Academic First Year Experiences

Five Gears: The Teaching Learning Group at CSUN

Five Gears for Teaching & Learning

Five Gears for Activating Learning

The large graphic included here shows how the five gears for activating learning work together to produce mastery. Developed by the Teaching Learning Group after reading How Learning Works, the five gears are defined in further detail on the reverse of the graphic:

These principles are applicable to all models and modes of teaching and learning, whether online, hybrid, or in person.

Motivating Learning

Students feel motivated when the subject has personal value, they have expectations of being successful, and they feel supported in their learning by instructors and by other students. You can motivate learning by using class time to illustrate the value of a course, building in early success experiences, and providing support through re-teaching, extra-help sessions, and peer problem-solving sessions.

Organizing Knowledge

The explicit organization of knowledge in a course (or discipline) is necessary in order for students to retain, retrieve, and apply that knowledge. Students can benefit from analyzing the course map that has been created by an expert in the field and from making their own organizational structures.

Connecting Prior Knowledge

Students learn faster when a new concept is explicitly shown to be similar to a concept they have already learned in previous classes or through life experiences. Everything we teach has some component that students are familiar with that we can highlight to give students a starting place for new learning.

Practicing with Feedback

When students target their practice to focus on a new component or an area of weakness, and when they receive frequent and specific feedback, they learn better and faster. You may need to reduce or combine learning goals in order to permit sufficient practice on those that are most essential.

Developing Mastery

Mastery is developed through sustained (deep) engagement and self-reflection focusing on how and what is and is not being learned. Mastery also requires self-direction in designing one’s own learning experiences—e.g., identifying the project topic, components, resources, and schedule, along with continual self-assessment.

Five Gears 2014-2015 Faculty Learning Community

Pictured on this page are the 2014-2015 members of the Five Gears Faculty Learning Community.  Standing: Heidi Schumacher (Liberal Studies) Rachel Mackelprang (Biology), Theresa White (Africana Studies), Matthew d'Alessio (FLC co-facilitator, Geological Sciences), Cynthia Desrochers (FLC co-facilitator, College of Education, Special Projects), and Nanci Carr (Business Law).  Seated: Ellen Stohl (Educational Psychology and Counseling), Leigh Bradberry (Political Science), Yoko Mimura (Family and Consumer Sciences), and Stefanie Drew (Psychology).

Members of the 2014-2015 Five Gears Faculty Learning Community at CSUN

About the Teaching Learning Group

The Teaching Learning Group at CSUN was formed in fall 2012 when Cynthia Desrochers (College of Education and former Director of the CSU Institute for Teaching & Learning) initiated a CSUN project to develop a shared language for talking about how learning happens.

With sponsorship from Provost Harry Hellenbrand and College of Education Dean Michael Spagna, the group began by reading How Learning Works: Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching by Susan A. Ambrose, Michael W. Bridges, Michele DiPietro, Marsha C. Lovett, and Marie K. Norman (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2010), a book that brings together much of the relevant research by cognitive psychologists, neuroscientists, and others over the past thirty years.

The Teaching Learning Group worked with VISCOM (now INTERSECT.LA) to produce a graphic for faculty and staff illustrating the text-based definitions of "Five Gears for Activating Learning" (2013), and in 2014, began work on the companion pieces (graphics and text) for students.