Posted in learning, Photography, Psychology

My Value of Education: What I’ve Learned

So we have come to the end of the semester, where we reflect on what we have learned and falsify a glowing report for our professor Jesse Martin. So in honor of our wonderful professor Jesse Martin, I plan to the newly discovered KISS Principal or “Keep It Simple Stupid!” Principal.

In regards to the class, I have come across and researched many different psychological effects and principals (many I have written on). This includes desirable difficulties, SAFMEDS method, Zeigarnik effect, Ikea effect, the Jones MUSIC model, Carol Dweck’s Mindset theories, how we live our label, how learning styles hurt learners, and of course the KISS principle. Not only have I expanded my knowledge of various psychological principals and effects that occur within learning and education, but I have also discovered insight into the system of education and learning.

As a society, we are screwed when it comes to learning and education, so much so that Post-secondary education is the biggest Ponzi scheme, where students are on the bottom.pyramid-of-capitalist-feudal-system

Where education is striving to become a successful business, where it seems that more money is put into marketing and appearances than schooling, learning, and the students who are the foundation of education and keep the Ponzi scheme going. The students are the customers, and the degrees are the products that we are purchasing for tens of thousands of dollars. The result of this expensive purchase is that students are not able to think critically.  Where their primary focus is on the grades, which are only for accountability will never reflect what the student has learned, leaving the education system at a standstill in progress. So until someone steps up to challenge the set system, change, and actual learning will never occur.

I now reflect on the metacognition that had occurred after talking with Jesse Martin (before and after every class). When I inquired about topics and information about learning and education, I found myself focusing too much on the system, realizing that I cant change something that doesn’t want to be changed, leading to the conclusion that the entire system of education is resistant to change because students and teachers are comfortable in their bubble. For a shift to occur within education, a drastic action must occur, i.e., sue education for Malpractice.

In conclusion, I have developed a realistic perspective on how bad our education system is, which has forced me to become an independent agent for change. I conform less, question authority (more than before), question the reasons for why society and education do things in a particular manner, inspiring more confidence in my actions towards, enabling me to do things my way, regardless of the system in place. So much so that I am one of the first undergrad students to work with the teaching center, and take control over my learning regardless of other’s opinion, thoughts, or previous actions.

Moreover, I end this post, concluding that teaching is an art, and learning is a science and should begin to be thought of and applied as such.

For this week’s featured image, I put up Jesse Martin, the professor who inspired the newly found confidence, knowledge & independent agent of change… Cool! I am now a superhero.  change-agents1-1920x800


Posted in learning, Psychology

Effortful Learning: Synthesis​

Learning is an effortful process, as demonstrated in the last three blogs. This synthesis will reinforce the notion of effortful learning, with the goal of inspiring other individuals to reflect on their learning and question the current system of education.

As mentioned in the post about desirable difficulties, the brain and memory are less of a filing cabinet, but more of a muscle. When novel information has entered the mind, the information must be rehearsed for it to be encoded within long-term memory, much like working out the muscle to keep fit; if the memory is not repeated or muscle is not worked out, both slowly diminish.

In the case of desirable difficulties, the information obtained must be continuously reviewed over a more considerable amount of time (testing and spacing effects) to maintain the information both time and energy must be applied.

Unfortunately, teachers do a lot of the work of learning for us. By organizing the material onto slides (organizational effect) that allows for easier comprehension of the material in a way that diminished attention (disfluency effect), so that little effort is needed by the student to understand the material. Not only do teachers do the work for us, but the traditional structure of education and standardized testing assist students with fast-tracking of information so that they can obtain a high grade through a multiple choice exam. With the goal of the education system to achieve A high GPA and test results; which is pursued by both students and teachers. It appears that teachers and post-secondary institutes want students to succeed only in the form of grades as that is how they measure success. Providing students with effort-less learning contradicts how learning is acquired: through effort, time, persistence, and difficulty, not through the ability to fill in a bubble on a scantron sheet.

The current study techniques as illustrated in my prior post consist of cramming, lecture slides, highlighters, flashcards, and the list of ineffective study techniques goes on and on. But for learning to be meaningful and active, students cannot merely rely on surface level strategies such as rereading the textbook or highlighting their notes. Unfortunately, these methods achieve decent if not exceptional results within grading, but the function of the current education is to make learning easy, but learning should not be easy, as emphasized in previous posts.

