Cognitive Approaches to Learning and Teaching

Cognitive Approaches to Learning and Teaching applies decades of research in cognitive psychology to allow educators and educational professionals to harness time-tested techniques that will make their teaching methods more effective and focused. Students will learn that intelligence is not fixed and that students can change their abilities with applied practice, clarity, structure, and differentiation. Through this course, students will learn and adapt new ways to keep their students thriving and engaged during the entire learning process.

Course Name: Cognitive Approaches to Learning and Teaching

Course Number: EDUC 718D

Semester Credits: 3

Course Description

Principles of efficient and effective learning and teaching are presented in highly approachable texts based on decades of research in cognitive psychology.  Traditional study habits – underline, review, memorize, cram – are proven to be ineffective and waste the student's time. Better study habits include questioning, self-quizzing, spaced retrieval, and avoiding traps that lead to false confidence. Traditional teaching methods – lecture, homework problems, test – similarly are less fruitful than focusing on what students will think about during lessons, relating current content to already-present knowledge, and encouraging a deeper understanding of the curriculum.  Cognitive Approaches to Learning and Teaching first presents research and practical approaches to making your learning more efficient. As you experience these methods, you can appreciate how effective they can be for your students.  Cognitive Approaches to Learning and Teaching then focuses on research and practical approaches to your teaching. While you know your own adult ways of learning, your students may approach learning entirely differently.  You will learn new ways to keep your students focused and on target.  


  • Appreciation that learning is hard work, and the harder the student works, the more secure the learning.
  • Mere repetition sets a trap: it makes you feel secure because you readily develop familiarity, but this is not a sign of understanding.
  • Efforts to retrieve information are far more useful to learning: they are hard work; they tell you what you know, and they tell you what you don’t know and need to check.
  • Mix your practice, so you are not focusing on only one topic. This provides context cues that aid differentiation and retrieval cues.
  • Forget “learning styles.” Careful studies do not support the idea.  Instead, strive for clarity, structure, and going beyond examples to rules.
  • Most mental work is done in Working Memory and techniques for overcoming its limits.
  • Memory is the residue of thought. Successful teachers stimulate thought.
  • Occasionally brute memorization is needed. Mnemonics are helpful.
  • Memory is enhanced if the practice is spaced and interleaved with other information and activities.
  • Intelligence is not fixed.  Ability can change with effort.  Praise effort, not intelligence.
  • To improve your teaching, work carefully with a trusted colleague.  

Course Contents

  • Learning is misunderstood
  • To learn, retrieve.
  • Mix up your practice.
  • Embrace difficulties.
  • Avoid illusions of knowing.
  • Get beyond learning styles.
  • Increase your abilities.
  • Make it stick.
  • Why don’t students like school?
  • How can I teach students the skills they need when standardized tests require only facts?
  • Why do students remember everything that’s on television and forget everything I say?
  • Why is it so hard for students to understand abstract ideas?
  • Is drilling worth it?
  • What’s the secret to getting students to think like real scientists, mathematicians, and historians?
  • How should I adjust my teaching for different types of learners?
  • How can I help slow learners?
  • What about my mind? 

Evidence of Learning Outcomes

Upon completing Cognitive Approaches to Learning and Teaching, the student will have demonstrated knowledge of cognitive psychology and how teachers can optimize their instruction. 

How to Register

Registration is simple and can be done online or over the phone. Courses are offered ongoing during three semesters, and enrollees may begin at any time. Students may choose to enroll in up to a maximum of 15-semester credits at any time during a semester.

 Fall: September 1 - January 31

Spring: February 1 - May 31

Summer: June 1 - August 31

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