Initial Publication Date: September 26, 2012

Teaching for Learning

As educators, we strive to teach so that students learn and internalize the material rather than memorize it and forget it. Extensive research shows that teaching for learning requires actively engaging students in the learning process, and that fostering their metacognitive skills can make a big difference as well. The presentations and resources below can help you engage your students in their own learning.

Jump down to additional resources on: Active Learning | Integrating Research & Teaching | Metacognition

Workshop and Conference Presentations

Active Learning and Interactive Teaching (PowerPoint 2007 (.pptx) 5.4MB Mar6 12) - This presentation, given by Janet Rankin (MIT) at the 2010 Minority Faculty Development Workshop, offers tips for designing courses and activities that promote active learning strategies. The presentation provides examples of strategies and pedagogies that use active learning.

Connecting Teaching and Research: Is it the Imposible Dream? (PowerPoint 84kB Mar6 12) - This presentation, given by Donna Qualters (Northeastern University) at the 2006 Minority Faculty Development Workshop, provides information about integrating one's research into the classroom to actively engage students.

Teaching Students HOW to Learn: Metacognition is the Key (PowerPoint 2007 (.pptx) 2.1MB Mar6 12) - This presentation, given by Saundra McGuire (Louisiana State University) at the 2010 Minority Faculty Development Workshop, explains metacognition and its importance in student learning. Metacognition involves students self reflecting on their thinking and learning in order to assess what they do and no not understand and to take control of their learning.

You and Your Teaching Role (PowerPoint 9.3MB Jul30 12) - This presentation, given by Joyce Weinsheimer (Georgia Tech) at the 2008 Cross-Disciplinary Initiative for Minority Women Faculty conference, offers some general ideas for how to design your course to maximize learning.

Active Learning, Course Design, and Assessing Student Learning

Experts recommend designing your course end to beginning: focusing first on what you want your students to be able to do at the end of the course, then on how you will know whether they have accomplished those goals, and finally on what kinds of learning and assessment experiences you will need to provide for them to accomplish those goals (e.g. Wiggins, G. and McTighe, J. (1998) ). Research shows that students learn far more when they are actively engaged than when they listen passively (e.g., NRC, 2000 ). There are many ways to engage students in their learning, and including even a two-three minute exercise after 12-18 minutes of lecture significantly increases student understanding and retention of material (Wenzel, 1999 ). You can also use these breaks for classroom assessment techniques, to find out how well your students are understanding the course material as you teach it.

Students at a STEM seminar assemble a catapult
Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (NJROTC) Cadet Ensigns, from left, Britany DeFrance, Brooke Zimmerman, Brianca Hollins and James Arnott assemble a wooden catapult for their group project. The catapult was one of the group projects during the NJROTC Science, Technology, Engineering and Math seminar at the University of San Diego.

Integrating Research and Teaching

Integrating your own teaching and research is one way to engage your students; incorporating research projects in your courses is another. The first lets students know that science and engineering are dynamic, interesting fields of endeavor where there are still problems to solve. The second gives them experience in solving real-world problems in the STEM disciplines.

  • Integrating Research into Courses provides a list of methods for integrating research activities into the classroom, with examples as well as some information on motivating students. While the examples are from the geosciences, the information is pertinent across the STEM disciplines and beyond. This page is based on a session led by Rachel Beane, Bowdoin College and Steven Wojtal, Oberlin College at the 2005 On the Cutting Edge workshop on Preparing for an Academic Career in the Geosciences.
  • Course-Based Research Projects describes one scientist's approach to engaging students in semester-long research activities in his upper-level undergraduate courses.
  • Undergraduate Research is a rich set of web pages describing the how and why of engaging undergraduate students in research experiences, in or out of the classroom.


Metacognition is a critically important, yet often overlooked component of learning. Effective learning involves planning and goal-setting, monitoring one's progress, and adapting as needed. All of these activities are metacognitive in nature. By teaching students these skills - all of which can be learned - we can improve student learning. Here are a few resources to get you started teaching your students metacognitive skills:

Additional Resources

One excellent source of ideas and information about teaching in the STEM disciplines is the Tomorrow's Professor Mailing List. You can sign up to receive email postings twice a week, or search the collection of past Tomorrow's Professor postings for topics of interest.