Many institutions employ a variety of faculty-based support systems addressing pedagogy, student learning, and learning environments. Faculty at Elon University and Hofstra University are partnering to take this one step further through a $34,000 IN/CO Grant, “Learning to Learn: A Student Operator’s Manual for the Brain.”
The “Learning to Learn” project was initiated in 2016 at Elon University, led by Amy Overman, associate professor in the Psychology Department & Neuroscience Program and associate director of the Center for the Advancement of Teaching & Learning, and J. Todd Lee, professor in the Mathematics & Statistics Department and Faculty Fellow for Technology with Teaching and Learning with Technologies.
The focus is on equipping students with an evidence-based toolkit of how their own brains function and learn in various hi-tech learning environments. “Our ultimate long-term goal is that every student is equipped in their first semester in college with a toolkit to support them as successful, lifelong learners,” Overman said. “We are striving to transform all students into learners who think deeply about their educational experiences and know how their brain operates so that they can maximize their learning and use the rich resources provided by their college or university in a more strategic way.”
Put simply, this initiative seeks to help students develop strategies about how to be successful learners.
To strategically advance this project through IN/CO Grant funding, Lee and Overman will partner with Elisabeth Ploran, Assistant Professor in Cognitive Neuroscience, Amy Masnick, Associate Professor of Psychology, and Kristin Weingartner, Associate Dean for First-Year Programs & Associate Professor of Psychology at Hofstra University.
“Faculty and staff at our member institutions are generating innovative and powerful ideas to creatively address the challenges we face in higher education, and this grant program supports them as they break new ground,” Said Elon Provost Steven House. “As chair of the Provosts’ Council of the CAA and Elon’s provost, it’s exciting to see Elon faculty taking the lead on an important initiative to better understand how students across higher education are learning. This project and others supported by the IN/CO Grant Program fit right in with the CAA mission of challenging the status quo, enriching the academic environment, and advancing student success.”
The first phase of Learning to Learn is the development by Lee and Overman of a course that will engage first-year students in the neurocognitive science of how our brains learn, particularly in technologically-enhanced environments like Elon, and teach them how to employ evidence-based practices to enhance their own learning. The course will be co-taught by Overman and Lee, who will partner with faculty at Hofstra University to implement a similar initiative on Hofstra’s campus with the support of the grant funding.
The grant also supports a second phase that includes the development of modules on how learning works that faculty and academic support staff at all Colonial Academic Alliance institutions can adapt for their own courses and that students can use to enhance their own learning.
This initiative will be launched at Elon in Fall 2018 as Learning to Learn: The Brain in Today’s World (L2L), a credit-bearing course for first-year students that will engage them in the cognitive neuroscience of learning, with specific attention on the technologically-enhanced environments of CAA institutions.
The project team is currently planning the pilot implementation at Hofstra University, which will be deployed as Learning to Learn: Applying Psychology Principles to the Classroom, a credit-bearing course available in Spring 2019.