vice-president of The International Consortium for Educational Development consisting of 24 member organizations worldwide. Arshad’s current research interests are in Teaching Philosophies, Approaches to Teaching and Students as Partners.

    Pakeezah Saadat is a graduate student at McMaster University pursuing Health Research Methods, with research interest in ICU admissions in the elderly population. She aspires to pursue medicine to contribute towards the field of research methodology from a clinical perspective.

    Andrew LoGiudice is a PhD student in the Cognitive Science lab at McMaster University. His research focuses on techniques for facilitating transfer of learning, and how nonanalytic processes drive performance on basic memory tasks and clinical reasoning.

    Dr. Veronica Yan (PhD, University of California, Los Angeles) is an assistant professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. Bridging cognitive, social, and educational perspectives, Dr. Yan's research explores how we can empower people to become motivated and effectively self-regulated learners. Dr. Yan is presently focused on examining the mechanisms underlying 'desirably difficult' strategies and the motivational mindsets that encourage learners to not just study harder, but to study smarter. Her own educational background has spanned three continents: She studied at an international school in Hong Kong, before heading to the University of Cambridge for undergraduate studies in England, and completed her doctoral studies and postdoctoral training in California in the US.