Academic Deep Learning | Dr. Karen Walker

Transcript, Academic Deep Learning | Dr. Karen Walker

Alan
Welcome back. I’m here today with Dr. Karen Murray Walker. She’s the author of the book, The Deep Learning academic success planner. And we’re on the campus of Southern Virginia University. Dr. Walker, welcome to the show. Thank you. So I’d like your background, you know how you spent the years, you know, prior to coming here to Southern Virginia University.

Karen
Well, when I was first married, my husband was in dental school and in the University of Washington, and I was completing my PhD. And so at 25, we finished. And then he started a career in the Air Force with dental school after dental school, and I did some adjunct teaching in colleges, wherever we were stationed in human growth and development. That was my area of expertise. And after about 10 years, we had four children, and he set up a private practice and exited the Air Force. And life got crazy. And we made the decision that I would take a leave of absence, professionally, and I did for 20 years. And I guess I had my own human growth and development laboratory in my home and got to be a part of a lot of young people’s lives as they came to our home as well. It was interesting, I was looking in my journal last week, and in 2005, our last child was getting ready to go to look to go to college. And so I was reading through my journal and that and said in 2005, I need to start thinking about something professionally doubt to do. And, and so that’s when I began to kind of look, but I wasn’t we were in Las Vegas, Nevada, my husband had had a private practice there for about 25 years, we’ve raised all of our four children there. And so the the search began in a very interesting way.

Alan
And when you made the decision to come to Southern Virginia University, how did you learn about it, what led you here?

Karen
Our youngest child was a cross country runner. And she was contacted by the university to consider coming and running on their women’s cross country team. And so she and I came out and made a college visit. And while she was participating in some events and activities, I met the Provost who was the provost at that time. And he just asked about my background and took my information. And we continue to come back and watch the students participate in their, their meets their national meet. And about a year later, I received a phone call from the provost, asking if I would consider coming in and joining the faculty. And that was the beginning of a journey for my husband and I that took about three years to make that he actually commuted from Las Vegas every weekend for two and three quarter years. So I could do this. So

Alan
It was it was no small undertaking. transition back here. Yeah. Now, as you were in the, in the position, so you first start into the administration with the school or so?

Karen
No, I came as faculty, okay. Yes. And teaching human growth and development. And the provost indicated that we had some students that were on a little less prepared to come to college on the lower spectrum, but we’re certainly capable of being very successful. And he felt like it would be very helpful to offer some kind of support for them so that they could become very successful here. And in 2000, a general a doctor at UCLA started doing some very interesting brain research in reference to Alzheimer’s and the National Institute of Health also began extensive brain research. And so when I came here in 2009, there was a body of really interesting brain development. Current research that I just was fascinated with my when took courses and attended, you know, report sessions of research, and started recognizing that learning required the interest learning of how to use your brain properly. And so that’s the assignment from the provost. And then my research led to the development of our Academic Success Program at the University. And

Alan
I’m visiting here today with Dr. Murray Walker, she is the author of the book, The Deep Learning academic success planner, Dr. Walker, I need to take a quick break. And when we get back, I want to go into the learning model that you were able to develop, right? We’ll be right back after these messages.

Alan
Welcome back, I’m on the campus here at Southern Virginia University with Dr. Karen Murray Walker, she’s the author of the book, deep learning the Academic Success planner. And Dr. Walker, you gave us in the first segment the background that brought you here to Southern Virginia University and, and the inspiration for the book, writing this book. But as as you went through this, we left off, we’re talking about the brain research, what are three things that we need to understand about how our brain works?

