Improving Learning and Instruction

This project is ongoing.

How we can empower people to become motivated and effectively self-regulated learners? Learners must have the right mindset—they must be motivated and interpret the experience of difficulty in productive ways—but they also have to know effective strategies for learning. Rather than ‘making learning easy’, what research from cognitive psychology demonstrates is that the effective learning strategies that make learning stick are often the ones that introduce difficulties (e.g., interleaving, retrieval practice, pre-testing). Dr. Yan is presently focused on examining the mechanisms underlying these ‘desirably difficult’ strategies and the motivational mindsets that encourage learners to not just study harder, but to study smarter.

Starting from 2023, the focus will be on understanding the barriers and facilitators to effective studying, using a combination of qualitative focus groups and quantitative survey and experimental methods. The end goal is to develop interventions and teacher practices that will help improve students' use of effective learning strategies. 


Preference given to sophomore students. 

Project Timeline

At least a one year commitment. 


Undergraduate research assistants invited to join the lab will have the opportunity to participate in all aspects of the research process, from research design, to data collection, and data presentation. Commitment is expected to be ~6 hours/week, to include participation in journal club and presenting in research meetings.

Typical Time Commitment
6 hours per week
Desired Length of Commitment


The Office of Undergraduate Research recommends that you attend an info session or advising before contacting faculty members or project contacts about research opportunities. We'll cover the steps to get involved, tips for contacting faculty, funding possibilities, and options for course credit. Once you have attended an Office of Undergraduate Research info session or spoken to an advisor, you can use the "Who to contact" details for this project to get in touch with the project leader and express your interest in getting involved.

Have you tried contacting professors and need more help? Schedule an appointment for additional support.