Infusing insights about How People Learn into the shaping of policy and practice

A dean from a PKAL Leadership Initiative institution reflected on the responsibility of senior administrators:

If something is important to the institution, it should not be left to chance. For example, if you want effective leadership in committees or departments, you need to foster (and reward) leadership at all levels of the institution. If you hope for the best…sometimes, you'll get it— functional departments with visionary leaders—and often you won't. I think this is the 'ounce of prevention' model.

Substituting "quality of student learning" for "effective leadership," we present a summary of insights from PKAL leaders about intentionality in focusing departments, faculty and staff, on how all they do affects student learning.

A tool for engaging departmental discussions to reflect on what students are getting from their course offerings. If one examines insights about how people learn, it is clear that what works is:

  • Giving people a real problem to solve that matters in the world in which they live and work.
  • Shaping a process and structure that signals that every voice matters and that diversity is celebrated.
  • Letting people figure things out for themselves.
  • Communicating–understand the power of getting people to express what they think and know.

A simple exercise to ensure everyone is on the same page, is to engage in filling the blanks in this sentence: The most important thing a department can to do to ensure robust learning of their students is_________________________, because __________________________________.

Finally, we direct your attention to the valuable resource about assessment of student learning, in the archive of the National Institute for Science Education: the Student Assessment of Learning Gains.

The NISE SALG (Student Assessment of Learning Gains) is a free site designed for instructors of all disciplines who would like feedback from their students about how they are learning. It can be downloaded, modified, and used by you and your students online. (Presented as part of PKAL’s "don’t reinvent the wheel" mantra.)