Evidence-Based Learning Course Summary

In the course, Psychology 3850-NA, Evidence-Based Learning, Dr. Jesse Martin facilitated the class in a very different way that other courses I have taken at university. I did individual research and writing of ten 500-word blog posts, reviewed 40 other course participant posts and in the classroom I presented on alternate weeks my recent post and participated in half hour discussions of other people’s research in small groups of about 8 people for discussions. There were no lectures as such.

The complement of individual and group work extends the view of Evidence-Based Learning topics and shows how others conduct research and what their life experiences have taught them.

I did appreciate the references provided by Dr. Martin to his own research and writing on Evidence-Based Learning as there are many insightful writings about learning and education from a Psychologist’s perspective.

To me, one unexpected advantage to enhance my learning, was the diversity of interests of people participating in the class. There was such a wide range of people’s interest from a chemistry major to education to counseling majors, and many others, and hearing their perspectives on Evidence-Based Learning was very informative.

Relative to my own blog posts I had a chance to research and reflect on my own teaching experiences and even had a chance to test what we were learning by allowing students in a class I taught to explore, in neighboring groups, learning of a topic through discussion and sharing and testing. As a “topic based” set of blog posts I looked at the advantages computer technology and what software can bring to the learning environment. Graphically representing information with using Mind Mapping, utilizing various programs to produce high quality materials of different types and organizing and finding information with OneNote, which also nicely supports collaboration, are useful in learning and education.

Regarding research on Evidence-Based Learning I was surprised that I found a great deal of opinions and anecdotal information on the internet and in scientific literature but a conspicuous absence of solid scientific research into the subject. There is a clear need for more scientific research for finding evidence about what influences learning and constitutes effective learning.

As distinct from lecture based instruction, in this course it seems we were participating in a Socratic discussion where, “participants seek and gain deeper understanding of concepts through thoughtful dialogue rather than memorizing information that has been provided for them”, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Socratic_method). Our discussions were not a debate but an evolution of a concept through the shared experience and knowledge of the group.

I would certainly recommend this class to undergraduate students in any discipline.

Thank you, John Walkey  B.A., B.Ed.

The Secret Gem

Communication is a critical component of education. With the advent of the Internet, a global network of networks, the way we communicate has changed dramatically. Instead of working exclusively in a classroom, teachers and students can connect, work on project, share information, and learn on flexible schedules that fit the student’s own personal schedules. The secret gem that supports this is OneNote. I say “secret” because most people who have computers already have the program and don’t even know they have it never mind how useful it is. It runs on all operating systems and will even work on a cell phone. It is also available free of charge so there are no barriers to access. You can run it on a $35 Raspberry Pi.

OneNote is a program for taking notes, gathering and storing information, and sharing the notebooks in a convenient place. OneNote makes it easy to find information in your notes and it will even search for words in audio and video files. OneNote has optical character recognition built-in so it will convert handwritten text and text in pictures to editable text. Since OneNote stores information as a database you never have to save it as it saves automatically. The program supports storing many types of data (text, pictures, sound and videos) and supports many different input technologies such as keyboard, pen/tablet, voice, and video.

A useful add-in for OneNote is the Class Notebook (2014). One year after its introduction the Class Notebooks the use has exploded with over 400,000 teachers and 3.5 million students being added to Class Notebooks. Teachers, students, and schools have been creating amazing content with Class Notebooks, changing the nature of the classroom with new interaction, feedback and collaboration models that were not possible with other software programs.

An example of the utility is that “Interactive Content” can be related where the teacher and students can place text, pictures, and videos in a lesson which can be seen, reviewed, and annotated. This can be used for presenting information as well as for taking quizzes which provides a convenient way to provide feedback to the teacher and to the students. Notebooks can be both public for all users and private where the teacher can help students having problems.

The interface has three environments:

  1. Collaboration Space: where everyone can share (teacher and all students),
  2. Content Library: the teacher adds information for all students
  3. Student’s Notebook: where just the teacher and individual student work.

From an educational point of view, taking advantage of convenient initiative technology that supports Science of Learning concepts and provides a way of studying and learning on any device, anywhere, at any time is worthy of incorporating into education. In that OneNote provides a collaborative environment for a repository of educational information which can be collaborated on and feedback can be provided and obtained quickly will facilitate learning.