In conjunction with the effort-less student strategies, learning is individualized. By this I mean, that unless students form a study group, studying and learning is done as an individualized activity.  For example, in our Camus library, there are more isolated cubicles than study rooms or work tables, which promotes secluded studying. In individualistic societies, collective learning and test taking in the classroom are frowned upon; many call it cheating.

By not giving students the opportunity to see different perspectives, discuss, reflect on and challenge the information with each other, students become used to learning in one manner which is lecture halls and isolated. Resulting in a lack of effort because students are habituated to the same environment, and less attention is needed to succeed, so studying becomes subjective. This is because of this set structure of individualized learning and lecture halls, other forms of learning or feedback never occur (differentiated instruction delayed feedback). To illustrate this lack of effort and individualization for students, a news article recently came out that states that millennials would give up their right to vote for the next two elections to have their student loan debt forgiven. To some, this may be an acceptable choice, but to a majority of people, this is shocking. This example shows how millennials and a portion of society think individualistically rather than thinking of the collective. Now whether this choice is due to an overabundance of debt, the lack of effort it takes to vote, or that their vote doesn’t matter, it still reflects the focus of individualized effort rather than collective effort.

At this state, it appears that studying and learning are done without any scientific evidence, even go against psychology and how we actually learn; education and learning have become subjective, in the way that their methods are based upon tradition and opinion. But as we have seen in the SAFMEDS post, learning should not be subjective, and that there is a significant amount of psychology within learning, to make learning more effective in the long run. With this being said, I end this synthesis with one question: Do C’s really get degrees? I believe so.

The featured image, although disturbing, is an accurate portrayal of the learning, knowledge, and effort within the education system.


Blumberg, J. (2017). 50% of millennials would give up this fundamental American right to have their student loans forgivenCNBC. Retrieved 24 November 2017, from

Dangel, H. (2017). Effortful Retrieval | Center for Excellence in Teaching and Retrieved 24 November 2017, from

Davis, M. (2017). How Collaborative Learning Leads to Student SuccessEdutopia. Retrieved 24 November 2017, from

Hopper, E. (2017). Individualist or Collectivist? How Culture Influences Retrieved 24 November 2017, from

Introduction to cooperative learning. (2017). Retrieved 24 November 2017, from

Introduction to cooperative learning. (2017). Retrieved 24 November 2017, from

Learning Myths vs. Learning Facts – The Effortful Educator. (2017). The Effortful Educator. Retrieved 24 November 2017, from

McFeeters, F. (2017). The Effects of Individualism Vs. Collectivism on Learner’s Recall, Transfer, and Attitudes Toward Collaboration and Individualized Learning (PH’D). Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

McGarry, K. (2017). effortful learning: desirable difficulty. Cognitive Mindset. Retrieved from

McGarry, K. (2017). Effortful Learning: ineffective Pedagogy and Academia. Cognitive Mindset. Retrieved from

McGarry, K. (2017). Effortful Learning: SAFMEDS. Cognitive Mindset. Retrieved from

No authorship indicated. (1987). Learning Together and Alone: Cooperative, Competitive, and Individualistic Learning (2nd ed.). Psyccritiques32(6).


Posted in learning, Psychology

Effortful Learning: Ineffective Pedagogy and Academia

In a typical year or degree, undergraduates academia consists of cramming, flashcards, lectures, highlighting which all seem to be a must-have or go to method of learning. As I will demonstrate these methods are less effective than we may believe.

The first ineffective method of studying is cramming. It seems that cramming is a rite of passage, where you only become a real student if you cram at least one within your undergrad degree. Cramming is defined as forcing something into a tight or crowded area. This typically involves last-minute preparation for an exam, paper, or assignment. Unfortunately, cramming comes at a high cost of wellness, such as eating regularly (coffee does not count as food, sorry), and of course sleep. A study was done where they sleep deprived student for 36 hours and measured the effects with visual stimuli. The result of the study was an exaggerated reaction and impaired mental function. The students provided euphoric reactions to neutral visual images and produced more risky behavior because of the heightened activity in the Mesolimbic system (reward pathway). In addition to the euphoric responses, they had an impaired mental function where the students have difficulty studying the day after because they were so sleep deprived. It seems that as we are trying to increase our cognitive function by sacrificing sleep and wellness, we end up doing more harm and damage to our brain than if were to just go and sleep for a few more hours.

