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Call To Action

According to zoologist turned active learning expert Scott Freeman, and his colleagues, Keep a work progress journal:

Active Learning engages students in the process of learning through activities and/or discussion in class, as opposed to passively listening to an expert. It emphasizes higher order thinking and often involves group work”

There are two important ways of remembering information:

  • 1. Declarative Memory: involves facts and events that can be consciously recalled
  • 2. Procedural Memory: involves how to do something

Your working memory, hippocampus, and neocortex work together to form your declarative learning system. You are mostly conscious of what you’re learning with your declarative system – it declares information (facts and events)

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Call To Action


The time it takes students to switch to and from these collaborative type activities can
help their hippocampus offload during declarative learning:
1) Think-pair-share: students think for a minute or two, then pair up and share their thoughts
2) One-minute summary: students write down what they have understood from what you just taught
3) One-minute muddiest point: students write down what they are confused about
4) Peer teaching: have students “teach” other students, or a partner, what you have just explained,
and then reverse their roles, making sure each student gets to work though the material with another student.


1. Make the mind work: To build and strengthen links directly in students’ neocortices, use retrieval practice.
This is an intense and demanding mental process.
2. Let the mind rest: For the hippocampus to offload information onto the neocortex, the student should not be
involved in intense mental activity.
So, how much of your teaching should be active? Optimal times vary by students’ age, the type of material being
covered, the level of students’ previous exposure to the material, and many other factors.
What’s more understand is what to avoid. Be careful not to go back to your desk to check your email or to organise
your materials while students are sharing their answers.
Not only does circulating among your students keep them on track, but also it builds rapport by showing that you are
genuinely interested in the understanding of the material.


Information in working memory is limited; too many pieces of information at once, and the mind can be overwhelmed.
The neutral links of long-term memory can activate and extend working memory.
Within any one classroom, there is a great deal of variability in working memory capacity among students
(resulting in differences in learning speed).
Breaking information and activities into smaller conceptual parts will combat too-heavy demands on students’ working memory.

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Demote Your Assignments

Most students spend way too much time at the end on reading assignments and problem sets, causing them to feel constantly overwhelmed by their work.
Even if you finish all your assignments for a given class, you should continue to work. Take advantage of the situation to get ahead; but don’t try to force the situation to happen.
Getting ahead of class work frees up time to focus on big projects like paper writing or test preparation. If you find yourself with time to spare, start getting ahead of your obligations. However, it’s important that students triage their assignments:

  • what do you need to read?
  • What do you need to skim?
  • What can you skip entirely?

The key is to decipher what is and what isn’t important. If your teacher emphasises the importance of a topic/assignment that you dismissed, then make a note that you will need to go back and cover this in more detail before the next exam. Remember, if you don’t explicitly schedule a time to cover this material, you will invariably procrastinate and then find yourself with a huge reading list to cover right before the exam. So, how should students take smart notes on their assignments? First, students need to understand that if you write down very little, the assignment can be completed fast, but the time will be wasted because you won’t have bothered to extract the big ideas.
The question > evidence > conclusion (QEC) approach can work well for assignments; TLP recommends you apply it as follows:

  • Carefully read the beginning of your assignment. Look for the question being answered/asked. Record this in your notes, and label it clearly.
  • Look for the conclusion. When you feel confident in your understanding of the conclusion, record it carefully in your notes.
  • Now comes the easy part. Skim the entire reading. Don’t take notes yet. Instead highlight important points. Your goal is to simply mark a few solid examples that justify the conclusion as the answer to that question.
  • Once you have skimmed through the entire reading, go back, and find your check marks. For each mark, record in your notes a summary of the point. Label each point in your notes with the place you found it in. dump these pieces into your notes.
  • Once you’re done, your notes should contain a clearly labelled question followed by a bullet-pointed pieces of evidence, then a clearly labelled conclusion.
  • And that’s it. Don’t be afraid to move quickly.