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Uncommon Sense Teaching

via Coursera


Do your students spend too much (or too little) time learning, with disappointing results? Do they procrastinate in their study because it’s boring and they’re easily distracted? Are you working to make your teaching even more inclusive? Uncommon Sense Teaching will give you practical new insights that will help you solve these goals and challenges, and many more.

This is like no other course on teaching—it weaves late-breaking insights from neuroscience with personal insights from the classroom to provide unexpected, yet practical, new approaches. You’ll discover how to bring out the best from all your students in today’s diverse teaching environment, where students often have a wide range of abilities.

Uncommon Sense Teaching will take your teaching to a higher level for whatever subjects you teach, whether math, physics, literature, dance, art, or anything else; and whether you are teaching K-12, university, business, vocational, or at home.

Join us today to move into the new era of education!


  • Active Learning for All
    • This week’s material covers the deepest essence of how we learn—which can provide surprisingly helpful and practical insights for our teaching! When students are learning, ideas captured in students’ working memories are sent to long-term memory in the neocortex.

      One of our biggest challenges in learning is the diversity in size of learners’ working memory—that temporary holding place for new ideas we are thinking about. (We three instructors model these differences in working memory capacity, with Terry having high capacity, Barb low capacity, and Beth variable, depending on the material.)

      Some people can hold more information in working memory—these “racecar” learners might learn more quickly, but what they learn can go by in a blur—they can jump to conclusions and find it difficult to correct themselves when they make errors. “Hiker” learners with lesser capacity working memory may learn more slowly, but they can learn more deeply, and sometimes more creatively, as a consequence. They can also find it easier to be flexible and change their thinking when they are wrong.

      What this all means is that the different sizes of working memory can have their advantages and disadvantages. Scaffolded instruction is a key to being more inclusive, so we can reach all of our learners, not just the few who are easy to teach. We will also take a fresh view of active learning—those words, as you will discover, do not always mean what you think they mean!
  • Helping the Brain Build Better Links for Learning
    • This week, we'll dive into the brain's two major "superhighways" of learning. The declarative pathway wends its way through the hippocampus and onto the neocortex. This pathway is for new information students are trying to figure out or learn. A tiny, fun, metaphorical choir will help you better understand how the hippocampus (a glib character named Hip!), the neocortex (a capacious singer named Neo), and working memory (the Conductor) all interact to help students learn declaratively. And you'll learn how Beth used this type of learning, along with the underlying, all-important consolidation processes—to help her recover her ability to read the words she can now speak so eloquently.

      The more mysterious procedural pathway involves information, skills, or activities that we use or do so often that we don't want to have to waste cognitive resources in having to think about them. Think that drill means kill? Think again—we teachers ignore the value of the procedural pathway at our peril. As we'll discover, smartly done drill leads to skill!

      We'll also cover important issues related to lack of focus, including task switching, dual tasking, and continuous partial attention. But unrelenting focus isn't always the answer—as we'll see, there are tricks to help students get around the cognitive fixation that can cause them so many problems on tests. Finally, we'll show how using a neural approach to understanding the effects of your teaching can also help you to understand the value of seemingly unrelated ideas and approaches like physical exercise, and of metaphor, when it learning. It's going to be a fun, action-packed week!
  • Practice, Passion, and Procrastination
    • This week, we dive into one of students' most common issues with their studies—procrastination. A common tool for business, the Pomodoro Technique, turns out to be also useful to help students of all ages focus their meditation. This is because the Pomodoro Technique makes masterful use of the brain's focusing and relaxing modes of thinking. Judicious focusing and relaxing of one's thoughts is also a great way to figure out difficult or frustrating concepts or problems.

      But when it comes to studying, it's important not only to focus and relax, but also to step back and look at the big picture of where the studies are headed. Is the common career advice for students to "follow your passion" always the best advice? And there are other bigger picture issues related to learning to help ensure our students approach their studies, projects, and tests with the best possible attitude and preparation?
  • How Human Brains Evolved—and Why This Matters for your Teaching
    • Do children learn differently than adults? Yes they do, and this week's insights show us how our brains change as we mature. These changes mean that certain approaches that work great for our youngest students aren't necessarily appropriate for middle and high school students. Looking at learning from an evolutionary perspective helps us to understand why some types of learning are natural and easy, while other forms can be far more difficult. What are some of the best ways to tackle teaching the more-difficult-to-learn material? That's what this culminating week of our first MOOC in the Uncommon Sense Teaching Specialization is all about!

Taught by

Barbara Oakley, Beth Rogowsky and Dr. Terrence Sejnowski

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4.9 rating, based on 150 reviews

Start your review of Uncommon Sense Teaching

  • Anonymous
    An uncommonly surprising engineering perspective on learning Of most of the devices we use, we have a pretty good view of what is at the heart of their functioning. Cars have combustion or electrical engines, computers have chips and a CPU, our heating...
  • You might be expecting a rehash of Oakley and Sejnowski's "Learning How to Learn" aimed at teachers, but I am happy to report this is a new approach with plenty of new material. Yes, a recap of some basic concepts such as procrastination is included; it would not have been complete without them.

