Friday, February 18, 2011

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Memorization in learning

Last Monday we had a free flow discussion on various topics related to the role of memorization in learning. We started from the article “Retrieval Practice Produces More Learning than Elaborative Studying with Concept Mapping“ (see previous post). To begin with, everyone agreed that memorization is an important element of learning, but it is one of the most basic levels, not the most important by itself, and usually not the ultimate goal of the learning process.

Our discussion then dug into what factors and conditions affect memorization and retention of information, including:

  • Learning styles (e.g. taking in content visually, auditorily, kinesthetically…keeping in mind that we can think of learning styles either as “genetic” or learned, depending on where you stand in the learning style debate)
  • Space and surroundings (e.g. there is some evidence that changing the place where you study helps memorizing)
  • Emotional state (what level of tress makes you more alert? Do scary tests help you memorize and recall better? Is fear of grades a good motivator? Or shall we use different “brain activation” strategies, such as the wider contribution you get from writing a public wiki, or getting challenged by peer critique)
  • Timing (e.g. studying in short bursts vs. long sessions, cramming in one week vs. spreading the learning process over several months…short bursts seem more useful for long-term retention than cramming, who would have known)

We also briefly talked about the importance of developing an appropriate vocabulary for a discipline, which is often done through a lot of memorization, not necessarily linked to the actual topic you aim to understand. For example, often math classes are meant to provide the language you need to understand physics, and ballet dancers repeat lots of pliƩs. How would your understanding of physics be different without that formal vocabulary? (and is that language sometimes in the way of understanding concepts?)

As always, there is so much more to this than a 1-hour discussion, so if you are interested in digging deeper, pick a topic and lead a session in spring!

(image is from here)

Friday, February 11, 2011

UC Davis 2011 Outstanding Graduate Student Teaching Award!

Do you know a graduate student who deserves to be recognized for exemplary teaching?

Nominations are invited for the 2011 Outstanding Graduate Student Teaching Award (OGTA). The award is offered to recognize the contributions of graduate students to teaching and learning on the UC Davis campus. We would appreciate your help in posting the attached flyer and forwarding this email to the faculty and students of your program.

Nominations are due by Friday, February 18, 2011 to Puriie Conley and Deanna Ljohki, 250 Mrak Hall. The Call for Nominations and Nomination Packet are available on the Graduate Studies website at

If you have any questions regarding OGTA please contact Puriie A. Conley (

Office of Graduate Studies W= (530) 752-8761 Fax=(530) 752-6222
UC Davis
One Shields Ave.
Davis CA 95616

Friday, February 4, 2011

Why teaching?

got inspiration? read on!
an account by Cathy Davidson on her experimental classes, and the exploratory aspects of learning we often forget.

"...the real goal, as with all profound journeys, is not the destination (the content or the correct calculation) but the confidence they gain by going. It is not a trivial lesson, in fact it is one that most of us, in our busy lives, tend to forget. When was the last time you explored?"