Weekly Bookclub Meetup

Chapter Two: How Does the Way Students Organize Knowledge Affect Their Learning?

Principle: How students organize knowledge influences how
they learn and apply what they know.



How long does it take you to solve a Rubik’s cube? What knowledge organizations allow an expert to solve a Rubik’s cube in 5.5 seconds? I cannot solve a Rubik’s cube and was amazed at the complex knowledge organizations that Rubik’s cube experts use. What really jumped out for me when reflecting on this chapter was the complex knowledge organizations we have for many tasks even beyond complex domains. 


In Chapter Two of How Learning Works: 7 Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching Ambrose et al, look at how experts create and maintain complex and meaningful ways of organizing knowledge. This aids them in memory retrieval and understanding the complex knowledge of their domain. In contrast, students often have “not yet developed such complex and or meaningful ways of organizing the content they encounter in the course” (Ambrose et al. 2010, p.46). The authors then focus in on research about how knowledge is formed and outline ways that experts’ and novices’ knowledge organizations differ.

So What

The authors suggest that instructors need to be aware of the different knowledge organizations between novices and experts in their discipline/domain when they design tasks. They also suggest a number of ways that instructors can “provide structures that highlight to our students how we organize disciplinary knowledge and draw on it to perform specific tasks” (Ambrose et al. 2010, p.46). Strategies that they suggest include, using concept maps with students, graphic organizers and making connections between concepts explicit.

Now What

To reflect on this chapter and prepare for the upcoming book club meeting you may wish to complete the following: 

  1. Reflect on the implications of knowledge organization to your own practice or your overall reaction to this chapter by commenting below.
  2. Use a concept mapping tool such as https://bubbl.us/  or https://www.mindmup.com to share a map of a single concept within your discipline or an area of interest.

To encourage participation, those who share a comment/post this week will have their name entered into the Chapter Two draw for a $25 CAD gift certificate for Chapters Indigo. Read the contest guidelines here. Good luck!

The Book Club chat on Chapter Two will take place on Friday, September 21st at 10 AM PST.  Check out the schedule and how to connect with the group. We also invite you to say hello in the Comments section of our Intro post.




Book Club Meeting: Chapter One

Hello Everyone,

The first meeting of the BCcampus Book Club will be tomorrow, Friday September 14th at 10 AM PST.

Please connect a few minutes earlier to check your technical setup (especially your audio connection). Information about Blue Jeans web conferencing and the link to our dedicated room is provided here.

We will take the first 5 minutes for a few brief introductions then 30-40 minutes for our book club chat.

Here are a few questions to help us get started in our Chapter One discussion.

  • What idea(s) on Prior Knowledge (and the research-based principle) most resonated for you?
  • Do you have a strategy to address PK in your subject area that you find particularly useful and would like to share with fellow bookclubbers?
  • Is there a PK challenge you have that you’d like to ask this group for help?

Looking forward to meeting you!

Chat soon,

Leva Lee, Chapter One Facilitator

P.S. Bring your cuppa tea or coffee!




Recent, Weekly Updates

Chapter One: How does Students’ Prior Knowledge Affect Their Learning?

What is the Principle?

Prior knowledge can help or hinder learning.

In Chapter One of How Learning Works: 7 Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching (HLW), the authors delve into a look at the prior knowledge of learners and how it impacts learning. Prior knowledge (PK) can be a good foundation for building new knowledge, but research shows that student learning is influenced by the nature of the prior knowledge. Depending on a number of conditions, prior knowledge can help or hinder learning.

This diagram (re-created and adapted from the original in the book, Figure 1.1) shows the conditions for when prior knowledge helps or hinders learning.

Screen Shot 2018-09-06 at 11.59.50 AM

Prior knowledge (PK) helps learning when it is activated. In addition, that PK needs to be sufficient, appropriate and, above all, correct.

Prior knowledge (PK) that is problematic or that hinders learning is one or more of the following:

  • Inaccurate: Some deeply held misconceptions are difficult to correct.
  • Insufficient: There are many kinds of knowledge such as declarative (what) , procedural (how), contextual (when) knowledge. Students’ PK may have gaps.
  • Inappropriate: Correct but used at wrong time or context.
  • Incorrect: Knowledge that is wrong.

So What? (What does this mean for how we teach? What does this mean for helping students learn?)

Many of us use techniques to bridge, integrate, and activate learners’ prior knowledge  with the new content we are teaching. But have we considered more closely, the nature of their prior knowledge and whether it is sufficient, appropriate, as well as, accurate?

The HLW authors offer a variety of strategies in Chapter One to help us identify possible problem areas in learners’ prior knowledge and how to proactively address them. Some of these strategies include student self-assessment questions, looking for patterns of error, identifying discipline-specific conventions for our learners, or having them conduct and test predictions based on what they currently know.

Now What? (Applying the Prior knowledge principle to our practice.)

Take a moment to reflect on your current teaching practice. Is there a common misconception about the subject you teach?  Share what that is and a strategy you use (or plan to use) to address this issue. To do this, simply subscribe to this blog and post in the Chapter One Comments. Alternatively, you may share your thoughts using social media with the hashtag #BookClubBC.

To encourage participation, those who share a comment/post this week will have their name entered into the Chapter One draw for a $25 CAD gift certificate for Chapters Indigo. Read the contest guidelines here. Good luck!

The Book Club chat on Chapter One will take place on Friday, September 14th at 10 AM PST.  Check out the schedule and how to connect with the group. We also invite you to say hello in the Comments section of our Intro post.

Looking forward to reading together and meeting you online!



Owl by Oksana Latysheva from the Noun Project
Suitcase from the HLW graphic by Giulia Forsythe



Welcome to the BCcampus Online Book Club!


Welcome all to this fall. There’s excitement in the air for it’s the beginning of a new season of learning for our post-secondary colleagues and students. This excitement for some of us is also due to anticipation of the launch of The BCcampus Online Book Club on September 10th.

Why a book club you might ask?  Our community of post-secondary educators wanted a vehicle to create collegial connections; something to support opportunities to learn with each other and share what we are doing in teaching and learning. The idea of a book club focused on teaching and learning professional development was sparked and began to take shape at a meeting at the Festival of Learning in Vancouver in May 2018. Wonderful volunteer facilitators came forward to help. Yes, people are keen to do this kind of activity, but there would be some key stipulations: it should be open; easy to participate in; and it must be fun!

For our first book, we’ve selected How Learning Works: 7 Research-based Principles for Smart Teaching written by educators from Carnegie-Mellon University. First published in 2010, this book is “go-to” reading for those wanting to learn about what research says about how we learn and how it can inform our teaching practice.  A copy of this book should be easily available: you can borrow the book from most post-secondary teaching and learning centres or  libraries or purchase your own copy online.

Over the next several weeks, we invite you to read, reflect and share your thoughts and experiences in teaching  and learning through suggested book club activities: commenting on the blog, posting your stories on social media (#BookClubBC), and participating in the weekly web conference chats. We challenge you to apply some of the principles featured in each of the chapters if you’ve not already done so. We support you to participate in what interests you and you are able to do and to reach out for collegial wisdom should you need suggestions or have advice to contribute. We’ve built-n a few reading breaks for catching up as needed. (Check the schedule here.) Our hope is these learning moments will be starting points for deeper conversations on teaching and learning and the ideas we as educators care about.  In future, book selections will be driven by participants, so we invite you to hop onboard, get reading, and join us on this journey!

All the Best,

The BCcampus Online Book Club Facilitators

P.S. Please check out the Comments section!