Lectures and PowerPoint, they seem to be one of the first, if not the only go-to methods in the teaching arsenal. It seems that lecturing and PowerPoints are a rite of passage, where you only become a real teacher if you lecture and create a reusable PowerPoint at least once within your teaching career. I recently went to a panel discussion, where a professor defended lecturing and PowerPoints. He claimed that lecturing is a method that is used to fast-track information to the students, while providing an overview, focus on a range of material, and showing students to critically think. During the presentation, he did make a few historical points, in that lecturing dates to medieval times, going back 700-800 years.

The image on the left is a lecture at the University of Bologna in Italy in the mid-fourteenth century (“Lecture,” 2017). The image in the middle is a modern lecture hall in a post-secondary. The image on the right is a modern movie theater. All three look very similar, of the three, the least useful setting, is the one in the middle. I say this because the lecture in Italy was one of the only ways the students got information. While with the movie theatre, the audience is entertained at a cheaper cost of only $10-20 per show, rather than $500-$2000 for the semester (and at least at the movie theatre, the audience can see Ryan Reynolds while eating popcorn).

Regarding PowerPoint, they seem to be a teacher’s only tool within their teaching arsenal. The original purpose of PowerPoint was for business presentations, to show graphs and data. Robert Gaskin, the designer of PowerPoint, stated that “I did not target other existing large groups of users of presentations, such as school teachers or military officers. … I also did not plan to target people who were not existing users of presentations … such as clergy and school children … our focus was purely on business users, in small and large companies, from one person to the largest multinationals” (“Microsoft PowerPoint,” 2017).

Flashcards. The history of flashcards or index cards was created by Carl Linnaeus in the 1900’s, who wanted a system for organization where he could arrange and organize data easily. Flashcards have been used by many people for similar functions, like cataloging, and now is one of the most popular study aid for students. There are many different forms of flashcards (index cards, colored coded cards, digital cards) that all have the same function– self-testing. However, are they useful? I do not think so. Although they are a form of self-testing, they influence ineffective studying, by promoting serial anticipation or (learning) effect, and a lack of associative learning. Serial anticipation is where items are learned because of the sequence or order they are in. Regarding flashcards, many students tend to study flashcards in the same order, so they are learning the order of the cards as much as the cards themselves. Which when the cards are mixed up or in a different order, students have difficulty answering recalling the cards because the order is no longer available. Therefore, the SAFMEDS method is more efficient, purely on the spaced repetition and shuffling of the cards daily.  The lack of associative learning also prevents effective learning. Typically, flashcards are consist of isolated information. “Flashcards only focus on pure memorization and/or recognition; not associative learning, knowledge or understanding”(McGarry, 2017). Thus they are useless when it comes to practical learning.

Highlighters seem to be the main purchase after or even before flashcards. Invented by Dr. Frank Honn in 1963, with the intended purpose to label and find information easier, in other words, highlighter’s sole purpose is for locating information easier, not as a studying method, like most students us them for, where pages from textbooks go from black and white to a psychedelic neon nightmare:

As I had mentioned in my post about desirable difficulties, all the ways mentioned above of learning and studying are entirely ineffective. Cramming completely goes against the spacing effect because the learning is not spaced, thus not be encoded into long-term memory. Lecturing does not offer variety, alertness, and interactivity in term of differentiated instruction, resulting in passive rather than active learning. PowerPoints (as mentioned in my previous post) provides the teacher with more learning than the students because the students do not have to organize the information themselves, it is just provided. Flashcards seem like a proper technique for learning but contradict the testing effect, as they only are useful for recognition, and don’t deal with complex questions, as it is difficult to fit a complex question and answer on an index card, and material is not struggled with because the answer is easily accessible on the back side of the flashcard. Highlighting should only be used as a colorful way to locate text, as by making the information more accessible to find it again goes against the disfluency effect, as information should be more difficult to comprehend, so more attention is put forth, so unless you are planning on highlighting the entire page with a dark blue, making the text difficult to see, then highlighter is useless for learning but excellent for locating.

