Yale Center for Teaching and Learning

How Students Learn

Research in cognitive science has contributed to instructors’ understandings of the ways in which students learn.  These resources integrate such findings by highlighting how instructors can consider the prior knowledge that students bring to the classroom, and environments that encourage student construction of new knowledge, reflection on learning, and transference to other scenarios.

Students entering universities bring years of experience within education, as well as personal factors that shape how they respond to teaching and learning.
Metacognition is the process by which one thinks about their thinking. While applications of metacognition in the context of learning extend far back in time, the early psychologists William James, Jean Piaget, and Lev Vygotsky devoted effort to theorizing the role of metacognition in human development and schooling (Fox and Risconscente, 2008).
The “Learning styles” myth refers to the belief that students learn best when course content is taught in ways matching students’ preferred learning styles.
The psychologist Lev Vygostky considered social learning between and amongst individuals to be of particular significance (John-Steiner and Mahn,1996).
Students learn by connecting their newfound knowledge with what they already know, constructing new meanings (NRC, 2000).
The transfer of knowledge to new contexts is often considered a hallmark of true learning.