Local educators invited to discuss student learning Dec. 9

Local educators invited to discuss student learning Dec. 9

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Eliot Hazeltine and Bob McMurray, associate professors in the Department of Psychology in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, are inviting elementary-school teachers, administrators, and interested community members to a free, informal discussion about how students learn on Monday, Dec. 9 at the Iowa City Public Library, Room E, from 7 to to 9 p.m.

The discussion, sponsored by the University of Iowa Department of Psychology, the Delta Center, and local educational software company Foundations in Learning, is part of an ongoing initiative to develop better learning interventions for struggling elementary school students.

“While there is a substantial amount of research on how best to teach,” says McMurray, “there is much less discussion of how children learn.”

The basic science of learning and the application of its principles to classrooms and curricula are chief interests of McMurray and Hazeltine, who in 2012—along with doctoral student Keith Apfelbaum—conducted an experimental study of children’s ability to learn and generalize. They applied principles of learning from many domains, including language development and motor skill learning, to a small sample of early reading skills.

Their results, published in the journal Developmental Psychology, showed that early readers learn better when presented with a text containing greater variation in words than those used in traditional phonics instruction. Read more about the study here.

Having recently received an additional three years of funding from the National Science Foundation, the team is expanding the study and adding an outreach component, which will involve developing pedagogical interventions and working with teachers to incorporate them into curricula.

“We’ve learned a lot about how basic learning mechanisms may apply to educational problems,” notes McMurray. “Now we want to make sure our results match what teachers actually experience in the classroom. Teachers have such wonderful insight into how, where, and when kids learn. We’d like to start a conversation with them to share our results and pick their brains.”

Those interested in attending the Monday, Dec. 9 discussion should RSVP to bob-mcmurray@uiowa.edu in advance.

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all UI-sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires a reasonable accommodation in order to participate in this program, contact McMurray in advance at 319-335-2408.


Bob McMurray, Department of Psychology, 319-335-2408


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