By Susan Anderson
Do you believe some people are born with the ability to focus, while others aren’t? That multitasking is a useful skill? That examples make a topic interesting?
If so, you’re wrong — but you’re also not alone in holding these beliefs.
All across the country today, students are being taught in non-optimal ways. The reason? Myths about how learning occurs.
According to St. Bonaventure University professors Adam Brown, Ph.D., and Althea Need Kaminske, Ph.D., a lack of communication between science and educational practice is at the root of these persistent falsehoods.
“There are a multitude of myths prevalent in education today, at the university level and in secondary and primary schools. It is pervasive and lasting,” Brown said.
Added Kaminske: “There’s a clear need for translational work from psychology to teaching.”
To address these issues, Brown and Kaminske established the Center for Attention, Learning and Memory (CALM) at St. Bonaventure in 2017.
Kaminske is a cognitive psychologist with a focus on human memory, Brown a professor in educational psychology and statistics with a focus in development. Together they hold more than three decades of investigative research into attention and learning.
“We created the center to spread the intellectual wealth,” said Brown.
One of their primary goals is to engage faculty and students in dialogue about effective teaching and learning strategies.
“In our roles as professors and academic advisors, we work with smart, motivated students who get stuck in bad study habits because they never received instruction on how learning and memory actually work,” Kaminske said.
CALM offers faculty workshops through Bona’s Faculty Resource Center, tutor training and student study skills through the Student Success Center, and translation of research for the local community. It also extends internship and research opportunities to undergraduate and graduate students.
Matt Petit, a senior creative writing major from Syracuse, New York, serves as a research assistant with Brown, helping to prepare for presentations and workshops.
“My work is more like a literary analyst. I’m in charge of finding articles that have strong methodology and appropriate sample sizes,” Petit said. “I sift through different studies based on whatever the center is working on. It’s my job to make sure the research is current and what we share is credited properly.”
Petit said he appreciates the chance to be part of the collaborative work being done within CALM. He especially values Brown’s work ethic, the example he sets and the research he brings to light about learning and memory.
“The research being done is really important,” Petit said. “Everyone hears ‘take a break when studying,’ but how many people actually do it? How many people realize that when you’re taking a break you’re not necessarily just letting your brain cool down, you’re actually giving it a chance to create connections? Real biological things are happening.”
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