From Good to Great Learning: 4-Week Academic Study

Challenge Accepted!

Short before-and-after video: 

Are you tired of seeing good, hard-working students under-perform in college?  Do you believe there are a different set of factors underlying students’ academic problems than the usual pejoratives: “they’re lazy,” “high school didn’t teach them anything,” or “they don’t care about their learning.”

Are you seeking interventions that can boost students’ learning and test performance across all academic contexts?  Is this even possible?

Well, I am not sure if the last question can be fully answered, but the From Good to Great Learning 4-Week Study gives it a darn good shot!

Let’s start with the end in mind.  We have concluded this year’s 4-Week Study.  Below are the amazing results:


  • 20+ point increase in aggregate test scores! The increase in test performance occurred within the first two weeks of the study, as most professors administered exams before the Easter break. Subsequent exam and/or quiz grades suggest that the gains are being sustained and/or increased.
  • All test grades have been confirmed with professors, who had no knowledge that the students were participating a study.
  • Peers in the same courses did not experience similar jumps in their academic performance.
  • Many of the students recorded their first “A” ever in their most rigorous courses.

For the past ten years, I’ve been researching the factors that distinguish good students from great learners. I’ve conducted several studies over the years, but this is the first time I’ve actually video taped it.

The following questions were the impetus for this study:

  • Can students significantly boost their learning and test scores in a few weeks?
  • Can students’ understanding of what it means to study and their ability to control their learning be measurably improved within a couple of weeks?
  • Can one intervention impact students learning across a range of academic contexts, without addressing the course content?

Learning Captured

This graph shows the progression in learning from before the study to the mid-point of the study.

The graph above shows the significant improvement in higher-order thinking and the deepening of learning outcomes that were captured.  (The comparison is between students’ before-study “evidences of learning” and the mid-point evidences because the final evidences had not been collected at the time of this post.)

The graph shows the following noteworthy improvements in learning:

  • Visually, it is quite obvious that the bottom half of the diagram has many more green dots (mid-point outcomes), than red dots (before outcomes); this shows that the participants’ were engaging in much higher levels of thinking and generating much deeper learning outcomes at the mid-point of the Study than before the Study.
  • The strategies students’ employed were less important; their level of interaction was most important.  Participants experienced deeper learning outcomes with every type of learning tactic they used.
  • There was an increase in the quantity of outcomes, but also a broader range of outcomes, which included many deeper learning outcomes.

About the Study:

  • The study consisted of four 50-minute sessions.
  • Participants took a pre and post Learning Assistance and Study Skills Inventory (LASSI) and the Metacognitive Awareness Inventory (MAI)
  • No course content was addressed during the study. Participants simply learned how to use the ThinkWell-LearnWell Diagram and Textbook Mapping, a textbook reading comprehension technique that is based upon the diagram.  They determined the courses in which to apply the new way of learning.
  • Participants applied the Diagram to more than 18 different courses from a variety of disciplines.
About the Participants:
  • The participants were self-identified “good” students. They responded to an open invitation to join a 4-week study session designed to transform “good” students into great learners.
  • The group consisted of freshmen to seniors, traditional-age students and adult learners.
  • They represented a broad array of academic disciplines.
I hope this study blunts some of the troubling prevailing views that permeate higher education about college students: that they are stupid, lazy or somehow generationally incapable of concentrating or performing at high levels. They need significant learning experiences!  And when we deliver them, the right ones, they enjoy across-the-board success.
Congrats to all of the participants in their newly enjoyed success.  You all were an amazing group!  I learned a ton from you!
Good Luck on exams, and remember: No relapsing!


  1. Harriett Gaston

    Thanks so much for this resource! I have shared it with other colleagues in our office and just like students, I have to be reminded as to what the differences are between high school preparation and college success.

  2. thewelledu

    Reblogged this on The Well and commented:

    This post includes the unabridged video footage of the 4-Week “From Good to Great Learning” Study


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Call Us Today 1-866-337-3030