How do I learn

About this lesson
We’ve structured this lesson around five actions, each of which draws on important principles about learning and the brain. If you’re here looking for information, jump down to perspectives and resources for select expert opinions. However, moving through each step will make the lesson more memorable for you.

  1. Challenge
  2. Initial Thoughts
  3. Perspectives and Resources
  4. Revised Thinking
  5. Report Out


Why a challenge?

We learn best through stories and connections. A concrete challenge posed at the beginning of the lesson helps you to understand what you’re learning in real-world terms.

Your challenge:

In this video, Sarah is going through a rather difficult time at school. She is stressing out her parents, her teachers and her siblings. Stress is a very complicated and pernicious element of modern living. By definition, stress is an organism’s response to a stressor such as an environmental condition or a stimulus.

In this cycle, we will uncover what stress is and its impact on the adolescent brain in terms of learning and memory.

Watch the challenge video:

Initial thoughts

Why initial thoughts?

Why not just jump down to perspectives and resources? Learning Sciences research (e.g. Mueller, 2008) has shown clearly that making a ‘commitment’ to a specific stance or statement improves your learning, even if that belief later changes. Making your beliefs explicit is vital to the learning process.

Perspectives and resources

How does stress impact the classroom?
Let’s see how an expert explains the role of stress in the brain in learning.

Please review the resources while keeping the guiding questions in mind:

  • How does stress affect our students’ abilities to learn?
  • Does stress keep students from learning?
  • How does stress affect your classroom? How can you tell? What can we do about it?
  1. A brief introduction to Judy Willis’ resources:

  3. An outline of the impact of stress on adolescent learning
    This presentation on stress is an adobe document you can download.
    Read more
  4. Judy Willis’ handout
    Judy Willis spoke to our group on the Brain’s response to emotion and strategies. You can download and read her handout here.
    Read more
  5. Judy Willis’ website contains much more information on students and stress.
    We recommend you browse Judy Willis’ website for more information on stress and students’ responses.
    Read more

Revised thinking

Why revised thinking?
In addition to committing to an initial thought, reflecting on what you learned can promote metacognition, and your own understanding of the material. In addition, reflecting on your learning helps to solidify the lessons, making them easily accessible when you need them in the future. (Bransford, Brown, and Cocking, 2001).

How does stress impact learning?
Take a moment to revisit your thinking from earlier in the cycle. Look back at your initial thoughts. Based on what you wrote earlier and the evidence presented in perspectives and resources, consider the following questions:

  • How does stress affect our students’ abilities to learn?
  • Does stress keep students from learning?
  • How does stress affect your classroom? How can you tell? What can we do about it?

Report out

Why report out?
Learning is a deeply social activity. Sharing with others strengthens your learning, and gives others the opportunity to learn as well. According to veteran UW Physics professor Lillian McDermott, “you learn what you teach.”

How does stress affect classroom learning?
Talk about stress in the classroom with someone you care about – friend, family member, co-worker or co-teacher. What do you think? What have you learned? Share below.

Thank you for taking the time to walk through the whole cycle! We hope you’ve had fun and learned a lot!