Poster Presentation Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia 2015

Translating science of learning into effective designs for learning: A case study on the use of visual aids in teaching practice (#325)

Abi Brooker 1 , Jason Lodge 1 , Jared C Horvath 1
  1. University of Melbourne, Parkville, VIC, Australia

Context: Higher education is becoming increasingly complex for students and teachers. Students need to learn a vast range of skills in order to adapt to rapidly changing economic environments and secure post-graduation employment. Teachers need to meet the expectations afforded by the changing employment sector as well as teach the pedagogical content of their own expertise. Adding to this complexity, the technologies that support teaching in higher education are changing at an increasingly rapid pace.

Issue: Teachers face the difficult task of deciding which technology-mediated approaches to use in practice, and how to use them; with no guarantee that the effort required will result in enhanced student learning. Fundamentally, research on the most effective ways of learning with new technologies is not filtered through to practice in a timely enough manner to keep pace with innovations being made available to teaching practitioners.

Methodology: The primary methodology we wish to showcase is that of translation. Our purpose is to link research in the lab to practice in the classroom (see also Lodge & Bosanquet, 2014). We package the learning sciences, especially psychological science and neuroscience, into design principles in a way that provides evidence-based approaches for teachers as well as allowing for teachers to bring their own experience to bear on the evidence at hand. These principles therefore create a middle ground between evidence and practice.

To support this methodology, we provide an example centered on the use of visual aids in learning, specifically slideware (e.g. Microsoft Powerpoint, etc.). Through this example, we will demonstrate how laboratory based research (e.g. Horvath, 2014) can be leveraged to enhance practice through improved design for learning. From this, we then extrapolate protocols for the effective translation of research on learning processes for use in innovative teaching with technology.

How does this paper address the subtheme?

The rapid advancement of technology-mediated learning in higher education means that teachers have many innovative and elegant approaches to adopt in their own teaching, but no clear way of understanding how each approach fits with their pedagogical perspective or supports teaching and learning experiences. Furthermore, the constant evolution of technologies for learning creates complex options and uncertainty about the most efficient and useful ways forward for ensuring students meet the required learning outcomes of their degree programs and are able to function effectively as professionals beyond graduation.

We see enhanced design for learning through the leveraging of the science of learning as an accessible way support teachers to navigate and master these complex options. Alignment of sophisticated design for learning with learning sciences provides evidence regarding why specific approaches for supporting good practice are successful. Moreover, if properly translated to practice settings, the science of learning does not detract from what is already understood about scholarly teaching practice in university settings. We provide an example of a successful attempt at translation from laboratory research to teaching practice to emphasise the utility of translational research for the use of technology-mediated learning in higher education to enable employability.

  1. Horvath, J. C. (2014). The neuroscience of PowerPoint. Mind, Brain, and Education, 8 (3), 137-143.
  2. Lodge, J. M., & Bosanquet, A. (2014). Evaluating quality learning in higher education: Re-examining the evidence. Quality in Higher Education, 20(1), 3–23.