Teaching Software

What makes computers useful is the programs they run. Computer software has evolved since the microcomputer became popular, in both the features of the programs and the simplified user interface. To be able to take advantage of the computer as a tool people need to learn a variety of programs.

Software can be classified into categories such as:

Program Type Use
Word processor Sophisticated Electronic typewriter
Spreadsheet Performing calculations and making graphs
Database Inventory systems and searching large data
Browser Search World Wide Web
Email Electronic messages
Presentations Build slide shows
Graphics Painting pictures, editing video
Application Custom purposes from accounting to specific purposes
Educational Information and management of materials
Utility Many – for example, anti-virus

Computers have evolved from number crunchers to word crunchers to information processors, to communication technology, and may indeed be able to actually think for themselves. How people use the software, at a variety of skill levels, to allow the technology tool help people learn and in their individual education?

Many people see a computer as a magic box that has a mind of its own. Most technology only knows how to say yes or no, albeit very quickly. In order for people to utilize technology effectively they need to take charge of the computer and tell the computer what to do. In the book, Program or be Programmed, Rushkoff (2010), points out that we need to drive the technology. That you don’t need to know how an engine works to drive a car is certainly shortsighted. We do need to know something about how the engine works or the car won’t be running for long. Similarly, we need to know how computers work and are programmed so we can tell them what to do.

Based on observation, and my own experience, I have found that I can get a handle on a new program if I am given instruction on the basics of what the program does and where various options are. I want to see the power of the program relative to my needs. With having an overview of the program then learning will occur and skills will develop largely as a function of trial and error to a certain degree of proficiency. To go further, in my experience, what the student / learner needs is to solve problems they have using the computer program. The best growth I have had in learning computer software is by taking on problems to solve with the software.

Many programs require knowledge of a particular subject matter. For example, if someone wanted to know how to use a computer aided drafting program, it would be advantageous to know something about drafting. Some programs are more intuitive, such as word processing and spreadsheets and other programs are more complicated.

In society today people are assumed to have knowledge of using the World Wide Web and email. These have become a standard way to access information and to communicate. For a majority of people this is an absolute minimum set of programs, most people need to know many more programs.

The evolution of software and user interfaces provides much more efficient and user friendly ways of accessing information. In the book Being Digital, Negroponte (1995), introduces the concept of the universal bit. The idea is that information could exist in a variety of analog and digital forms and then be converted to another form. In the converted form information may be more conveniently accessed and shared. Touch computing has become commonplace and supports handwriting analysis optical character recognition; speech to text and text to speech allows us to talk to the computer, have words converted to text, or have the computer talk to us. Keyboards have become a way to edit information as opposed to being the primary input technology. Analyzing images and video and interpreting information into data is evolving at a rapid pace in science and technology.

The hardware has shrunk in size making it more convenient to transport and use. Innovations such as Google Glass illustrates how research is looking at making computers work to fit how humans work as opposed to the initial development of technology where people had to be trained to learn how computers work. People and students need to learn more about maximizing the use of technology and the programs available today (Schank, 1997).

Rushkoff, D. (2010). Program or be Programmed: Ten Commands for a Digital Age. OR Books.

Negroponte N. (1995). Being Digital. Alfred A. Knopf Publisher.

Schank, R., (1997). Virtual Learning. A Revolutionary Approach to Building a Highly Skilled Workforce. McGraw-Hill.

Metacognition with Mind Mapping

Metacognition is thinking about thinking. The technique of mind mapping can be utilized to make metacognition more functional by providing a way of organizing thinking.

Mind mapping was invented by Tony Buzan (2010) and is based on a graphic representation of information we would like to have available to us. That our sense of vision triumphs over all other senses for humans has been well-established (Medina, 2008). If we take a topic and represent it as a series of related facts we can gain a mental image of how the information is interrelated. We can explain and understand a large amount of information if it is properly organized. If information is properly organized then metacognition will be enhanced.