So, if these ineffective strategies are your go-to methods of learning, studying or teaching, then you may want to rethink your approach to education, studying or teaching.

The featured photo is of my favourite aunt: Pam. In this photo, she is pretending to eat rocks, to which these learning strategies are just as effective as eating rocks.


Anwar, Y. (2017). Pulling an all-nighter can bring on euphoria and risky behaviorBerkeley News. Retrieved 10 November 2017, from

Granoff, D. (2017). All-Nighters Found to Cause Euphoria … and Brain Damage | Flyby | The Harvard Retrieved 10 November 2017, from

Heibutzki, R. (2017). Cite a Website – Cite This For Retrieved 10 November 2017, from

Highlighter. (2017). Retrieved 10 November 2017, from

History of Highlighters – Who Invented Highlighter?. (2017). Retrieved 10 November 2017, from

Index card. (2017). Retrieved 10 November 2017, from

Kornell, N., & Bjork, R. (2008). Optimising self-regulated study: The benefits—and costs—of dropping flashcards. Memory16(2), 125-136.

Lecture. (2017). Retrieved 10 November 2017, from

McGarry, K. (2017). Effortful Learning: Application of SAFMEDSCognitive mindset. Retrieved 10 November 2017, from

McGarry, K. (2017). Effortful Learning: Desirable DifficultyCognitive mindset. Retrieved 10 November 2017, from

McGarry, K. (2017). Liquid NetworkingCognitive mindset. Retrieved 10 November 2017, from

Microsoft PowerPoint. (2017). Retrieved 10 November 2017, from

Serial anticipation method – Oxford Reference. (2017). Retrieved 10 November 2017, from

Posted in learning, Psychology

Effortful Learning: Application of SAFMEDS

For the second part of this three-part series, we will examine different methods of effective learning that use desirable difficulties. Learning is typically viewed in a subjective manner, especially learning strategies; but this post will apply psychology and cognition to learning.

Learning is typically viewed in a subjective manner, especially learning strategies; but this post will apply psychology and cognition to learning.

Differentiated instruction, is about varying the way material is presented, and there are a few effective ways of doing this. The first as we know is having discussions rather than a lecture because every discussion is different in how it is presented and the information that is discussed. another way is to have student participation in class, rather than having a single professor give the same speech (that she/he has probably given multiple times) invite student involvement. Unfortunately, there is a lack of student participation, and some time to get students to interact in class is quite difficult. This is because we are uncomfortable talking to 200 students, we are unsure of our understanding, it could be embarrassing, or (just like teachers) we have an image that we don’t want to risk, so maybe we should start a social movement to take control of our class and learning (but that is a different blog).

The organizational effect is about organizing your own material, and by doing so it is better understood and remembered. I use this technique myself, where I collect all the information from lecture slides, notes, textbook and additional resources, and organize them into what I call the “golden notebook” where I organize and rewrite my material in a way that makes sense to me. By doing so, I am not just memorizing, but understanding the material in a more comprehensive way. With lectures and slides, most professors organize material so that we can easily understand it, but by doing so, they professors are learning more than we are in the long run, as they are organizing the material is a way that makes sense to them and teaches it to us, even though we are the one taking the exams. For example, one of my professors begins every set of slides with a detailed outline of talking points, which he sticks to religiously: outline

The nice thing about desirable difficulties is that a variety of components can be exploited in the same learning technique, which leads us to a highly effective tool.

Say-All-Fast-Minute-Every-Day-Shuffled aka SAFMEDS is a type of learning system (Lindsley, 1996) that stems from B.F. Skinner and his free operant learning, which is that the learner is free to make as many responses to each stimulus without interference, but there is varying of the environment or stimuli, resulting in development and learning occurs, to which these same principles are used in the SAFMEDS technique.

Index cards are used, where on one side you have a definition or explanation, while on the other side features a term, a statistic, or a name that is short to read.  The goal of SAFMEDS card is to promote fluency with novel stimuli.

