Abstracts & Bios


James Lang Headshot edit SQ

James Lang


Teaching Distracted Minds: Old Challenges, New Contexts

Faculty frequently express concerns about the distractions and distractibility of our students, but our real focus should be on how we help students achieve attention. This talk draws upon scholarship from history, neuroscience, and education in order to argue that distractions are endemic to the human condition, and can’t be walled out of the physical classroom or online course. Instead, we should focus on creating educational experiences that cultivate attention. The session will unfold in two parts, with opportunities for questions and conversation after each half. Part one will provide both historical and biological context on the role that distraction and attention play in education; part two will explore pedagogical practices that we can use to cultivate, support, and sustain student attention.

James M. Lang is a Professor of English and the Director of the D’Amour Center for Teaching Excellence at Assumption University in Worcester, MA. He is the author of six books, the most recent of which are Distracted: Why Students Can’t Focus and What You Can Do About It (Basic Books, 2020), Small Teaching: Everyday Lessons from the Science of Learning (Jossey-Bass, 2016) and Cheating Lessons: Learning from Academic Dishonesty (Harvard University Press, 2013), and On Course: A Week-by-Week Guide to Your First Semester of College Teaching (Harvard UP, 2008).




Paulo Carvalho SQ

Paulo Carvalho


Enhancing student learning through the right type of practice

As the adage goes “practice makes perfect”. However, the type of practice matters, and there have been many proposals on how practice should take place: you will want to space it out, and alternate topics, and test yourself as you go (but not too much!). In this talk I will argue that there are no one size-fits-all solutions to how to improve learning with practice. Instead, I will argue and demonstrate using empirical and computational evidence that the best practice depends on the critical challenges of the learning task.

In the first part of the talk I will show evidence that whether interleaved or blocked practice of concepts improves learning depends on whether concepts are hard or easy to discriminate.

In the second part of the talk I will show evidence that whether testing or study of worked examples improves learning depends on whether we are learning simple mappings or more complex skills.


Paulo Carvalho is a research scientist in the Human-Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. His research focuses on understanding how we acquire knowledge through repeated practice and how we can improve students’ learning and outcomes in K-12 and Higher Education, especially in remote and self-regulated environments. He earned his Ph.D. in Psychological and Brain Sciences from Indiana University in 2016. Dr. Carvalho currently serves on the editorial board of Educational Psychology Review and Frontiers in Psychology – Cognition. His research is currently funded by the National Science Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Schmidt Futures.




Alice Kim headshot edit SQ

Alice Kim


Navigating the same ocean but in different boats: experiences of teaching & learning during the COVID-19 pandemic

Students and educators have been facing new challenges this past year due to COVID-19. Although we have all been navigating the same pandemic, our experiences have been varied due to differences in our personal circumstances. In this session, we will review the results of studies focused on the experiences of students and instructors this past year, specifically in relation to effective pedagogical practices, and how they relate to our own experiences. The session will also highlight how we have had to become more intentional about how we connect with and care for ourselves and others in our learning environments. We will focus on recognizing our resilience as students and educators and how we can continue to meaningfully integrate practices of connection and care into our teaching and learning moving forward.


Alice Kim is the Founder and Managing Director of Teaching and Learning Research In Action. With a background in experimental psychology and cognitive neuroscience, her research interests center on the scholarship of teaching and learning. More specifically, Alice’s research is focused on factors that impact students’ learning, including student engagement, experiential education, and application of cognitive learning principles in course design. Much of her research also explores student-faculty partnerships that foster the co-creation of learning and teaching.




Evan Risko edit SQ

Evan Risko


Adventures in Understanding the Effective Design of Recorded Lectures

Online courses have been growing in popularity, especially with the Covid-19 pandemic. A common part of such courses is the pre-recorded lecture. While such lectures represent a natural extension of lectures commonly found in brick-and-mortar courses, the landscape of design opportunities may be greater (or at least different). We will discuss research exploring two parts of this landscape across two talks. The first line of research will examine the influence of including the instructor in the pre-recorded lecture and the second will examine the influence of speeding the lecture. Each of these design elements are explored from a variety of angles including learning (i.e., memory for lecture material), attention (i.e., mind wandering), metacognition, and affect broadly construed. We hope to provide modest advances in understanding learning in this new(ish) environment and useful guidance for those charged with creating pre-recorded lectures in post-secondary courses.

Wilson, K. E., Martinez, M., Mills, C., D'Mello, S., Smilek, D., & Risko, E. F. (2018). Instructor presence effect: Liking does not always lead to learning. Computers & Education, 122, 205-220.


Evan F. Risko is currently an Associate Professor and a Canada Research Chair in Embodied and Embedded Cognition in the Psychology Department at the University of Waterloo. His research focuses on distributed cognition, cognitive control, and the application of research in cognitive science to help improve practices in training and education environments. Dr. Risko has published over 100 papers, received research funding from numerous agencies (i.e., NSERC, SSHRC, CFI), and received various accolades for his research including Early Career awards from the Psychonomic Society, the Province of Ontario, and the Canadian Society for Brain, Behaviour and Cognitive Science.