Sharing the Lilly Experience: Recapping the 2015 Lilly Conference on Evidence-Based Teaching and Learning

For 35 years, the annual Lilly Conferences on College and University Teaching and Learning have offered a glimpse into cutting-edge evidence-based practices that enrich teaching and learning in higher education. With the generous support from the Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence, we attended the May 2015 Lilly conference in Bethesda, MD to present two papers focused on applying brain-based learning principles. While there, we attended some amazing – and engaging – sessions. One recommended using video recording for purposes other than lecture; incorporating this suggestion, we are using Screencast-o-matic ( to supplement written comments on term papers with dual-screen videos (one showing the computer screen and the other displaying the webcam). Other uses for video technology include a video review of the syllabus contents, lessons in basic skills or course skills, topic reviews, and citation guidelines, among others. Another session encouraged developing students’ mental toughness (i.e., commitment, challenge, control, confidence). Others talked about exam wrappers – structured reflection activities – promoting the transition from a fixed to a growth mindset. Exam wrappers can be as simple as asking students three questions about their performance relative to the exam: (1) how did you prepare; (2) what errors did you make on the exam; and (3) how should you study for the next exam.

Our presentations focused on brain-based learning. The Scholarship of Teaching & Learning (SoTL) literature indicates the brain needs five things to be prepared to learn: (1) nutrition; (2) hydration; (3) oxygen; (4) exercise; and (5) rest. Ignoring the assumption that instructors have little control over these, we designed one-minute activities touching on each element that can easily be incorporated into college classes.  Although our research is continuing, we are finding that our students’ exam scores are higher after using these one-minute activities in our classrooms.

Faculty workshop presentation_2015-10-27 to Penn State colleagues

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