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A Closer Look at the Science of Learning – What Matters and What Doesn’t for Teachers

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If you have followed this blog for a while, you have probably noticed that I have an interest in the science of learning, how it intersects with what teachers do in the classroom, and how it can and should apply to education technology. In fact, I think that the science of learning qualifies as an “emerging education technology”.

So it was with particular interest that I read this article this week, “What Teachers Need To Know About The Science Of Learning–And What They Don't“, by Natalie Wexler. Wexler makes the observation that, “You might think that before aspiring teachers take up their posts, they’re taught what scientists have discovered about how children learn. In fact, many teachers are unaware of that research, and—for complex reasons—some are actually hostile to scientific recommendations”, which is a shame to my way of thinking. She goes on to clarify though, that some elements of learning science are not terribly germane to the classroom, and I think that is a valuable idea to explore.

Cognitive neuroscience versus cognitive psychology

“Neuroscience focuses on the brain’s structure and the regions that are activated when people engage in various tasks. Psychology, on the other hand, focuses on the mind and behavior. The distinction may sound academic, but it’s not”, writes Wexler.

While Neuroscience feels more “sciency” than psychology, cognitive psychology seems to produce more insights into what makes teaching and learning effective. “It’s well established, for example, that students get a bigger boost from quizzing themselves about something they’ve read—or being quizzed by the teacher—than from rereading and highlighting the text.”

The article does a good job of working to separate the focus on the brain as a functional organ versus the “mind” and how neuroscience, “does provide support for a particular pedagogical approach, it’s often just confirming something we already know from cognitive psychology.”

I highly recommend giving the piece a read through, and leveraging what cognitive psychology can teach us about learning as continue our journey as educators.

 

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