How Do Students Understand New Ideas? In Response to the Deans for Impact Report (DFI)


  • Jacob Boula University of North Carolina at Charlotte
  • Kristina Morgan University of North Carolina at Charlotte
  • CarieAnn Morrissey University of North Carolina at Charlotte
  • Rebecca Shore University of North Carolina at Charlotte


cognitive science principles, cognitive load, working memory, multiple modalities, long-term memory, transfer


The first Key Question posed in the Deans for Impact report (2015) asks “How do students understand new ideas?" This question emerged from research that produced 3 cognitive principles regarding learning, particularly learning new information. Those principles are: 1) students learn new ideas by reference to ideas they already know. 2) To learn, students must transfer information from working memory to long-term memory. 3) The mastery of new concepts occurs in “fits†and “startsâ€.  Sequencing the curriculum in order to ensure that students have the necessary prior knowledge to connect to new concepts, scaffolding by modeling and using worked examples to support problem solving, and integrating multiple modalities that complement each other into instructional presentations, can increase the effectiveness of teaching and learning in the educational environment.






Understanding of New Ideas