Teaching for teachers: Eyler’s book explores how we learn

Rice University News & Media

From trigger warnings to Trivial Pursuit, “How Humans Learn” explores the fundamental ways in which our brains seek out and soak up information
Although it’s Josh Eyler’s first book, “How Humans Learn: The Science and Stories behind Effective College Teaching” (West Virginia University Press, $24.99) has been greeted with the sort of excitement typically reserved for a long-awaited follow-up to a best-seller.
After abundant interest generated by the global teaching and learning community and an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education that spotlighted Eyler’s efforts as the director of Rice’s Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE), Amazon decided to bump up the release date of “How Humans Learn” from Dec. 1 to Oct. 24.
Aptly described as a “warm, humane little book” by Daniel Chambless, the co-author of “How College Works,” Eyler’s effort at tackling such a broad topic remains intimate and interesting throughout. Woven together are personal anecdotes, interviews with college professors and in-classroom observations with research across fields such as cognitive neuroscience and developmental psychology.
Starting with a story about his 5-year-old daughter, Lucy, endlessly examining a pair of red coffee cups as a baby, Eyler examines curiosity as the first of five broad themes in the book.
“I had never seen such purely fundamental curiosity — like curiosity as not just an intellectual exercise but as a need — and that moment just shifted everything for me,” Eyler said of watching Lucy investigate the new world emerging around her. “What happens to that?”
Eyler is prone to such sudden, life-altering realizations. It’s how the man who once planned to return to his hometown of Hanover, PA to become a high school English teacher and coach decided to focus instead on teaching the teachers; it’s how the medievalist with tenure approval at Columbus State University chose to depart from his faculty position in order to take …

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