Mind Maps can be used for note-taking, studying, assessing information, research, and prioritizing what we want to work on (Sweet, et. al., 2017)

Historically, gold and diamonds were very valuable. Partly because of their scarcity but also because of their unique properties; gold is very slow to oxidize and gives up electrons freely, and diamonds are very hard. Today, based on physical space, information is the most valuable commodity on the planet. Nicholas Negroponte, in the book Being Digital (1995), points out that we can put the collective intelligence of all mankind on a single CD. This CD would be very valuable, more than gold or diamonds. However, in our busy world we often feel overloaded by information and mind mapping makes us the manager of knowledge giving us a tool to manage how the brain works by organizing the information effectively.

Mind mapping takes advantage of images and associations between information. We need to gain awareness and control of our thinking, remembering, attention, perception, and learning. The basic idea of a mind map is to start with an image in the center which is the main idea. Then, radiate out with curved lines main ideas much like chapter ideas. We would connect to these second-level ideas and single words or pictures. The process continues to third and fourth levels or more adding related associative information.

Consider that a Scientist is, by definition, one who follows an experimental method to work on what-if questions. The problem would be at the center of a mind map and the associated steps are the tools and the data that would follow at various levels.

How memory works has long been a concern and area of research (Lashley, 1937). The Moser scientists won a Nobel Prize (2014) for being the first to hypothesized that animals have an abstract map of space inside their brain. Grid cells have been identified to show that this is true. Mind Maps area the organizational tool for the human map in our brain. Mind Mapping with metacognitive reflections would enhance memory and learning.

Buzan T.,(2010). The Mind Mao Book. Harlow, United Kingdom.

Medina, J. (2008). Brain rules. Seattle, WA: Pear Press.

Sweet, C., Blythe, H., & Carpenter, R. (2017). Mind mapping: A technique for metacognition. Teaching with Metacognition, 1-4.

Negroponte N. (1995). Being Digital. Alfred A. Knopf Publisher.

Lashley K., (1937).Functional Determinants of Cerebral Localization. Arch Neurpsych.38(2):371–387.

Moser M. and Moser E. (2014). Nature, Vol. 514, Pages: 154–157.

Stories to Help Students Learn

Educators can take advantage of the fact that humans are predisposed to remembering stories. Knowledge, in the evolution of the human species, was passed on through stories. A story is different than a narrative in that a story tends to be more personal, and include a character that has problems towards achieving a goal (Mar, 2004). We are, in our ongoing thinking processes, telling ourselves stories about the events that make up our lives in the past, present, and future. Stories can be engaging at the personal, emotional, and social level.

Stories are not new to the classroom and the evidence-based value of stories has been validated by research. McNett (2016), identifies four broad types of story-based instruction. Case based stories have a fixed problem and solution; narrative based stories have a linear set of events; scenario-based stories involve a variety of solutions; and problem-based stories leave the learner to develop their own parameters and conclusions.

McNett (2016), provides six methods for teaching with stories which can be incorporated into the classroom. Each teacher would have to do extra work to develop stories with clear-cut goals and associated objectives and try different methods based on various students in various subjects. Learning objectives can be related to the different methods of storytelling as well as the specific stories. Story are valuable by being entertaining, engaging, personalizing, as well as valuable in the association, communication, and transference of knowledge.

Some disciplines, such as medicine and law, currently use storytelling by way of describing case studies to illustrate facts and concepts. Stories told as case studies can serve as examples of how things work in a variety of disciplines.

Stories that involve actions have been shown by neuroscience to have a physical correlate. Mirror neurons in the pre-frontal cortex, are known to fire not just when we do something but also fire when we see another person perform the action (Rizzolatti and Craighero, 2004).

In a presentation if you can tell a story and put the student in the story or create a story that allows themselves to put themselves in the autobiographical information, that story will have an emotional content that makes the memory more permanent (Rabin, et. al, 2010).

Another storytelling technique which may be useful is to have the students be the storytellers (Pio and Haigh, 2007). Students would have to develop a story based on learning objectives that illustrates a goal or moral for the activity. A variation of students as storytellers may simply be to have the student relay personal experiences associated with a particular lesson. This can also be useful in small group sessions.