With this task, the learner has freedom in a few different portions that positively impact their learning. Freedom to present the stimuli, pertains positively that they earn can control the fluency of how the cards are presented, resulting in a rhythmical pattern that contributes to their performance of fluency. The learner also controls the pace of when they go through the shuffled deck. if the learner is struggling with the material, then they have the freedom to review the SAFMEDS deck the next day, but if a learner is performing well, then they might wait 2 days before going through the shuffled deck again. with this freedom, it seems quite like one of the desirable difficulties of spaced repetition or the spacing effect. each time the learner goes through their deck active recall is enacted.

Free to form responses is when the learner can adapt the material in their favor, to suit their responses while learning. In other words, learners made their own SAFMEDS deck that contained their own abbreviations and organized the material on each card that made sense to each of them. This again sounds quite like the Organizational effect of desirable difficulties.

Freedom to repeat responses is described as the learner can repeat and go through their SAFMEDS deck as much as they need to learn, which means that repeated responses will occur. But each time they go through their self-made deck is shuffled to help promote fluency and prevent serial learning effect and memorization, by exploiting disfluency through shuffling. so, by varying the material, the learners learn the material better through random repetition. This is like the disfluency effect, where the same material is presented in a novel form that enhances learning through attention.

The final freedom is the Freedom to speed. This is described as establishing a time limit when going through the SAFMEDS deck to motivate the learn and promote more fluent responses that had to better learning. by adding a time limit of one minute, is it able to show the progress and feedback of improvement.  when the learner can only answer 10 cards within 1 minute, it shows to them that they need to improve by going through their deck tomorrow.  In addition to the progression, measurable feedback is provided, through the tracking of their progress. This tracking is done by another tool known as the Standard Celebration Chart: filled+in+chart

With this chart, the learner can track their progress and improvement that extend past days, weeks, into months and years. With the time limit and the Celebration chart, a learner is provided delayed feedback as part of desirable difficulties, by showing their progression and improvement that extend back by weeks, months and years.

This learning system not only applies to four of the desirable difficulties, but it applies to ALL the desirable difficulties that were discussed the last blog. differentiated instruction pertains to the learner’s requirement to shuffle the deck before each use, in which by doing so they vary the content or order of the material. Promoting alertness and fluency. The final desirable difficulty that SAFMEDS applied to is the obvious one of the testing effect. by using novel terms and definitions, where the learner self-tests with their material, by actively retrieving information each time they go through their SAFMEDS deck.

Here is an example of what the SAFMEDS cards look like:Figure-1-Example-of-the-front-and-back-of-two-of-the-SAFMEDS-cards-from-Pack-1

For this weeks featured photo, it is a lithograph print of mine, that I believe relates quite well to one of the desirable difficulties: disfluency effect. Most people when they see this, they assume it is a typical five-fingered hand, but with careful counting, they realize that an extra hand member is added. Did you notice it?



Calkin, A. (2005). Precision teaching: The Standard Celeration Charts. The Behavior Analyst Today, 6(4), pp.207-215. (2017). Precision teaching. [online] Available at: [Accessed 3 Nov. 2017].

Gibson, V. (2017). Differentiating Instruction and Practice: Practical Steps for Implementation | Center for Development and Learning. [online] Available at: [Accessed 3 Nov. 2017].

Johnston, J. and Pennypacker, H. (1971). A behavioral approach to college teaching. American Psychologist, 26(3), pp.219-244.

Lindsley, O. (1996). The Four Free-Operant Freedoms. The Behavior Analyst, 19(2), pp.199-210.

Potts, L., Eshleman, J. and Cooper, J. (1993). Ogden R. Lindsley and the Historical Development of Precision Teaching. The Behavior Analyst, 16(2), pp.177-189.

Quigley, S., Peterson, S., Frieder, J. and Peck, K. (2017). A Review of SAFMEDS: Evidence for Procedures, Outcomes and Directions for Future Research. The Behavior Analyst.




Posted in learning, Photography, Psychology

Effortful Learning: Desirable Difficulties

This post is the beginning of a set of blogs that focus on one topic, analyzing effortful learning. It will be divided into three sections; this first post will examine the components of desirable difficulty.

Traditional and most today’s education is composed of teacher-centered methods focusing on mechanical or habitual learning and memorization, and then is applied to standardized testing resulting in grades. Because of this teacher-centered method, teachers stand in front of a class, with a well-organized slideshow, and lecture by reading off the slides, while the students listen, with the hopes of learning. After several lectures, students cram for multiple choice exams, receiving passable grades (ranging from a D to an A). This educational system, works for both most faculty and students, where students get a degree at the end, but how much of the information that they cram, do they learn, and remember a few semesters, months or even years later? Probably not! And what about those few select students who want to do more than passing a class and get a degree, they want to remember, learn, and gain knowledge that will last them for more than a semester, month or a year.

Because “learning is the process of acquiring new or modifying existing knowledge, behaviors, skills, values, or preferences,” it requires time and effort, and cannot be done effortlessly. To alleviate this problem of effortless learning, and give those select student’s methods to learn and recall it at any time, desirable difficulties is introduced.

Desirable difficulties is a learning task that requires a large amount of effort and desire for more effective learning, resulting in long-term knowledge. The purpose is to make the individual struggle and have difficulty with learning novel or complex information, resulting in more attention and memory being involved, causing longer retention of that information. Both the desire and difficulty are executed by 6 components: differentiated instruction, disfluency effect, organizational effect, testing effect, spacing effect, and delayed feedback.

Differentiated instruction (AKA Differentiated learning) is where variety is provided within learning and teaching. Variety can be achieved using different methods. Varying the content being taught, how the information is presented, the product or result, or the environment of where the information is being presented to reflect more flexibility; all of which promote alertness, and interactivity and increase learning. An example of differentiated instruction is the notion of classrooms:


The lecture hall is a fixed environment that promotes passive learning and listening, while the flexible environment of roundtables invites discussion, interaction and active learning.

The second component: disfluency effect (AKA cognitive disfluency) is purposely making information and material more difficult to comprehend. Typically with familiar and easy to read information, attention is lower, resulting in passive learning.  When information is unfamiliar or difficult to read, more attention provided, resulting in active cognitive processes. Some examples of disfluency could be as simple as making the text a more difficult to read font, as complex as the perception of people towards the familiar or unfamiliar material, resulting in biased and influenced response. One study by Adam Alter involved the perception of names. When names were familiar and simple to the participants, they responded more positively to the people with names like Tom, Jim, Alice. While with names that were unfamiliar and difficult to pronounce, participants responded negatively to names like Latifah, Itzel, and Chadwick.  Often what occurs is that with either fluency or disfluency of material can change the cognitive processes that are typically used on the target, in other words, if it is a difficult task, then a type of meta cognition signal occurs, and more attention occurs. An example of this is the typography style of this paragraph. 

The third component is the organizational effect. This effect (as discussed in a previous blog) is described as organizing, summarizing, and bullet pointing their own material and research; rather than just memorization or relying on the professor to structure the material or lecture. The student as they organize and structure their own material while in the process struggle with difficulty to put a large amount of unorganized material into a clear and readable structure. Resulting in more familiarity with the material, and allowing it to be better ingrained in your Long Term Memory (LTM) for later recall.  An example of this organizational effect is this Chinese Proverb:

Teach Them To Fish Quote Creative Participatory Employment Plans That Work

This proverb (I believe) applies to learn and teaching as well, rather than having the teacher do all the work while the student learns passively for a semester, have the student do all the work so that he can remember the material for a lifetime.

The fourth component, the testing effect is the idea that recalling and self-testing and relating novel information to previously gained knowledge strengthen recall, and resulting in better retrieval, rather than just rereading over reviewing the material. The testing effect is mostly associated with memory processes, relating to the overheard phrase of “practice makes perfect”. To remember something, it must be recalled and strengthened the testing effect, much like memory is often associated with the idea of a file cabinet, where once the information is encoded, it can be accessed at any time. This is not true; it is more like a muscle. Only through practice, and repetition can the muscle (memory or testing effect) be strengthened, and it must be recalled over time, to keep its strength, if not, it slowly gets weaker. To strength the material, students first must struggle with the material causing active learning and long-term retention.


Our brain (memory) is not like a filing cabinet, it is like a muscle.