    Another interesting presentation packed with metaphors, animations, and enthusiasm. If you are a teacher or lecturer, I would recommend this course!
  • This is 100% percent better than the course I took "Learning how to learn" and that course was excellent. Also there is a lot of more information in this course to learn. I recommend all teachers to take this course. I read the book first, but the course is a must for several reasons. The course helps retain the concepts in the book and visual presentations bring the book to life and puts emphasis on the concepts being taught in the book. Highly recommend this book for everybody that wants to learn and wants to know about how the brain learns. I recommend both the Book and the course.
  • Brilliant

    Barb and Terry join hands with Beth to extend their excellent series of how to learn with how to teach.
    some parts are from their earlier courses, but that just serves to 'link it' as they say.

    Mixing lecture type declarative learning with active learning that helps 'link' the content in students' memory is what i take back most.

    Not too hard.
  • I loved the course, It have gotten me into a different of thinking. Now with me using my brain to it's compacity, I can better teach my students and see the signs in them where they need the help or where I need to slow down.

  • I love it! The concepts are clearly explained in simple language and excellent graphics. I would recommend this course to all teachers and parents even. Thanks!
  • Anonymous
    The pacing, clear and explicit explanations of complex information, visuals and graphics, hearing from three different presenters (vocal variety) helped with focus, frequent short assessments and final quizzes increased accountability and self-assessment...
  • Anonymous
    Uncommon Sense Teaching is an amazing course for educators to understand the deeper dimensions of the art of teaching. Highly recommend it to all Teachers and Parents. Starting with the description of working memory and long term memory, the authors...
  • Anonymous
    I am not a teacher, but mother of a child with learning difficulties. I found this course very useful, plenty of good ideas and strategies for helping him. It is also a funny course, main ideas well explained.
  • Anonymous
    This course is invaluable for anyone in the business of communicating information to any audience. Much of what I have learned in the course resonates with material I learned in my 9-month MEd, but this 4-week course distills the key findings in education...
  • Anonymous
    This course is awesome! A new instructor, Beth Rogowski, joins the Barb-Terrence team to animate the key neuroscience ideas on learning. I took the Learning How to Learn course on Coursera, but this one adds depth and introduces new ideas to help teachers...
  • Anonymous
    With no doubt, this course reaches the desired goal to bind together my daily practice and observations in the classroom with neuroscience in an amazing, fun and useful way. The team makes the scientific support visible by showing the referred papers...
  • Anonymous
    Very good course overall applying from the very beginning what they're advocating to become better teachers such as small lectures of 10 mn so that we can think and relate to what they've just taught us. I'm glad I took the course because it kinda answers...
  • Anonymous
    This course brings together the learning and cognitive science research with practical approaches for effective teaching. Having recently read "Uncommon Sense Teaching" and "A Mind for Numbers" as well as several other related books (Stanislas Deheane,...
  • Anonymous
    This course was a welcomed refresher and enlightening experience. The approaches used kept me engaged and I appreciated being apple to complete the modules in instances where I was initially delayed in completing them. The one-question quiz after most...
  • Anonymous
    Very inspiring. I've been a teaching for many years now, but this course still gave me some new insights. Love the 3 experts from different fields sharing their expertise. I'm not sure how much the title represents the content. Most of it seem to me to...
  • Anonymous
    The presentation of the contents is excellent. The professors present the information clearly and make it interesting, and, dare I say, entertaining. The visuals in the videos are very useful and help pay attention and retain the information. Also, the...
  • Anonymous
    The course is designed in a way which is interactive, it seems there is a conversation among the members. However, excessive use of it sacrifices the seriousness with which it is to be taken. I enjoyed the metaphors used in it. With the simple concept of racecar and hiker the concept of quick and slow learning is well understood.

    Some of the links to the books do not open for reading rather they are for buying which is disappointing. The expectation of the reader or the student is to read at least excerpts from it for a better understanding and an insight into what the books are about. Otherwise, a well thought and designed course which is both informative and interesting.
  • Anonymous
    Spoiler alert: it's not just for teachers!

    I took the course mainly to repeat the concepts of Barbara Oakley's and Terrence Sejnowski's first MOOC Learning How To Learn.

    However, I found plenty of new material in Uncommon Sense Teaching and enjoyed its fun way of presentation and brilliant metaphoric explanations. I found it slightly more difficult than LHTL. Apart from the valuable information, this course is filled with the love of its creators! I could feel it incessantly - both in the videos and in tasks. Therefore I am happy and most grateful to be able to take it, and for free.

    Highly recommended to everyone interested in learning (and teaching) effectively.
  • Anonymous
    Taking this course gave me tools so I can find best ways of helping my students to learn, I really enjoyed it!!

    The course is very dynamic and interactive, I acquired new technical knowledge not only about available and easy-to-apply methodologies, but also new knowledge about neuroscience.

    I believe that the combination of the three different styles our instructors showed they have makes it easy to effectively understand the basic concepts related to the two different types of learners that are reviewed from the beginning, and throughout the course it allows us to identify the different ways of learning that we can observe in the in our students.

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