GSI Publications

Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence, Carnegie Mellon University

The following list presents the basic principles and teaching strategies that underlie effective learning. These principles are distilled from research from a variety in disciplines.
1. Students’ prior knowledge can help or hinder learning.
Students come into our courses with knowledge, beliefs, and attitudes gained in other courses and through daily life. As students bring this knowledge to bear in our classrooms, it influences how they filter and interpret what they are learning. If students’ prior knowledge is robust and accurate and activated at the appropriate time, it provides a strong foundation for building new knowledge. However, when knowledge is inert, insufficient for the task, activated inappropriately, or inaccurate, it can interfere with or impede new learning. To apply this principle, consider the following teaching techniques: