Passover, Eid, Diwali, Thanksgiving, Christmas. The holidays in 2020 have taken a hit.

Although we can’t be together with family, this year we’re reimagining our holiday traditions. And we have a lot of traditions. As a family, we’ve incorporated traditions from places we’ve lived and people we’ve loved, using our holiday traditions to form a strong family culture.

Spin the globe and you’ll probably land on a spot a family member or friend lives in. Photo by La Victorie on Unsplash

When it’s not 2020, we spend months planning our holidays, building time for the cousins to maintain their friendships and for us to reinforce our family’s unique culture. We live on opposite ends of the earth (quite literally: the Midwest, Europe and…


This is the eighth, bonus story in a series of posts about how learning science insights can improve course design. The other stories are linked within and included at the end of this post.

I’ve been working on this series about using learning science insights to improve course design since 2018. Now, in 2020, it seems like we need to look back at learning science to see how it can help us navigate teaching during a pandemic.

Throughout 2020, schools in much of the world have been shuttered — sometimes for just a few weeks, sometimes for months or even…


This is the third story in a series of posts about how learning science insights can improve course design. The other stories are linked within and included at the end of this post.

We can talk about learning science until we’re blue in the face, but the real meat and potatoes of teaching is content.

Exactly what is it that we’re teaching?

Turns out, learning science has something to say about that.

From choosing content, to knowing what students need to do with that content, to figuring out how to break down that content, to understanding how to organize the…


Phew! You made it! This is the seventh story in a series of posts about how learning science insights can improve course design. The other stories are linked within and included at the end of this post.

Teaching to the test or testing to teach?

Ah, assessment. Tests, quizzes, essays, projects, presentations, reports. They cause all-nighters, headaches, tears. They dominate teacher time and parents’ understanding of success.

And they can absolutely be improved through learning science.

We’ll talk about formative assessment (assessment for learning) and summative assessment (assessment of learning). We’ll talk about aligned assessment and authentic assessment. …


This is the sixth story in a series of posts about how learning science insights can improve course design. The other stories are linked within and included at the end of this post.

As teachers, we know a lot about learning. We know we try to make it engaging so that students can discover a passion about a subject. We try to make learning fun and emphasize effort over achievement in our classes.

But what if that isn’t the whole truth about how we should be thinking about learning?

There’s a lot of learning science research that says the best…


This is the fifth story in a series of posts about how learning science insights can improve course design. The other stories are linked within and included at the end of this post.

Feedback is one of the single most effective ways to improve student learning.

Feedback is essential to learning.

Feedback tells us how we’re doing. How close (or far!) we are from our targets. What changes we need to make in order to improve.

Feedback can boost our confidence or show us where we struggle. Feedback can change our beliefs about ourselves.

As you would expect from something…


This is the fourth story in a series of posts about how learning science insights can improve course design. The other stories are linked within and included at the end of this post.

Teachers build up their toolboxes of teaching strategies, learning from courses, professional development, each other, and observations of what works in their classes. Teaching strategies — or a general approach to teaching — should also be informed by learning science.

Here, we talk about principles of using multiple media in your teaching; questioning and students creating their own explanations; wait time; different ways to view active learning…


This is the second story in a series of posts about how learning science insights can improve course design. The other stories are linked within and included at the end of this post.

Teachers balance many competing needs when planning their lessons.

The content can drive our planning. The type of knowledge the students need to demonstrate impacts our plans. Logistics like the length of the class period, whether there’s a fire drill, how many students will be missing for a sports trip, and whether there’s space in the classroom to move desks are in the backs of our minds…


The Learning Science of Learning Objectives

This story is the first in a series of stories about how learning science can improve course design. The other stories are linked within and at the end of this post.

Course design starts with a focus. What do you want the students to learn?

Some systems call this a learning objective. Others call it a statement of inquiry or essential questions. Although they’re phrased differently, they have the same purpose: specify the goal of learning.

Why is this important from a learning science background?

It allows you to identify and link to relevant…


Hands together, palms upwards, with yellow flower coming up between the hands
Hands together, palms upwards, with yellow flower coming up between the hands
Photo by Lina Trochez on Unsplash

On this Juneteenth, and all days,

Grant me the curiosity to learn about the history of racism in this country, my community, my organizations, and my family;

Grant me the strength to reflect on and examine my own power and privilege in society and in the world; grant me the wisdom and will to harness that power for a more equitable world;

Grant me the moral courage to speak out against bias, stereotype, racism, and discrimination in my heart, within my family, among my friends, and in my community;

Grant me the courage to listen, hear, and understand the experiences…

Stephanie Hepner

I am passionate about helping people achieve their greatest potential.

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