Of course adding drama and theatrics to presentations makes them more memorable. Utilizing voice changes in costumes draws attention to elements of the story. Adults perceive incongruities which may also be used to add to how indelible presentation was.

Using stories to make a point can be extremely valuable as a teaching tool. As Ian Whishaw once said, “never let the truth stand in the way of a good story”. The important point is to make the story interesting, provide information in a desired direction, and add emotion to seal the learning.

Mar, R. A. 2004. The Neuropsychology of Narrative: Story Comprehension, Story Production and Their Interrelation.Neuropsychologia 42: 1414–34.

McNett, G., (2016) Using Stories to Facilitate Learning, College Teaching, 64:4, 184-193.

Rizzolatti, G. & L. Craighero. 2004. “The Mirror-Neuron System.” Annual Review of Neuroscience 27: 169–92.

Rabin, J. S., A. Gilboa, D. T. Stuss, R. A. Mar, & R. S. Rosenbaum. 2010. Common and Unique Correlates of Autobiographical Memory and Theory of Mind. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience 22 (6): 1095–1111.

Pio, E., & N. Haigh. 2007. “Towards a Pedagogy of Inspirational Parables.” Education C Training 49 (2): 77–90.

Management in the Classroom

As a teacher I have often considered myself more as a classroom manager and a facilitator than someone who knew everything about the material to be covered. Certainly teachers prepare their lessons to have knowledge of the material but the ultimate goal is to facilitate the students understanding of the information.

One of the courses I have taught for a long time is entrepreneurship to adults. Part of the entrepreneurial course materials involves understanding how the business owner can manage staff. As I researched management techniques I found a simple one that works for me both in the classroom and as a skill to relay to small business owners.

The book The One Minute Manager, by Blanchard and Johnson, (2003), provides the basis of this information. There are three concepts of effective management and they are easy to understand but take practice to implement. The first rule is one-minute goalsetting. People need to know what is expected of them and they need to be taught how to do the desired task or skill. Teaching involves telling, showing, letting them try, observing their behavior, providing them feedback, and repeating the process until the skill is developed. I like the story Blanchard tells about giving students the final exam the first day of the class and then spending the rest of the semester teaching the material to the student.

The second technique is one-minute praising. The idea simply is to try to catch people doing things right and reinforce the correct behavior. You need to be specific about what they are being reinforced for and the feedback needs to be provided immediately. The desired behaviors and learning objectives are shaped through successive approximations of the desired outcome. Reinforcement along the way develops the desired skills.

The third technique is a one-minute reprimand. If people have the skills but are not performing up to the desired result or standard, then in a one-minute meeting, the student or employee, is told specifically what they need to do to correct the inappropriate behavior. Following the one-minute reprimand the student or employee is told that they are doing well but that particular behavior needs to be corrected.

I have found that this simple model works extremely well. There is certainly a great deal of information about how to manage a classroom but based on the law of parsimony, which states that among competing options the simplest may be true, I think there is value to this process.

The success of this method is all begun and based on one-minute goal setting. Taking time to develop clearly defined goals is not that easy. In education we develop learning objectives and these then become goals. The principles can be applied by an individual for that individual. As Blanchard, et. al., (2005), states, having clearly defined goals, controlling rewarding yourself, and reprimanding yourself can be effective skills for having a more productive and happier life.

Blanchard, K. H. and Johnson, S. (2003). The One Minute Manager. Harper Collins Publisher.

Blanchard, K. H., Fowler, S., and Hawkins, L., (2005) Self Leadership and the One Minute Manager. Harper Collins Publisher.

Teach to One

As a teacher I have always been concerned that a teach to the mean. I am aware that for some students in my classes the people that know the material will be bored and for the people that find the material difficult they will be left behind. As a result of this reflection I was quite interested when I recently heard of the concept of teach to one (TtO).

Individualized learning is not new and was pioneering many years ago with the evolution of multimedia technologies as Computer Based Training (CBT). The idea was that material could be developed and presented, associated with the curriculum, by a computer program. After the material was presented to the student in computer software, a quiz was given and based on their results they moved on if they mastered the material or if they did not do well on the quiz they were re-presented the material in a different way and then quizzed again. This process continued until the student attained mastery learning of the material. The CBT administrator determined when students advanced and controlled which lessons and quizzes were presented. These projects were abandoned because of the development costs.

TtO looks like a resurgence of this technology. Ready, et.al., (2013), studied an ethnically diverse group of 2,264 students taking middle school mathematics and reported that students performed significantly better than traditionally taught students. Math may be one of those subjects that lends itself to CBT.

Rose, (2017), points out that since the early days of the introduction of the computer to the classroom the skills and expectations of students has changed. While basic computer skills have evolved in students, in that they are not fascinated with technology for technologies sake, students today are still exposed to using pure tutorial and drill and practice programs.

It has been said that the best way to learn is to teach. Druin, (2002), and many others have suggested using the computer as the learner and the student teaches the computer. This model is referred to as the “tutee model” and while it does not receive much attention I think it is a critical component in development of software for education. The Internet makes this technology very feasible.

One thing is for sure, educational software development is in its infancy. From a simple business marketing point of view, if you want to sell something find out what the customer wants. What gets students excited about learning, what games, what method of delivery, what environments? In my opinion, “Where in the World is Carmen San Diego” worked for many young people. Even Kevin O’Leary’s company, SoftKey had many good programs that appealed to students.

Ready, D. D., Meier, E. B., Horton, D., Mineo, C. M., & Yusaitis Pike, J. M. (2013, Nov). Student

mathematics performance in year one implementation of Teach to One: Math. New York: Center

for Technology and School Change.


Druin, A. (2002). The role of children in the design of new technology. Behaviour & Information Technology, 21(1), 1-25.


Martial Arts in Education

Based on the idea of educating breadth into one’s education the idea of adding Martial Arts training to one’s education is of merit. It is a good resource for a liberal education program of studies (Levine, 1991). While there is the obvious advantage of Martial Arts training in terms of the physical activity being good for both the body and the mind, the benefit of practicing the Martial Arts may afford other benefits. Through the physical activity component of Martial Arts training the participants, develop ligament stretching, muscular strength, and some basic ideas about self-defense. The idea of self-defense helps to develop self-confidence in participant’s interaction with other people and in a variety of situations.

As an undergraduate student at the University of Lethbridge I took Judo for one semester from sensei (teacher) Yosh Senda. Mr. Senda was highly respected as a teacher and this respect transferred from the respect for the teacher to the respect of other people in the class. Bowing signified this respect. A benefit of class practice was in the learning of perseverance, a useful character trait to know. The exercises were both mentally and physically exhausting and through the development of perseverance, the participants continued even in exhaustion.

Having one’s mind being in the present moment in time, in class, the participants learn to center their minds and not think of other things. Being “here now” may be thought to be therapeutic when people have stress in their lives. While more research needs done to validate the psychological and affective benefits of Martial Arts training (Fuller, 2011), early evidence looks positive.

For myself, one of the most important lessons was to learn to enjoy the process as opposed to just wanting a result. I would do a particular technique and ask Mr. Senda how I did. He would reply, “that was very good, keep practicing”. I soon learned to concentrate on the process of the activity instead of trying to be done and to say, “I have done it”.

Self-regulatory abilities fall into three areas; cognitive, affective, and physical. Martial Arts training has been shown to foster the development of these domains in upper elementary school children and males showed the greatest amount of improvement at a time when they are starting to lag behind females in terms of maturational development (Lakes K. D. & William T Hoyt W. T., 2004). Adding Martial Arts to the Physical Education curriculum would help students do better in many extraneous ways.

Levine, D. N. (1991). Martial Arts as a Resource for Liberal Education: The Case for Aikido. The Body: Social Process and Cultural theory. 209 – 224

Fuller, J. R. (2011). Martial Arts and Psychological Health. Psychology and Psychotherapy, 61, 4, 317-328.

Lakes K. D. & William T Hoyt W. T. (2004). Promoting self-regulation through school-based martial arts training. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology. Volume 25, Issue 3, May–June 2004, Pages 283-302

The Flipped Classroom

The traditional standard way of teaching in a classroom is a lecture style where the teacher talks and may write notes on the board or they show a PowerPoint presentation of slides. The students are then expected to take notes in class and then study and do problems at home. In a flipped classroom the teacher makes study materials available for the students to study at home and then class time is discussion and hands-on problem solving.

