Lee and Overman awarded Colonial Academic Alliance grant to support ‘Learning to Learn’ initiative

The $34,000 grant is from the Colonial Academic Alliance, which seeks to link the colleges and universities that make up the Colonial Athletic Association. 

The Colonial Academic Alliance has awarded a $34,000 grant to Amy Overman, associate professor in the Psychology Department and Neuroscience Program and associate director of the Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning, and J. Todd Lee, professor in the Mathematics and Statistics Department and Faculty Fellow for Technology with Teaching and Learning Technologies.

The grant supports their innovative project, Learning to Learn: A Student Operator’s Manual for the Brain. Started in spring 2016, the initiative seeks to help students develop strategies about how to be successful learners. The focus is on equipping students with an evidence-based toolkit of how their own brains function and learn in various hi-tech learning environments. This initiative has been developed with the strong support and partnership of Elon's Teaching and Learning Technologies, the Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning, and the College of Arts and Sciences.

“Our ultimate long-term goal is that every student is equipped in their first semester in college with a toolkit to support them as successful, lifelong learners,” Overman said. “We are striving to transform all students into learners who think deeply about their educational experiences and know how their brain operates so that they can maximize their learning and use the rich resources provide by their college or university in a more strategic way.”

The Learning to Learn initiative complements many of the support systems at Elon for faculty that are centered around pedagogy, student learning and learning environments. However, at Elon and other colleges and universities, there are few similar initiatives for students to equip them with evidence-based strategies about how to be successful learners. 

​The first phase of Learning to Learn is the development by Lee and Overman of a course that will engage first-year students in the neurocognitive science of how our brains learn, particularly in technologically enhanced environments like Elon, and teach them how to employ evidence-based practices to enhance their own learning. The course will be co-taught by Overman and Lee, who will partner with faculty at Hofstra University to implement a similar initiative on Hofstra’s campus with the support of the grant funding.

The grant also supports a second phase that includes the development of modules on how learning works that faculty and academic support staff at all Colonial Academic Alliance institutions can adapt for their own courses and that students can use to enhance their own learning.

“Faculty and staff at our member institutions are generating innovative and powerful ideas to creatively address the challenges we face in higher education, and this grant program supports them as they break new ground,” Said Elon Provost Steven House. “As chair of the Provosts' Council of the CAA and Elon’s provost, it’s exciting to see Elon faculty taking the lead on an important initiative to better understand how students across higher education are learning. This project and others supported by the IN/CO Grant Program fit right in with the CAA mission of challenging the status quo, enriching the academic environment, and advancing student success.”

The grant funding comes through the Colonial Academic Alliance’s Innovate/Collaborate Grant program, which offers two-year grants for initiatives that address pressing policy challenges in higher education, fuel collaboration between institutions, enhance institutional excellence and promote innovation in intellectual inquiry. 

The grant is one of two awarded recently by the Colonial Academic Alliance to Elon faculty members. Tony Weaver, Caroline Ketcham and Eric Hall will partner with the university’s nine fellow Colonial Athletic Association member institutions to study access issues for student-athletes to high-impact educational practices with the support of a $40,000 grant from the CAA