Volume IV: What works, what matters, what lasts

What Works: Linking Insights About How People Learn into Curricular Reform


  • at all levels are curious about research on learning and about how to translate that research into new curricular approaches in the current learning environment
  • at all levels have knowledge of the basic principles of how people construct knowledge: the importance of immediate feedback, of the gradual acquisition of knowledge in an active learning environment, of helping students to "organize" knowledge and relate it to their own experience, and the impact of prior knowledge on the learning experience
  • are aware of resources at the national level to guide setting and assessing goals for learning in the process of curricular reform
  • recognize the limitations of their own expertise, and that experts and novices do not learn in the same way
  • understand there is pedagogical content knowledge
  • know how to use technologies to pace learning.


  • has assessment built in the process of curricular reform, from the point of identifying potential arenas for reform, through setting and assessing learning goals
  • reflects awareness of core competencies in specific content areas, together with an understanding of where and how in the course sequence such competencies are addressed
  • is informed by data about how current students learn in specific courses and sequences of courses, with varied pedagogical approaches, with pre- and post-tests
  • incorporates ideas, insights and materials from national professional associations about the content and process of learning.


  • has mechanisms to ensure that faculty in all disciplines become familiar with research on how people learn, and that they engage in cross-disciplinary conversations on student intellectual development (through learning and teaching center, retreats, etc.)
  • has a mission statement that reflects that learning of students is at the heart of the institutional purpose
  • has structures for advising and mentoring tied to new curricular and pedagogical approaches
  • provides access to faculty and staff to current research in cognitive science, through journals and workshops, that gives data-driven evidence of the efficacy of specific approaches
  • has systems to encourage and reward collaborations– among STEM faculty and between STEM faculty and colleagues (education and/or psychology) with expertise in how people learn– that lead to strengthening learning and teaching
  • places value on discipline-based educational research in the framework of decisions about tenure and promotion, course release and university-funded faculty development grants


  • allows for active, collaborative, inquiry-based learning (anything else is malpractice!)
  • illustrates the inter-relationship between curriculum, spaces, and goals for student learning.