The question may be asked, “Do the students like the flipped classroom model?” In a recent review of the literature (1) it was found that the students still wanted to be lectured to. They did like supplemental materials available but most notably, they wanted time with the instructor to go over problems on-on-one or in small groups. In addition, the Flipped classroom does not work for all subjects and it is a lot of work making the movie resources. You must know the content very well to make the videos and even then they will require editing.

From a teaching point of view you can’t see the students as they are learning so you miss the opportunity to know if they are liking and understanding the content level, or if you are going too fast or too slow. It is helpful that the movies once created can be watch more than once.

Another question would be if students educated in a flipped model perform better. In a three years study of students educated in a flipped classroom they did perform significantly after 3 years of the model (2). After being in the flipped classroom environment for three years the students came to prefer that method of instruction.

At one time teachers hand wrote their notes and if they needed them typed the typing was requested to be done by a department administrative assistant. Today most teachers type and prepare their own materials. Not too long ago to make your own videos was expensive, time consuming, and somewhat complicated. Today the programs and hardware are available at a reasonable price and the techniques are certainly learnable by anyone who can build a PowerPoint show.

I think more courses need prepared and tested in a wider variety of subjects for us to have a better idea of how this new way of education can be utilized.

  1. Bishop, J. L. and Verleger, M. A. The Flipped Classroom: A survey of the Research (2013). American Society for Engineering Education
  2. Weaver, G. C. and Sturtevant H. G. (2015). Design, Implementation, and Evaluation of a Flipped Format General Chemistry Course. Journal of Chemical Education

Mindfulness and Learning

What skills can we develop to enhance learning? I have read many articles advocating various techniques for enhancing learning. Recently, quite by accident, I was invited to an introduction to the technique of mindfulness. After that introduction I have read several books on the subject and have come to believe that mindfulness can be useful as a technique to enhance learning.

In our busy world we often arrive in a classroom or may be in another situation where we would like to understand the information being presented to make our own. Generally, our minds are jumping all over being distracted by cell phones, emails, and our thoughts of the past and future. At a basic level mindfulness challenges the user of the technique to simply be here now. As we are being in the present moment our minds are able to concentrate more intensely and this gives the information we want to attend to more of a chance to be set up to be consolidated into a longer term memory (1).

The basic technique is:

  • Relax your body over a period of several minutes from your toes to the top of your head
  • Your eyes may be closed or open
  • Pay attention to your breathing (abdomen, lungs, nostrils) – pick one
  • Observe your thoughts with the goal to just being here now and appreciate it

After the distractive thoughts go back to paying attention to breathing. The idea that thoughts of the past are distorted by our minds is seen to be the same for future events. Both reflections just cause us worrying and anticipating future causes stress.

I just checked YouTube, the second most popular search engine in the world, for “Mindfulness in Education” and got 170, 000 hits. Some people must be thinking it is a useful skill. Maybe it is worth trying.

Mindfulness may look like meditation and the main difference is that meditation is simply mindfulness practiced at a specific time. Meditation has been reported throughout history as a mind technique that helps people be heathier, happier, and more accomplished in their lives. Mindfulness is also reported to help with these same objectives in people’s lives.

It has been said that we become what we repeatedly do (2). As much as a third of what we do in a day is repeated behavior. Running on autopilot and being driven by our habits, as opposed to conscious intention, of what we do, may conserve energy but does not allow us to be as aware as if we are here now.

Another advantage of mindfulness is that it stops us running on autopilot. On autopilot we miss many of the objects in the world around us in our day-to-day lives. Mindfulness proficiency limits the mind wandering and a focused mind is better for problem solving and creative activities.

Successful people do one thing at a time. They slow down and live in the moment. We evolved to do one thing at a time, namely hunt or gather. Multitasking is the enemy of a focused attentional system.

Our minds trick us into thinking that things are better elsewhere but the reality is all we really have is the present moment.


  1. Branch, T. and Byrne, H.G. 1997. The Here and Now Habit. New Harbinger Publications
  2. Levitin, D.J. 2014. The Organized Mind. Penguin Group