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Uncommon Sense Teaching

Deep Teaching Solutions 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


4.9 rating, based on 435 Class Central reviews

4.9 rating at Coursera based on 543 ratings

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 hea…
  • 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!
  • A very thoughtfully created class for teachers and learners alike, by three wonderful educators --- a teacher, a neuroscientist, and an engineer! Each brought their own unique expertise and experience in teaching this class. I first took thi…
  • Super information-dense, packed with the distilled pure essence of the latest in neuroscience and applying it to learning. All sources are available to read further. Absolutely love the science and evidence-backed approach, and challenging conventional wisdom in light of new discoveries.
  • 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.
  • I completed the specialization today. I found it quite useful. Uncommon sense teaching with online teaching seems a pretty good combination.
  • Uncommon Sense Teaching is a great course for teachers who really want to find ways to help their students.
    It gives easy-to-understand explanations and background knowledge that teachers need to know when instructing their students.
    Thus, after learning this course, teachers can better understand how to construct their courses and improve their teaching.
  • 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
    This is an essential course for all educators, parents of learners, and anyone who wants to learn more about teaching and learning. The course is well-paced on Coursera, and is both content-rich yet digestible within a couple weeks. The course dispels many myths of education, and provides modern, research-backed evidence for effective teaching and learning. The additional resources provided at the end of each week enable us to go as deep as we wish into the supporting evidence and subject matter.
  • Col Sumant Khare
    I simply loved everything about this course - it was fun, engaging , useful and valuable !

    The interdisciplinary expertise of Barbara, Terry and Beth brought in many perspectives which were insightful.

    Of course, the most interesting part for me was the understanding of Learning from a Neuroscience perspective and the thoughtful and 'cute' animations :)

    I would strongly recommend this course for teachers, trainers, coaches, parents, young adults....all !

    Personally, I will be applying all that I have learnt in my professional practice as a an Instructional Designer, Applied Neuroscience Facilitator and Coach starting NOW !
  • Profile image for Jacqueline Rodriguez
    Jacqueline Rodriguez
    This course was excellent! The presenters provided detailed information along with graphics to aid understanding of the key points. The videos were short enough to allow students to stop and think about the information that was just presented. Students had the opportunity to review the materials further, go into discussion forums, and/or listen to the video again. After each video, there was a question to answer based on the video presented. At the end of the week, the student had the opportunity to take a quiz. I would recommend this course to all teachers- new ones and seasoned ones as well.
  • Anonymous
    This course is beneficial for us both as learners and teachers. Being a teacher implies continuous learning so we should understand the essence of the process and get to know modern findings especially in the sphere of neuropsychology because we rea…
  • Sarah Margaret Beane
    This course helped me cement my understanding of the material contained in the excellent book Uncommon Sense Teaching. It is worth every second of your time! I love that I can now explain why it is necessary to interweave teacher directed learning w…
  • Anonymous
    Super information-dense, packed with the distilled pure essence of the latest in neuroscience and applying it to learning. All sources are available to read further. Absolutely love the science and evidence-backed approach, and challenging conventional wisdom in light of new discoveries.
  • Anonymous
    The book by itself is terrific, but the course brings the book to life in powerful ways. Read the book and do the course! I can't think of a book and course on neuroscience and education that is as imaginative and transformative as this one! Kudos to the instructors/authors!
  • Anonymous
    This course clearly explains how we learn and how we can teach so students learn. The instruction is clear and enjoyable. I like the spacing of questions, it helps me retain what I had just learned.
  • Anonymous
    This course is quite helpful in understanding student psychology. By understanding student psychology a teacher can communicate in a better way and make learning process easier for students.
  • Anonymous
    I thoroughly enjoyed this course. It was very informative and fun. With lots of good insights and practical ideas to try. And lots of interesting optional readings to follow-up on.

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