eCoaching Tip 119 Re-energizing Ideas for Learning plus a Look Back at Best Practices for Military Learners

February 2 2015

eCoaching Tip 119: Re-energizing Ideas for Learning plus a Look Back at Best Practices for Military Learners


Getting re-energized for teaching can be done in minutes. Would you like a couple of ideas or stories that are easily shared with your students? A recent (Aug 5, 2014) TED talk by Barbara Oakleyoffers ideas for mastering difficult subjects in a 16-minute video titled,  “Learning How to Learn.”

To entice you further, she has an unusual and inspiring history. She grew up with military parents, moving frequently, and flunking math and science courses in high school, but is now a professor of engineering at Oakland University in Rochester, MI and a researcher on the relationship of neuroscience and social behavior. Her initial difficulties with learning math and science led her to her intense ongoing interest in teaching and learning how to learn.

 Resource to Share

Among the resources provided by Barbara Oakley is a concise resource that you may want to share with your students: The Ten Rules of Good Studying and a companion one-pager on Ten Rules of Bad Studying. I particularly liked two of her “good” rules. She advises Rule number 8 for help in moving forward, or getting unstuck, if you are procrastinating on study or work tasks. That rule is, “Focus for 25 minutes.” The rationale for this rule is that anyone can concentrate on reading, solving problems, writing, or researching for 25 minutes. Everyone can make progress on any project in 25 minutes, even if only to clearly determine a next step!  Of course, I personally think that once a person really gets moving, they get enthused about the progress they are making and if time allows, they might stay with it a bit longer. Another personal observation is that I think that the 25 minute focus rule is similar to how much work gets down under the pressure of a deadline, or just before a group adjourns. Focus really does make a difference.

Rule 8 combines well with Rule 6, which is, “Take a break.” Oakley’s research into neuroscience is the basis for this rule.  Students, particularly when learning or practicing difficult new information, need down time, or as Oakley describes it, relaxing in the “diffuse brain mode” for the brain to process and encode the new information.

The Role of Practice in Developing Expertise

If you decide to invest 16 minutes in a quick reenergizing break, don’t miss Oakley’s closing, which I quote at length here.

Don’t be fooled by the erroneous idea that understanding alone is enough to build mastery of the material. Understanding is truly important, but only when combined with repetition and practice in a variety of circumstances can you gain mastery of what you are learning.

The key phrase in this quote is “repetition and practice in a variety of circumstances.”  This is additional rationale for discussing and sharing multiple stories, case studies and other examples as described in the most recent Tip 118.


Once you are watching one Ted Talk, it’s hard to resist watching another.  Here’s another for your consideration.  It is titled, Diving into Deeper Learning by Marc Chun, a program education director at Hewlett-Packard.  He focuses on forward and backward transfer, and summarizes with these two strategies for developing problem-solving skills.

  • Give students a chance to practice, so problem solving becomes routine.
  • Give students novel problems, so they can be innovative.

In summary, then, return to Tip 107 Best Practices for Teaching and Reaching Your Military Learners and scan the best practices as more spring refreshers for teaching.  In particular, review practice #4, “Give military students an opportunity to share their life experiences.”  This is another way of thinking about transferable problem-solving skills, as promoted by Marc Chun, and the “variety of circumstances” as advocated for success by Oakley.

You may also want to focus on Best practice #7 “Don’t wait for military students to ask for help: Be responsive, proactive and watchful.”  This practice might be a timely reason for sharing and discussing resources such as Oakley’s Ten Rules for Good Studying and even to suggest the Ted Talk as an inspirational resource.

I hope you enjoy one or more of these quick energizing ideas.



Boettcher, J. (2013) Tip 107 Best Practices for Teaching and Reaching Your Military Learners.  Retrieved from

Chun, M. (2013) Diving Into Deeper Learning. TEDxDenverTeachers, March 24, 2013. Retrieved from

Oakley, B. (2014) Learning How to Learn. TEDxOaklandUniversity, August 5 2014. Retrieved from

Oakley, B. (2014) Ten Rules of Good Studying. Excerpted from A Mind for Numbers: How to Excel in Math and Science (Even if You Flunked Algebra. Penguin, July 2014.  Retrieved from


Note: These E-coaching tips were initially developed for faculty in the School of Leadership & Professional Advancement at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. This library of tips has been organized and updated through 2016  in the second edition of the  book, The Online Teaching Survival Guide: Simple and Practical Pedagogical Tips coauthored with Rita Marie Conrad. Judith can be reached judith followed by

Copyright by Judith V. Boettcher