Category: Science of Learning

How Do the Learning Sciences Drive Learning in Your School and District?

June 18, 2018 by

Two weeks ago, iNACOL/CompetencyWorks released the paper Levers and Logic Models. There are lots of interesting ideas throughout the paper thanks to an incredible group of people who shared their expertise. One of the most interesting processes was creating a set of principles based on the learning sciences that should guide school design, learning experiences, and instruction/assessment, as we were drawing from multiple domains of research. (See below.)

The more schools I visit, the more I believe that there isn’t one way of designing based upon the learning sciences. I think it is important to think about how to optimize across the different research findings. However, being clear about the pedagogical principles is critically important. In fact, before your district and school begins the journey toward creating a competency-based model, I think it is very much worth taking the time to create a shared set of pedagogical principles.

  • What are the pedagogical principles that guide your school? How do they relate to the research on learning?
  • What are the beliefs that guide traditional approach to education and how do they compare to the cornerstones of learning?

Cornerstones of the Learning Sciences


9 Lessons from Brain Science from Melina Uncapher

June 5, 2018 by

This post originally appeared at Getting Smart on April 13, 2018.

A high school chemistry teacher and a grandmother with Parkinson’s disease spurred Melina Uncapher’s interest in science. She earned her Ph.D. in neurobiology at UC Irvine. Her doctoral work, completed a decade ago at the beginning of the smartphone revolution, was on learning when attention is divided. (more…)

Key Findings: Science of Learning and Development

May 21, 2018 by

Click image to enlarge.

Although the high level findings of the science of learning often seem like common sense, the interplay between the different domains of research isn’t as simple. And we know that the education system is full of practices that are not only misaligned with the science of learning – they may actually be inhibiting and, for some students, even harmful. I’ve read two papers that support Turnaround for Children’s Building Blocks for Learning recently: (more…)

What if Educational Policy Was Shaped by the Learning Sciences? (Part 2)

May 10, 2018 by

Photo by Allison Shelley/The Verbatim Agency for American Education: Images of Teachers and Students in Action

Continuing from the first part of this topic on the implications of the learning sciences for policy, let’s start by looking at three research findings. This is my first cut on this topic and early exploration. In fact I would call these ideas half-baked but I have to start somewhere. It would be a fun collaborative project to draw on lots of great minds. (FYI: I apologize that this is a bit general. To get specific, I’d have to put it in the context of the specifics of policies in a given state.)

Learning is an activity that is carried out by the learner.


What if Educational Policy Was Shaped by the Learning Sciences? (Part 1)

May 9, 2018 by

When a school starts to make the move toward competency-based education, they start to get serious about what the most effective strategies are to help students learn. This of course gets folks thinking about what the learning sciences can tell us about how to engage and motivate students to put their best efforts forward and how to make sure we are optimizing how our wondrous brains work. But are our policymakers at the state and federal levels who want to improve education doing the same thing? Are they digging into what the learning sciences might tell us about effective policy? (more…)

Understanding and Meeting Learners Where They Are using the UDL Lens

April 17, 2018 by

This is the third in a three part series by Kathleen McClaskey, co-author of Make Learning Personal and How to Personalize LearningRead the first and second posts.

In the CompetencyWorks paper based on the 2017 National Summit on K-12 Competency-Based Education, Designing for Equity, one of the four key issues in advancing competency-based education is “meeting students where they are.” It describes that a high quality competency-based system connects learning in relationships and requires educators to understand their learners as individuals and then select strategies based upon that knowledge. Before we look at how to meet learners where they are, let’s review what has presented in Part 1 and Part 2 of this series. (more…)

Discover the Learner – Building the Skills of Agency and Self-Advocacy using the UDL Lens

April 10, 2018 by

This is the second in a three part series by Kathleen McClaskey, co-author of Make Learning Personal. See How to Personalize Learning. Read the first post here.

A core objective of personalized, competency-based schools that is described in the Teaching and Design Principle “Activate Student Agency and Ownership,” is to cultivate agency, “the ability to direct one’s course in life.” (See Designing for Equity for an overview of the design principles.) If we are to realize a personalized, competency-based system that nurtures and develops agency with each learner, then we do need to look at how a school could achieve that. You see, once a learner develops agency, he or she can self-advocate for the way they learn for a lifetime and “lead their own learning trajectory.” (more…)

Understanding the Pedagogy of a Learning Science to Nurture an Inclusive Learning Culture

April 4, 2018 by

Kathleen McClaskey

Creating a culture of learning and inclusivity, a non-negotiable for competency-based schools, is a tall order for most K-12 public school systems. As schools move from a traditional system to a personalized, competency-based system, we need to evaluate the tools we have used around learners and learning and teachers and teaching, and understand how a learning science can be used to nurture and build a culture of learning and inclusivity. One approach that is based on research in the learning sciences and that has been around for over 25 years is Universal Design for Learning (UDL).

The question is: What does it really mean to use a UDL lens? This three-part series explores how Universal Design for Learning can strengthen teaching and reinforce a culture where every learner feels that they are valued, belong, and is learning. (more…)

The Learning Sciences: Two Perspectives

March 5, 2018 by

Amelia Peterson

In recent years, there has been a lot more talk in Education about the science of learning. With developments in psychology and neuroscience, the thinking goes, we should be able to build a core body of knowledge on learning to inform how we teach and organise education. Efforts to synthesize this knowledge include the OECD report The Nature of Learning and the National Research Council’s How People Learn.

When it comes to moving from knowledge to action, however, the learning sciences seem to break up into two different perspectives. One is represented by the Innovative Learning Environments work that developed out of The Nature of Learning, and its seven principles emphasizing the personal and social aspects of learning. From this perspective, the most important tenet is that a learner has to actively engage in constructing their new knowledge and skills. It aligns with constructivist or Vygotskian traditions, but also builds on the work of Kurt Fischer and pioneers of his Mind, Brain and Education (MBE) subfield, including Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, Vanessa Rodriguez and Christina Hinton. Drawing equally on neuroscience and behavioural studies which hone in on the individual dynamics of learning and teaching, this perspective brought the role of emotions, embodied cognition and social context to the forefront. (more…)

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