The fifth component is the spacing effect (AKA spaced repetition). This effect occurs when information is retrieved at spaced intervals before or now that is it forgotten, rather than one time, typically right before the information is needed. By doing so, the information is retrieved more regularly, becoming more familiar. This like the previously mentioned components can be difficult to do, but when it is difficult, the information becomes strengthened and can be actively retrieved easier. An analogy of this spacing effect is a yoyo:81jS21RCVRL._SY355_

Like a yoyo, when a novice starts out, it is difficult to throw the yoyo to the end of the string and to catch it successfully, but with practice, and persistence, the novice can throw the yoyo to the end of the string and catch it successfully. With even more practice, the novice becomes an expert and can perform tricks where the yoyo remains at the end of the string in a sleeper position. Information is the same way, with more recall or practice the information can retain its position and strength over time.

The final component is delayed feedback. We all know that feedback is critical to learning, improvement, as well as learning from failures and relishing in success. But like testing and spacing effect, delayed feedback is where a student refrains from immediately reviewing answers, to partially forget them, only to review the feedback at a delayed time. This results in (like the spacing effect) the wrong answers or feedback in more encoded and strengthened over time, because of retrieval.

As you can see with all the different components of desirable difficulty, they are better and more effective when used collectively, rather than individually.

This week featured photo is of a difficult to read typography based mural. that is colorful and pack with detail and imagery that makes many people slow down during their busy days, to admire the graffiti.


Alter, A. (2017). DISFLUENCY | [online] Available at: [Accessed 27 Oct. 2017].

Caswell, J. and Tomlinson, C. (2003). A Differentiated Way to Think about Teaching. The English Journal, 92(4), p.93. (2017). Desirable difficulty. [online] Available at: [Accessed 27 Oct. 2017]. (2017). Learning. [online] Available at: [Accessed 27 Oct. 2017]. (2017). Traditional education. [online] Available at: [Accessed 27 Oct. 2017].

McGarry, K. (2017). Ikea’s Value of Learning.. [online] Cognitive mindset. Available at: [Accessed 27 Oct. 2017].

Schmidt, R. and Bjork, R. (1992). New Conceptualizations of Practice: Common Principles in Three Paradigms Suggest New Concepts for Training. Psychological Science, 3(4), pp.207-218.

Tomlinson, C. (2017). Differentiated Instruction. In: C. Callahan and H. Hertberg-Davis, ed., Fundamentals of Gifted Education: Considering Multiple Perspectives. Routledge, pp.287-298.


Posted in learning, Psychology

The Reality of the Student-Teacher Relationship

Today (October 5th) is National Teachers Day, so in honor of this, I was planning on doing a blog post about student-teacher relationships and how it impacts learning, but after talking with my professor (you know who you are), I have a very different image. So, this blog will still examine the student-teacher relationship, but it will also give way to the recently discovered insight that I gained, by talking with my own professor.

For many students, especially in post-secondary education, they tend to only go and talk to a professor about grades. They will make an appointment typically, before, or after an exam or assignment is due and a good portion of the students won’t even make the effort to talk to their professor. This type of interaction or lack of interaction seems quite logical, because in primary school. The traditional relationship between students and teachers is established by authority. Teachers are worshiped and everything they say is golden. Moreover, seeing or interacting with a teacher outside the school is like seeing a dog walk on its hind legs (it’s just unnatural). Resulting in a lack of student-teacher communication, which impacts student learning.

One study that shines a light on this impact of learning through student-teacher relationship is explored by examining the core dimensions: control, trust and intimacy.

The idea of control, leads back to the position of authority that teachers hold, where students have no power in what they learn, or how they learn it, portraying the image of passive learning. But students don’t realize that they hold more power than they think, because if it wasn’t for students, there would be no need for teachers. By giving students control over their learning, you can empower them, and increase their motivation towards more active learning. This empowerment is established by giving the students the responsibility over their learning, rather than putting it in the hands of teachers.

By giving students this power, it creates a trust between the student and the teacher. The teacher is trusting the students to learn on their own, with passion and motivation. The students learn to trust the teacher more because the student feels like the teacher trust them, because they allowed the students to control their own learning. SO, with this established trust, it allows for more communication to flourish, thus creating a better student teacher relationship.

intimacy is defined as feelings of closeness and connection, so in regards to the student-teacher relationship. So, when there is shared control between the student and the teacher, both trust and intimacy (in term of closeness or a connection) will begin to bloom, thus increasing the students learning and motivation towards learning.

