Bridging the Gap: Cognitive Research and Instructional Practice


As part of an effort to help bridge the gap between cognitive science and pedagogy, a subcommittee of CUNY's directors of Centers for Teaching and Learning examined research-based evidence and theory and applying their collective knowledge to the design of a model seminar to be offered at campuses across CUNY. Bridging the Gap is a program designed to more fully leverage the collective resources of the University to systematically provide faculty development aimed at bridging the gap between cognitive research and instructional practice— with the ultimate goal of improving student outcomes.

Dr. Meg Tarafdar is the facilitator of Bridging the Gap --an intellectually stimulating workshop series comprised of readings, guest lectures, and group discussions. Dr. Tarafdar will encourage all participants to examine their own teaching practices, those of their colleagues, and an array of research-based exemplars. Participants will have the opportunity to convene the semester after the implementation to reflect on their learning and their experience of implementing new teaching strategies.

how learning works

Common readings will be taken from How Learning Works: Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching (Ambrose, et. al., 2010).


  • Dates
  • Session 1
  • Session 2
  • Session 3
  • Session 4
  • Session 5

Workshop Series for the Spring 2014 Sessions

Join us on Wednesdays from 12:15pm to 1:45pm


Session One: How Does Students’ Prior Knowledge Affect Their Learning?
Wed. Feb 5, 12:15 pm-1:45pm

Session Two: How Do Students Develop Mastery?
Wed. March 5, 12:15 pm-1:45pm

Session Three: What Kinds of Practice and Feedback Enhance Student Learning? Wed. March 19, 12:15 pm-1:45pm

Session Four: How Do Students Become Self Directed Learners?
Wed. April 23, 12:15 pm-1:45pm

Wrap Up Session/Presentations: Wed. May 7, 12:15 pm-1:45pm  

How Does Students' Prior Knowledge Affect Their Learning?  Students link new ideas and information to what they already know.  

Prior knowledge can hinder learning in the case of inactive, insufficient, inappropriate, or inaccurate knowledge, but it can also be harnessed to enhance learning.

Research consensus:

Declarative knowledge (object-level concepts) and procedural knowledge (how and when to apply those concepts) do not always go hand in hand. One without the other is a knowledge gap that can be tricky to spot, especially in self-assessment.

Existing knowledge needs to be active to be effective; activation can be achieved with minor prompts and reminders, as well as questions designed to trigger recall.

Students may activate existing knowledge that's inappropriate(e.g. the colloquial/intuitive meaning of "force" when learning Newtonian physics) or inaccurate. Such activation interferes with learning, leads to incorrect conclusions, and predisposes students to resist conflicting evidence.

Inaccurate isolated facts can be unlearned through empiricism and explicit refutation. Deeper misconceptions can be extremely persistent, but patient repetition and a long series of small inferential bridges can help.

Learning Outcomes:

Identify Five strategies for addressing gaps in prior knowledge

How Do Students Develop Mastery? Students must learn to integrate the skills and know when to apply them. Instructors can facilitate mastery by utilizing several approaches:                                                          -giving students opportunities to apply skil;ls or knowledge in diverse contexts                               -Discussing the conditions of applicability                                                                                          -Using comparisons to help students identify deep features                                                              -Providing prompts to relevant knowledge

What kinds of Practice and Feedback Enhance Learning? Practice is often misguided and feedback is poorly timed, insufficient, or unfocused. To be effective, practice should be directed by goals and coupled with targeted feedback.

How do students become self-directed learners? Metacognition--"the process of reflecting on and directing one's own thinking" is an essential ability. Students must learn and practice an array of metacognitive skills.

Faculty Reflections on their learning and implementing new teaching strategies.