Karen
I think that often students feel that if they just read things and continue to read them over and over that their brain will just deeply learn it and remember it. And the remarkable thing is that that’s probably one of the least effective ways to deeply learn. And so we what we teach them is that there are billions of neurons in your brain that you’re born with. And knowledge is created when those neurons become connected. And the neurons become connected as we sense things with our senses. And that information is delivered to our brains. So as the neurons connect, and we continue to work with the material, a substance called myelin is wrapped around the axons that connect the neurons. And the more layers of, of myelin that are wrapped around knowledge or skill, the more fluid our brain is, and the more deeply we learn it. For instance, if I were to ask you a question, and you were struggling with remembering it, even though you’ve been exposed and learned a little bit about it, your brain is trying to retrieve that information. But it hasn’t been myelinated enough. If I were to ask you a question that you could respond to, instantly, that shows that that message is being retrieved at about 700 miles an hour in your brain, it’s quick, it comes to you and you’ve myelinated it, but myelination happens with practice. And we suggest the students use error focused practice. So as they learn something, then they go back and work with it, and test themselves to see if they understand it. And if they can do it correctly, then they continue to work with it correctly. And over time, through spaced practice their concepts, their knowledge becomes wrapped with a great significant amount of myelin, which gives them the ability to recall and work with information in a very confident way. And until they understand that that’s how knowledge is created. And that they need to err focus practice, to wrap myelin around knowledge, correct knowledge and they’re doing something the correct way or learning it correctly, then, learning becomes so exciting, and they realize they can do it, that it isn’t a matter of IQ. It’s a matter of understanding how your brain learns. And then using the techniques that allow your brain to be very efficient.

Alan
So it’s it from that standpoint, your brain is no different than running cross country or any other sport. It takes development of the skills that you need and as you develop more than you become more proficient

Karen
Right and you read you just for instance, an athlete that isn’t a Olympic athlete has myelinated an air focus practice their skills to such a level that they’ve myelinated them so that they are, you know, functioning at a near perfect level at but it took lots of hours and air focus practice, we look at them and think, gee, wouldn’t it be great to do that, but they’ve, they’ve paid the price to be able to do something like that so efficiently and at such a high level. And it’s the same with learning. It was interesting, because when they went back, and when they went out, Albert Einstein first passed away, they did an autopsy. And they said that his brain didn’t look that much different than other people’s brains, they were thinking that it would and when they did this research in early 2000s.

Alan
Welcome back, I’m here today we’re talking to Murray Walker, we’re on the campus of Southern Virginia University. And we’ve been talking about her book deep learning the Academic Success planner. And in the last segment, we covered that learning is all about exercising your your brain and in an effort to retain more myelin. Now, in your book, you have a process laid out of learning journals, what are learning journals? And how does that help develop the myelin.

Karen
The first thing that we asked the students to do when they begin a semester is to create a learning journal for each of their courses. And it’s a three ring notebook with tab dividers, and they examine their syllabi, and they look and see the requirements of the course what’s what’s going to be involved, what are they going to have to do to perform well in the course. And they use their syllabi as a guide and make tabs for the learning journal. And there will be a tab for the course outline and the assignment outline of what they have to do for the course. And then there are divisions, maybe they have a division for each chapter where they take two column notes, and they put the notes for each chapter in the notebook under the correct tab, then they can go back and practice the material. And check if they know all of the material, we have them do a two column note where the right hand portion is the note taking. And the left hand portion are some questions that allow them to fold the paper and then look at the question, answer it and see if they can answer it without looking at the material. If they can, then they know that they know that material, if not, this is what error focused practice is it’s seeing for yourself if you know something or not. So they just go back and keep practicing it until they can check all of it off and know that they’ve embodied and have a good about amount of myelin wrapped around that knowledge that they’re trying to learn.

Alan
So in this process of learning, organization plays a big role a big role. And it also the first thing that kids need to understand the students is getting the big picture. What exactly am I trying to accomplish as I set out in this learning learning process. Now, the student journals are then broken down to different categories of organization. First, you have what’s called a master planner.

Karen
What we do in this book, there’s a master schedule form. And we ask each student to have a conversation which with each of their professors to estimate how many hours outside of class will it take to do the work that’s required and to spend the time practicing and deeply learning the material that that goes beyond just doing the homework assignment, where you go back and really study what you’ve been learning and you learn it deeply as you’re studying it, and not trying to cram at the end of the the section that you’re working on. And so they get an estimate of how many hours they need to spend outside of class in that course. And then in the master schedule, they first plot in all of their required elements, where that when they go to class, if they work, all of the things in their week that remain the same. And then they they start logging in where those hours are going to take place that they’re going to study for each of their courses and deeply learn and they make sure that they’ve logged in and planned enough hours to do an excellent job of learning deeply learning for each of their courses, which is a different concept. You know, a lot of times with high school students, it’s getting the homework done. But there isn’t time that’s spent going back and and deeply learning the material, which is part of a college students live and a real misunderstanding for a lot of new college students how much time it really takes.

