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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


4.9 rating, based on 350 Class Central reviews

4.9 rating at Coursera based on 372 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 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!
  • 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 this...
  • 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.
  • 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 realise...
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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!
  • 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.

  • Anonymous
    This course has an outstanding design that enables effective self-paced learning. All the fundamental concepts are first introduced and explained, before building on them in the next stages of learning. Key aspects are very clearly presented. At the same...
  • Anonymous
    I decided to take this course after watching Dr Oakley's talks for TED and Google, and I was not disappointed. The course is presented in a highly comprehensible fashion (which you would expect, given the nature of the material). You are immediately...
  • Elena Tonkovidova
    Thank you so much for the course! This course is insightful, helpful, unusual, and, well fun! I've come from the family of teachers, so my parents' long conversations on how to teach and how to make students more engaged in learning were part of my...
  • Anonymous
    This course is well-designed suitably for a dedicated teacher as an effective MOOC. By following the course I have at the same time experienced the strategy I should also use in my own class. It would be insteresting to give some example of implementation...
  • Anonymous
    I would really like to thank all three teachers of this course Terry, Beth and Barb for a wonderful presentation. The teaching was clear and broken up into short videos that were very doable. As a teacher I will definitely take back all that I have learnt into my classroom practice. What I enjoyed most were the metaphors used and the pictures and snippets of students or others which were very apt. I could not afford to buy the book as it is in dollars and I don't get paid much as a teacher for poor kids. I would have liked if you could have given at least some limited access to it. But overall a very enjoyable and useful course for teachers. I would recommend it highly. Thank you again and well done.
  • Anonymous
    There is a lot of knowledge to be picked up in this course about learning and teaching (neuroscience and education combined). The course is delivered in a manner that follows what it preaches to make learning effective. There are lots of videos and each video is followed by a short quiz to help with immediate recall of the information, a summary of the content taught at the end of each module, and lots of references to research articles and books mentioned in the video presentation. Very useful for teachers interested to know how to improve their teaching methods as the knowledge from neuroscience will explain why these effective methods work.
  • Anonymous
    You are the best, guys!! I grew up under a dictatorship in Argentina from when I was 10 until I was 18, so I do not think I have to explain myself. Thank you for scientifically confirming what I have been working on my whole life to prove myself on my own terms. Know that you have brought tears to my eyes with the wealth of information now, thanks to your bravery, available to the rest of the world via MOOCs. Keep up with your passion and keep spreading the word, please!. Unfortunately, I do not have enough words in either Spanish or English to thank you enough.

    Con todo mi cariño y mi eterno agradecimiento.

    (María) Carolina Quintana
  • Anonymous
    This course is full of pertinent insights, it goes deeply and practically on how teachers can really help their students to be efficient in learning and all above it gives us answers about how and why.
    The many examples of people mentionned and especially scientists who contributed in this field linking education and neuroscience from the past and even nowadays have made this course so rich and credible and so profesional.
    SPECIAL THANKS to the TRIO of PROF. Oakley, PROF.Rogowsky and PROF. Sejnowski for their dedication, commitment and all above their sens of humor and metaphor. It added a nice touch of fun to the whole adventure!
  • Profile image for Adama Jibril
    Adama Jibril
    Uncommon sense teaching is the first MOOC program I have ever taken. Not only on Coursera but on any other MOOC site!
    To say I have enjoyed it is an absolute understatement. The resource persons were sweet, spoke explicitly and always carried me along! I felt as though we were physically together.
    Plus being a teacher myself, I simply couldn’t help but wish to be more like them!
    I loved each part of the course and will love to see much more of the same and even better in the future. Can’t wait for your team’s next courses!
    Thank you for the effort it took you to deliver this course.
    Much appreciated!
  • Anonymous
    This is the first part of a three-part course and I can't wait to take the second part. I have learned a lot from this part, which talks about the importance of scaffolding, retrieval practice, spaced repetition and so on. As a veteran teacher, I am energized by this course to try new ideas in my classroom as it combines cutting-edge research in neuroscience and practical ideas from the education field. I can't recommend this course more highly. I think it's a must for any teachers, whether you are in your pre-service or in-service stage. Thank you, Barb, Beth, and Terry! Let's learn it, link it, and just do it!
  • Anonymous
    This is much like taking what others took a lot of time to research and discover and learn their most important findings for yourself for way less time. This course offered me a new view of how we learn and while I won't get to apply it in teaching other students, I can apply it in mine as I continue to learn more and other things.

    -Yep, there's this bit in this course where broadening your passions is encouraged so while a lot of those who would take this course are teachers or while one might think it is educators who should be taking this one. t might actually interest and benefit any other "Joe" who gives it a try.

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