Author: Christine Harrington

Three Answer Options Are All You Need on Multiple-Choice Tests!

Creating multiple-choice test questions can be quite time-consuming and challenging. Have you ever found yourself struggling to come up with a “good” fourth answer option?  Well, if this has been the case for you, you’re in for some good news! It turns out that trying to identify a plausible fourth option may not be worth it. Research on this topic suggests that you can stop this frustrating process and start spending your valuable time on other more valuable academic tasks. Baghaei and Amrahi (2011) researched whether the number of answer options had a significant impact on test performance. In their experimental study, Read More…


A Six-Minute Lecturing Strategy to Increase Learning

Despite all the buzz around active learning, did you know that lecturing is still the most common teaching method? The good news is that we don’t need to abandon the lecture because research has shown that it can be effective (Baeten, Dochy, & Struyven, 2013). Lectures are efficient ways for the expert (otherwise known as the professor!) to share knowledge with students.  While many argue that lectures are passive and not effective as more active learning approaches, this is not the case when lectures are done effectively.  Mayer (2009) argues that cognitive engagement is what matters most and Read More…


A Short or Long Syllabus: What’s Best?

Constructing an effective syllabus is an important task. It is a task that every faculty member does several times a year and yet there is very little research investigating the best way to construct a syllabus. One of the questions faculty often ask is how long should a syllabus be? In the past, syllabi were fairly short, probably in part due to concerns about the environment and printing costs. With mobile technology, this may no longer be a critical factor.  Today, some syllabi are quite long, even exceeding twenty pages. But what works best? A colleague of mine, Crystal Read More…


The Power of Pausing

As college faculty, we are often faced with intense curriculum and the need to “cover” a lot of material. This pressure often results in an increased reliance on lectures. While research has shown that the lecture can be very a very effective teaching method (Baeten, Dochy, & Struyven, 2013), there are several research-based strategies that increase learning via this method of teaching. In this brief article, we’ll focus on one very important strategy: pausing. Let’s review a couple of studies on this topic:
In a study conducted by Ruhl, Hughes, and Schloss (1987), one group of students was given Read More…


The Process of Becoming a Critical Thinker

Across the nation, colleges and universities strive to develop high level critical thinkers. How does this happen? In Student Success in College: Doing What Works! 2nd Edition, students can explore how to develop these skills. This process considers both cognitive and non-cognitive skills needed in order to become a critical thinker. Here’s a brief overview of the process: Foundational Conditions:
Before developing high level critical thinking skills, three foundational conditions are needed. In essence, these are pre-requisite skills for engaging in high level cognitive tasks. 1. A Content Knowledge Base
While memorization and remembering are not the end goal of college, these cognitive tasks Read More…


Teaching First-Year Students About Research

While Student Success courses typically address many important skills such as time management and study strategies, there is another set of skills that are essential to student success but are unfortunately often missing from the curriculum. Teaching students how to find, evaluate, read and use scholarly sources will be of significant benefit to first-year students. Integrating the use of peer-reviewed research on student success topics into the course is an excellent way to address content while also providing students with much needed support in developing their reading, critical thinking, and information literacy skills. Approximately 95% of college students report Read More…


Teach Learning Skills, Not Learning Styles: We are ALL Multi-Sensory Learners

Learning styles have received a lot of attention over the years, with many educators spending countless hours assisting students with determining whether they were auditory, visual or kinesthetic learners. However, the lack of research support for the validity of learning styles has led many to question the appropriateness of teaching students about learning styles (Pashler, McDaniel, Rohrer, & Bjork, 2008; Rohrer & Pashler, 2012; Krätzig, & Arbuthnott, 2006).

Neuroscience research has actually shown us that we are more similar versus different in terms of how we learn best. We will be most productive and learn the most Read More…


Dusting Off the Cobwebs Activity

To maximize learning, brief yet powerful active learning strategies can be used. Using these brief activities can result in higher levels of student engagement with the material and one another, higher motivational levels, and can lead to an increased mastery of the material being learned. Prince (2004) recommends adding a brief interactive exercise into your lecture approximately every fifteen minutes, but why not start class with an activity? At the start of every class, I ask students to participate in a “Dusting Off the Cobwebs” exercise. Here’s how it works: Step 1: Students need to partner up with another student. Read More…


Activity: Research in the Developmental Classroom: Focusing on the Discussion Section

Interested in bringing a discussion of research into your student success or developmental course? Try Dr. Christine Harrington’s activity, below.
1. Find a brief and meaningful article (such as the article below on the 3R reading technique) on a topic related to your course. McDaniel, M., Howard, D., & Einstein, G. (2009). The read-recite-review study strategy: Effective and portable. Psychological Science, 20(4), 516-522. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9280.2009.02325.x. 2. Provide students with an overview of the study, keeping it very basic. With the article example above, focus on how the researchers compared re-reading a passage, taking notes on a passage, and using the Read More…


Incorporating Research into a Student Success Course

My teaching approach stems from my belief in my students and their ability to achieve at high levels if given the right amount of support. I bring research on student success and memory, and extensive modeling and support into my student success classes. I use actual peer reviewed research studies in my student success course as the foundation for our conversations on student success strategies. This increases the credibility of the course for both students and the campus. Even students who have taken a class on “study skills” will quickly discover that this course is different. The inclusion of Read More…