How should we use the science?

Photo by Emily Morter on Unsplash

Educators are increasingly drawn to the developing field of cognitive science.  What the psychologists and scientists tell us about how we learn couldn’t of course be more relevant to what we do.  But how the science should be translated into effective practice is yet to be agreed.  Writing in the journal Impact Paul Howard Jones et al remind us that ‘the science provides principles and a scientifically determined understanding of how learning works, based on concrete measurement of behaviour and brain function, it does not provide a list of ‘top tips’ or practices that are guaranteed to work with any class or individual in any context.’ (Howard Jones et al., 2018)

The leap from the science lab to the classroom is a huge one.  The nature of a ‘real-life’ classroom is not conducive to the controlled tests that science enquiry relies on.  But teachers are of course keen to make use of the science and to my mind there are two other obvious ways of doing this.  One is to ‘buy’ (possibly literally) into the top tips that are inevitably being generated regardless.  The other is to take a professional enquiry or action research approach – reading about the science research and then critically analysing and adapting practice in the light of new understandings.

I have been enjoying my own process of reflective enquiry –  rigorously reviewing the principles of Enlivened Learning in the light of the emerging science.  It’s been heartening to see the extent to which this pedagogy is in line with the science, and it’s helped me to further develop the rigorous detail that ensures effective practice.  Over the coming weeks I’ll be blogging about some of that detail – ways that key concepts such as ‘retrieval’; ‘cognitive overload’ or ‘schema’ can and should be integral to an Enlivened learning approach.   I hope that my musings might in turn inspire your own further reading and professional exploration.  And, if they do, here are a few good places to start:

Education Endowment Foundation, ‘Cognitive science approaches in the classroom – Report summarising the evidence for cognitive science approaches in school settings’

Centre for Educational Neuroscience, Institute of Education, UCL. Neuro Hit or Neuro Myth (updated 2023)

Howard Jones P et al. (2018) Applying the science of learning in the Classroom.   Impact Magazine