Alan
I want to talk about active reading, and the role that that plays in deep learning.

Karen
Active reading, what we suggest that the students do is they awaken their minds, before they begin a reading assignment, just like you’d power up a computer and warm it up, get it ready to use. So we suggest that they look at the material they’re going to read first, see the big headings, the brain will organize an outline of what they’re going to be doing by having them preview what they’re going to be doing. And then they’re ready to start with the material rather than just starting and reading it cold. We suggest that as they’re reading, that they actively mark their materials. And that isn’t taking a yellow highlighter and marking everything it’s designating if you’re using highlighters, you have a certain color that’s designated for the main ideas for the subtopics for the facts and the terms that are important. And then you highlight those things in different colors. Then when you go to make notes, after you’ve actively read, you’ve already pulled out the material that you want to put into your notes, because you’ve either highlighted it with specific colors of markers, or you create symbols that identify a main idea, a subtopic facts and terms. And so that creates, they don’t have to go back and figure out what it is they have to put in their notes, they actively pull that out as they’ve assessed when they read what those things are.

Alan
How important is planning each night or evening, at the end of the day for learning,

Karen
We suggest that they plan in the evening before they go to bed. Because sometimes if you oversleep, you don’t have time to plan in the morning, or I think it puts your mind at rest to put together your next day on a piece of paper. And just know you’ve got it planned. Now’s the time to rest. And I’ll do my work that I’ve planned tomorrow. So it serves two purposes. But what we do when they plan is we have them all. So besides creating a master schedule, we have them in this planner, their monthly calendars. And in the monthly calendars, we have them place all of their major projects and tests that are due. And then we’d have them take a look at a project and divide it into small pieces. And give assign due dates for small pieces. And so when they go to bed before they go to bed at night, they turn to the daily planning page where they record what they’re doing. They look at their master schedule and see okay, on Mondays, I have from two to four that I’m doing Spanish, what is it that I’m going to do in Spanish, and the time to deep to go back and practice it once the assignment is done. And then they also once they put in all their plan times from their master schedule, they go back and look at their monthly calendars and see if there were any small parts of big projects that they decide themselves to accomplish on that day. And so they put that into their schedule too, so that they’re working on big projects in small segments. And it just creates better work, less stress, time to get help if you need it than if you wait the night before to finish a big project and, and help isn’t available at that time. So it’s just learning to manage your life in a way that brings the best results and helps minimize stress.

Alan
I’m visiting here today with Dr. Murray Walker. She’s the author of the deep learning the Academic Success planner, Dr. Walker, if some of the listeners want to get copies of your books, how would they do that?

Karen
I’d be happy to facilitate anyone that would like to have a copy of this by emailing me at karen.walker@svu.edu

Alan
Dr. Walker, thanks for being on today’s show.

Karen
Thank you it was great

 

 

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About Dr. Karen Walker

Dr. Karen Walker is the Vice President of Educational Research and Development at Southern Virginia University where she is also an assistant professor in family and child development and the director of the academic success program. Dr. Walker has authored the published work: The Deep Learning Academic Success Planner. She and her husband, Michael, have four married children and ten grandchildren. Bio Courtesy of Southern Virginia University

Dr. Karen Walker on Alan Olsen's American Dreams Radio
Dr. Karen Walker

Dr. Karen Walker is the Vice President of Educational Research and Development at Southern Virginia University where she is also an assistant professor in family and child development and the director of the academic success program. Dr. Walker has authored the published work: The Deep Learning Academic Success Planner. She and her husband, Michael, have four married children and ten grandchildren. Bio Courtesy of Southern Virginia University

Alan Olsen on Alan Olsen's American Dreams Radio
Alan Olsen

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