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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass., July 29, 2013—Nate Kornell, assistant professor of psychology at Williams College, has been awarded a $600,000 grant from the James S. McDonnell Foundation (JSMF) to conduct research on students’ study habits. As part of the JSMF 21st Century Science Initiative, the foundation funds projects that seek to improve teaching and learning through the application of cognitive principles. Kornell received the JSMF Scholar Award in Understanding Human Cognition for support of the 4-year project titled, “Improving Self-regulated Learning.”
With the grant, Kornell, along with a postdoctoral fellow and an associate researcher, will conduct dozens of online and laboratory studies that will examine the kinds of decisions students make while studying—where to allot their time, how much time to spend, and what methods best enhance memory retrieval. According to past research, “only a small fraction of students study based on evidence-based principles,” says Kornell. He will investigate how students choose to study versus how they should study. The project’s title, “Improving Self-regulated Learning,” is also the long-term goal of the project—to help students understand and develop more effective studying strategies.
The grant builds on the past research of Kornell and others. “I’ve found that studying all at once is not as effective as spacing study sessions out over time,” Kornell says. “I’ve also found that taking a test is a very effective way to learn, even if you can’t think of the correct answers on the test. Findings like these can be counterintuitive, so there’s often a mismatch between what students chose to do and what they should do.”
Kornell has authored dozens of publications about learning and memory as they relate to education, most recently an article in the 2013 Annual Review of Psychology, “Self?regulated Learning: Beliefs, Techniques, and Illusions.” He maintains a blog on Psychology Today titled, “Everyone Is Stupid Except You,” which follows current psychological studies. Kornell received his B.A. from Reed College in 1996 and his Ph.D. from Columbia University in 2005, after which he completed a postdoctoral fellowship at UCLA. Kornell has been a faculty member at Williams since 2009.
Founded in 1793, Williams College is the second-oldest institution of higher learning in Massachusetts. The college’s 2,000 students are taught by a faculty noted for the quality of their teaching and research, and the achievement of academic goals includes active participation of students with faculty in their research. Students’ educational experience is enriched by the residential campus environment in Williamstown, Mass., which provides a host of opportunities for interaction with one another and with faculty beyond the classroom. Admission decisions on U.S. applicants are made regardless of a student’s financial ability, and the college provides grants and other assistance to meet the demonstrated needs of all who are admitted.