Art & Science of Learning, Event Summaries

Reflections on the Winter Institute


Last week, the Reinert Center hosted its annual Winter Institute, a day-long series of workshops focused on our theme for the year, The Art and Science of Learning.  In spite of the snowy morning, approximately 75 faculty and graduate students turned out to learn more about how learning works and how they can structure engaging, effective learning experiences.

The morning began with a lively keynote address by Donna LaVoie, Ph.D., Associate Dean in the College of Arts and Sciences and Professor of Psychology.  The keynote, entitled, “What Makes for Effective Teaching? A View from Cognitive Science,” was intended to summarize how adult cognition works and to provide a conceptual basis from which to choose effective instructional strategies .  As Dr. LaVoie explained, research has long shown that active learning is important, but many of us don’t always understand why that is so.  Central concepts from the literature on the interplay between attention, working memory, and long-term memory can help to answer that question.

LaVoie’s keynote address served as a touchstone for the rest of the day, which featured breakout sessions from SLU faculty:

Jennifer Ashley (Aviation Science), Russell Blyth (Mathematics and Computer Science), and Sarah Patrick (Epidemiology) engaged participants in a robust discussion on the topic of “Crafting Learning Experiences: Experiential, Problem-Based, and Active Learning.”

Amber Hinsley (Communication), Milta Little (Geriatrics), and David Pole (Interprofessional Education) shared their experiences assigning and assessing critical reflection in the classroom in a session entitled, “Revisiting Reflection: Critical Reflection at SLU.”

And Lenin Grajo (Occupational Science and Therapy), Kasi Williamson (Organizational Studies), and Lisa Willoughby (Psychology) described the role of personal context, personal experience, and personal values in shaping one’s teaching philosophy in “The Teaching Philosophy in Action: Shaping Classroom Practice.”

Finally, the day closed with an interactive workshop on “Assessing Non-Traditional Projects,” facilitated by the Reinert Center’s Gina Merys and Debra Lohe.

If you’d like to listen to Dr. LaVoie’s keynote, you can find the audio on our Audio Resources page on our website.

If you were unable to join us, or just wish to learn more about topics discussed, the following references might be useful:

A Faculty Focus Special Report on “Effective Strategies for Improving College Teaching and Learning,” Weimer. (LINK:

How Learning Works: Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching, Ambrose et al. (2010).  (LINK: