Objects in your “mirror” may be less clear than you think!

Recently, a friend (we’ll call her Veronica) posted a photo on Facebook of her son’s latest cooking triumph; a perfectly cheesy, bubbly chicken Parmesan. Positively restaurant-worthy.

Another friend (we’ll call him Tom) commented and asked Veronica for the recipe. To which she responded as follows:

For teachers and students too

Photo by Belinda Fewings on Unsplash

A good friend and colleague of mine describe motivation as “the desire to start, persist and put in the mental effort to learn.”

The starting part is key and one of the chief truths about teaching: if students aren’t motivated to put in the effort it takes to learn, all of our well-designed learning experiences are for naught.

When we think about starting it helps to ask ourselves: What are the things which could potentially get in the way of a student starting a learning endeavor?

Feeling we don’t belong is a big one.

If we question our belonging in…

How We Learn

Small moves toward harnessing the positive power of feedback

A phrase I think about often is “if nothing changes, nothing will change.” And it’s true in all facets of life.

In order to improve on or master anything, we need to engage in goal-oriented instruction and practice of sufficient quality and frequency. We need to reach beyond our current level of performance.

And we need feedback as to how we are doing. Why? So we can change!

Volker Schlichting/EyeEm (Getty Images)

Plain and simple, feedback is a key piece of the learning puzzle without which we will never know where we are going wrong, how close we are to our learning goals, or…

How We Learn

Fostering positive teacher-student relationships in an online world

Recently I asked a group of education experts this question:

The group submitted their answers using an online polling tool. As the responses rolled in, the polling tool generated a word cloud in which the dimensions of the word in the cloud increased along with the submission frequency. And the winner?


Yes, smart was there, too. But caring, humble, empathy, fun, engaging, and patient all emerged as common descriptors of teachers whom we like, are motivated by, and who inspire us.

How We Learn

It depends.

Photo Credit (Patpitchaya, Getty Images)

I recently had the chance to interview an engineer who was in the process of designing employee training for a utility company. During our conversation, she described her development strategies and the types of activities she was creating. At the end of our chat, she asked for my recommendations about how best to design and create training experiences and materials.

After pointing out some of the good things she was doing, and how they aligned with evidence-based practices, I then had to follow up with what I almost always must say in response to this question: “It depends…”

There’s no…

How We Learn

I am a much better teacher (and gardener) today because I completely ruined a cake.

etorres69 (Getty Images) Sadly, not my actual cake!

Last December, I finally decided to make a cake using a recipe I had torn out of Bon Appetit a couple of years earlier. Because it looked unusually complicated, the recipe languished in my pile of pages torn from magazines. It called for multiple layers of fillings, a chestnut mousse, and a chocolate syrup to drizzle on the cake before rolling it up. The rolling up was the part that made me nervous. I’d never had much success with this technique; my rolled-up cakes always…

How we learn

How understanding different types of cognitive load can help you learn

Cognitive load relates to the fact that the part of our brains that processes what we are are currently doing, can only deal with a certain amount of information at one time. Often we talk about cognitive load in terms of that negative feeling we get when we are overwhelmed, have too much going on, or are distracted and can’t focus.

Illustration by Alashi (Getty Images)

Sure that is part of it, but there’s another side of cognitive load which is actually a useful and essential part of the learning process.

To really understand it, we need a quick refresher on the architecture of our…

Recent reports by the cybersecurity company Proofpoint describe how cybercriminals are capitalizing on coronavirus fears and using online scams to steal personal and financial information.

Cybercriminals may try to take advantage of your emotions — such as curiosity, fear, worry, and compassion for others — to trick you into clicking on a link, downloading an app, or opening an email attachment. Before you know it, you’ve been led to a phishing website or downloaded malware onto your device.

You may think cyberattacks involve sophisticated tools and tactics to hack into computers and steal data. Not true! Criminals have learned that…

How we learn

Common studying errors and how to fix them

As I wrote about in Learning is Hard, our intuitions and self-assessments are not the most reliable guides to how we should manage our own learning activities. In fact, they commonly cause us to do exactly the wrong thing. Students may think it’s more effective to cram for a test the night before, or to stop studying if they think they know something. The trouble is, being confident you know something and really knowing are not always the same things. Real learning requires active engagement, and deliberate practice. …

How we learn

Thinking you know something and really knowing it are not always the same thing

In 2019, a video posted on Twitter (@SatisfyingDaily) showed someone drawing a hand using a pencil and about 11 lines. The video made drawing the hand look super easy and the resulting drawing was an incredibly life-like, side view of a hand with slightly bent fingers. This is the drawing:

Pencil drawing of a hand
Pencil drawing of a hand

The post drew a lot of attention and was even featured on the Ellen show. It seemed to really resonate with people, probably because the gap between how easy it appeared to draw the hand in this way, and how difficult it actually was to do it was huge!


Julia Phelan, Ph.D

Julia has a Ph.D in education from UCLA. She has extensive experience in learning engineering and instructional design.

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