With this feedback, it seems that if teachers give students control over their learning, a better relationship and more communication will form, and with an open dialogue, students may be more willing to critic the teacher’s material and lectures. It sounds like an easy solution to a difficult problem, right? Wrong! even if students were given this control, there would still be a lot of students who will refuse to have an open dialogue with their teacher or professor, because some professors can be unapproachable, and portray the perspective of not caring for their students. One of the big issues with this solution, is that even if feedback were given, it probably wouldn’t change the way teachers or professors instruct.

With this idea of feedback, students would think that by giving feedback to their teachers of professors that it would result in a change in their teaching or the material, but with further research no feedback is used in this way.  At the University of Lethbridge, the faculty has a handbook that contains a large amount of useful information. A handbook such as this is typically for faculty eyes only. But with investigation I found something probably unknown to many students. In article 12 under the heading of “Teaching Effectiveness”, I can across a very interesting detail about student assessment. It states ” Effectiveness as a teacher may be assessed by a variety of means, including evaluation by fellow Faculty Members and through student appraisals though no assessment will be based mainly on student appraisals”. In other words, student evaluations and appraisals aren’t taken into consideration when evaluating a teacher. This quote shocked me, because shouldn’t a professor be graded by the students they are teaching? After reading this, it appears to me that this detail about teacher assessments are a way to safeguard the teachers, departments and the university. Leading to the conclusion although the university takes our money; professors, departments and the University don’t trust us to make the right decision in our own education.

On this note, I lead into the insight I have received from talking with my own professor regarding this topic, and education in general.

It seems like there is no point in writing about trying to improve the student teacher dialogue or relationship because it would not make any difference. I say this because teachers are so fixed on the context of their lectures and assignments that they don’t focus on the delivery of the material or how we are understanding the material. Even if teachers and professors were given an opportunity to change how they teach, if even it means less work for them, they would refuse. to which I repeat, teachers are only focused on going through and lecturing on as much material as possible, putting quantity of information over the quality of learning. With this reflection, it seems like the direction of education is going nowhere, so why try to change the system of education, if it can’t or doesn’t want to be changed. Not only is the system of education and the teachers to blame, I think the students are partly to blame as well. As students, we complain about a lack of change, and a lack of learning and quality education, but when students are faced with an opportunity to change or do something different, we fear it. For example, at my university I have this class that features no lectures and no exams, instead the students teach by doing talks, and we write a weekly blog. when students registered in the class, see this new way of learning, students are lost and even some drop out. Based on this, it seems like students are happy and content to be in this bubble where they think they are getting an education, and a degree to hang on the wall. Me personally, I am not content living in a bubble, especially when I know different. To put this in perspective, because of technology, we have access to every piece of information in the world. Decades ago, teachers and professors were the only form of access to information, to which it is now replaced by Wikipedia, and google scholar. So, it seems to me that, not only does teaching count for nothing, but maybe teaching is no longer needed.


Here are some good examples of teachers: Mrs Frizzle from the Magic School Bus, Bill Nye the Science Guy, and Elizabeth Halsey from Bad Teacher.

But in honour of National Teachers Day, here is the perfect example of having control, trust, and intimacy with a teacher can result in open dialogue and the ideal student-teacher relationship. The featured photo is of one of the most influential teachers I have ever had: Mrs. Kathy Glasgo. She taught me not only academia, but life lessons, which I still carry to this day.


Dobransky, N. and Frymier, A. (2004). Developing teacher‐student relationships through out of class communication. Communication Quarterly, 52(3), pp.211-223.

Godsey, M. (2017). When the Internet Delivers Its Own Content, What’s Left for the Teacher?. [online] The Atlantic. Available at: [Accessed 6 Oct. 2017].

Jones, B. (2009). Motivating Students to Engage in Learning : The MUSIC Model of Academic Motivation. International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 21(2).

Martin, J. (2017). Academia: Can We Save Ourselves from Ourselves?. [online] Linkedin. Available at: [Accessed 6 Oct. 2017].

Martin, J. (2017). Teaching and Education.