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Smiling face of woman with short black and grey hair.by Christine Monikowski, PhD
Professor, Rochester Institute of Technology

An ASL Reflection

English Reflection

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An English Reflection

Just so you know….I’ll do almost anything for a free book. When I was invited to join the online Think Tank and was offered a copy of Make It Stick, I was an eager participant. Read a book (already on my “to do” list), and participate in online discussions with colleagues from around the country – what a great opportunity.
On the very first page, I read “the most effective learning strategies are not intuitive” (p. ix) and I was hooked. Honestly, I wanted to know how I stacked up. I’ve been teaching in higher education for over 30 years and I know that my teaching styles and skills have evolved. I’m always looking for a way to improve my teaching and therefore, hopefully, my students’ learning. The “advice” offered in this book is not simply the advice of the authors. They have “distilled the findings of a large body of [empirical] studies that have stood up under review by the scientific community before being published in professional journals” (p. 9). For many of us, our teaching styles and skills are “largely a mix of theory, lore, and intuition” (p. 8). Taking advice that is grounded in research – that’s where we all need to be. As they said, this book is filled with strategies that seem counterintuitive. But the evidence is not to be denied because the research is extensive. For example:

The data from the operating room (above) tells us “there’s an essential kind of learning that comes from reflection on personal experience” (p. 26). I’d like to offer a few of my reflections on what I learned while reading this book:
Low-stakes quizzing: students who are tested frequently rate their classes more favorably (p. 44). I’ve always given numerous quizzes in my Intro to the Field course and our university’s course management system allows me to give them online. They are a way to help students review assignments and in-class discussions. Historically my students have had high scores on these short quizzes. Score one for me.
It is more effective to distribute practice across different skills than to attend to each one in turn. Learners guild a “broad schema” and learn how to adjust to changing conditions when the practice varies (p. 65). In the Ethics course, I’ve tried to present cases for that focus on one particular dilemma, thinking this will help students to consider specific options to apply. I’ve wanted them to learn how to analyze “simpler” cases before moving on to more complicated ones. But in reality, ethical dilemmas are complicated and convoluted. Perhaps, if I want students to “adjust to conditions when the practice varies”, I can present more true-to-life dilemmas. Score one for the authors.
The more effort required to retrieve or relearn something, the better one learns it (p. 82). This one really hit home for me. I have a reputation as being “tough”; some students avoid taking courses with me. Over the years, I have come to enjoy this self-selection because the students who sign up for my courses know I am going to expect them to work hard. They each have their strengths and weaknesses. Keep the strengths. Build on them. Practice. Score another for me.
And so it went. I found the evidence presented fascinating, from all different fields of endeavor. Some things were, indeed, counterintuitive but there was no denying the data which gave me even more to reflect upon.
It was a great experience, participating in the Online Think Tank on Learning (part of the Graduation to Certification (GTC) program at the CATIE Center at St. Catherine University. Twenty-six of us spent a week brainstorming ideas, offering perspectives, sharing experiences – all connected to Make It Stick and how to apply this to our field. This program is going to be unique – for a variety of reasons. But I think the most exciting reason is the evidence-based approach to teaching and learning.
I have been involved in online learning for many years (when we actually mailed videotapes back and forth and included written comments to each other). Obviously technology makes online work easier to access for all of us. But somehow our approach to teaching and learning hasn’t changed at such a rapid rate. I have long supported courses and workshops that are grounded in theory and research (and recently published a book about it, Monikowski 2017). Napier (2013) encourages us to publish our work and share our knowledge with each other. Russell (2011) encourage use to do research and to teach our students to do it well. The “academization” (Pöchhaker 2004, p. 30) of our field requires it. We owe it to ourselves and to the Deaf community with whom we work – to understand why teaching, grounded in research, is our future.


Monikowski, Christine. 2017. Conversations with interpreter educators: exploring best practices. Washington DC: Gallaudet University Press.
Napier, Jemina. 2013. Editorial: evidence-based pedagogy. International Journal of Interpreter Education, 5(2), 1-3.
Pochhacker, Franz. 2004. Introducing interpreting studies. London: Routledge.
Russell, Debra L. 2011. Designing a research project: beginning with the end in mind. In Brenda Nicodemus and Laurie Swabey (Eds.), Advances in interpreting research (pp. 27-46). Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
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The CATIE Center at St. Catherine University, Graduation to Certification project is funded by the US Department of Education, Rehabilitation Services Administration, #H160C160001.
Although the contents of this post were developed under a grant from the Department of Education, they do not necessarily represent the policy of the Department of Education, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal government.