Tag: learning sciences

The One World Schoolhouse by Salman Khan

March 20, 2018 by

I’m always asked which books or resources folks should use to learn about competency-based education. The good news is that there are now a lot of books that can be helpful. However, the challenge is that different books are helpful in different ways and districts/schools are in different places with different needs. So what I’m going to do is pick one to two books a month and highlight what I think is helpful in it, what might be missing that you’ll need to get elsewhere, and share my personal “talking with the text” about how it pushes my thinking. However, I’m sure each of us would engage with the ideas in different ways. Too bad we can’t have a virtual book group. Or can we? — chris

Sal Khan’s The One World Schoolhouse is a joy to read, simply full of engaging stories and language. It won’t tax you if you are tired from a hard week. In fact, the chapters are short and can be picked up here and there when you get a chance.

Khan speaks from his own experience about how he became interested in education. He explains what is problematic with the traditional education system as well as what it means to focus on mastery learning. I love the windows into history that explain how we got where we are. The last section in which he lays out his vision for the Khan Academy is fascinating. (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…)

4 Threshold Concepts for Policy to Tackle in the Long Term to Support Competency Education

February 15, 2018 by

This is the sixteenth post in the blog series on the report, Quality and Equity by Design: Charting the Course for the Next Phase of Competency-Based Education.

What ideas does state policy need to address in the long-term to create the conditions for a transformation to competency-based education systems designed to ensure equity, so all students can be truly ready for success? We intend to push current thinking beyond the assumptions that perpetuate root causes of inequity and the structural issues that perpetuate injustice. We are focusing on a strategy for policy to support systems change over the long haul toward competency-based systems that ensure mastery for all students and equity for all. We hope to inspire new ideas and launch dialogue among communities and state policy leaders.

Threshold Concepts: Key Issues for Policy to Tackle for the Long-Term

Threshold concepts are important concepts for policymakers to understand so that they drive better policy and address structural gaps in our education system. Threshold concepts are “core concepts, that once understood, are needed to transform a given subject.” They can help us think differently about what is possible in an equitable future education system where all students succeed, and how to address deep-seated systems design flaws across K-12 education. Threshold concepts are not policy issues, but they deeply impact policy. In this blog, we discuss our thinking around the core, or threshold concepts, that state policymakers might think about addressing for a long-term, sustainable shift to personalized, competency-based learning.

Threshold concepts to understand before we address action steps for policy-making are: (more…)

Ten Cornerstones of Cognitive Learning Sciences

January 18, 2018 by

I’ve read and read. Trying to understand the basics of the research from the sciences of learning. Trying to integrate the research from the cognitive with the emotional domains. Trying to understand the path from research on how children, teens, and adults learn to specific practices and strategies educators can use in school design, instruction, learning activities, and assessing student learning.

One of the best sources I’ve found for understanding the cognitive and motivational domains is the Nature of Learning: Using Research to Inspire Practice published by OECD. In this article and the next, I’ll walk you through some of the highlights.

I’d probably skip the first chapter – you’ve heard it all before why change is needed. Chapter two offers a helpful review of the historical development of educational theory. For my own learning, the real value of the paper started in chapter three with these ten cornerstone findings of cognitive research:

1. Learning is an activity carried out by the learner. Teachers can’t just deliver curriculum and hope it sinks in. The trick is how to get learners to want to learn, to know how to learn, and to be mentally active. Then when teachers introduce new concepts and processes, the learners are ready to tackle it. Strategies to build make connections, student agency, motivation and engagement are all important.Teachers need to have content knowledge, pedagogical knowledge, and pedagogical content knowledge based on how students learn. (more…)

Moving Forward with the Science of Learning

January 11, 2018 by

Deadlines do matter. They get us to focus our attention to put in the time and effort to learn something. They help us learn time management because we uncover more about our own patterns of learning, both cognitive and social & emotional.

As you probably know, I’ve been puttering along in my learning about the science of learning (SoL). However, a national meeting on the topic has forced me to actually stop the review process and move into the mode of “What do I Think?” about the SoL and what it means for our schools, educators, and learners.

Here are a few high level thoughts about the SoL:

1. There is an extraordinary amount of agreement about the science of learning. Although I’m sure as you get down into the weeds there are plenty of healthy debates going on, educators should be confident going forward. This isn’t just the newest idea developed by a foundation that will get a lot of attention and then fade away. It is solid research, there is agreement in the field, and it has huge implications. (more…)

Memorization is Still Important, Even in Deeper Learning

October 31, 2017 by

This is the 2nd article in a periodic series on aligning competency-based schools with the learning sciences.

In an earlier post, I described my effort to understand the cognitive learning sciences and begin to make connections with our work in competency-based education. This post, and part of what may become a series, is another effort to ground our work in the learning sciences. And like the earlier post, I will turn to the Deans for Impact Science of Learning. They’ve organized their summary into six questions:

  • How do students understand new ideas?
  • How do students learn and retain new information?
  • How do students solve problems?
  • How does learning transfer to new situations in or outside of the classroom?
  • What motivates students to learn?
  • What are common misconceptions about how students think and learn?

I realized that I have been making a bit of an error in how I talk about the efforts to engage students in the higher level skills, usually level 3 and higher in the different taxonomies such as Webb or Bloom. I’ve tended to judge those schools that have stayed focused on memorization and comprehension without creating opportunity for more analysis and evaluation or applied or deeper learning. I’ve tended to see them as underserving their students, out of touch with the demands of the skills young adults need in today’s world, and even holding low expectations for students. Perhaps they are all those things, but my mistake has been in undervaluing memorization.

Memorization must not, of course, be the end-all of the school experience. However, it must be appreciated and valued in the role it plays in learning and the application of learning. In fact, as we think about helping students develop the skills to be lifelong learners, perhaps we should lift the knowledge about how to memorize in the long-term into that set of skills every student should know. From Science of Learning:

Cognitive Principle: Each subject area has some set of facts that, if committed to long-term memory, aids problem-solving by freeing working memory resources and illuminating contexts in which existing knowledge and skills can be applied. The size and content of this set varies by subject matter.

Practical Implications for the Classroom: Teachers will need to teach different sets of facts at different ages. For example, the most obvious (and most thoroughly studied) sets of facts are math facts and letter-sound pairings in early elementary grades. For math, memory is much more reliable than calculation. Math facts (e.g., 8 x 6 = ?) are embedded in other topics (e.g., long division). A child who stops to calculate may make an error or lose track of the larger problem. Additionally, the advantages of learning to read by phonics are well established. (more…)

Making Sense of the Learning Sciences

October 24, 2017 by

I’ve been spending a year reading about the cognitive learning sciences and also about John Hattie’s work to review the effect of different strategies. Even with Bror Saxberg’s coaching (for which I’m deeply grateful), it’s been slow going for me, as I started with a pretty blank slate. I was also simply stuck. I was learning and my familiarity with the high level findings was growing, but I couldn’t figure out how to apply it. I was simply having difficulty making meaning for my work at CompetencyWorks because so much of the power of the cognitive learning sciences impacts practices of the teacher at a much more granular level than I encounter on my three- to five-hour school visits.

I had two breakthroughs recently, and now connections are being easily made. First, when reading Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, I realized that his exploration of different systems of thinking, with System 1 operating automatically and involuntarily and System 2 operating with deliberation and reasoning, opens a door for us to challenge the bias that we bring into our work and our relationships. It opens the door for us to be more cognizant of the types of bias and how they impact the learning lives of children in our schools. Perhaps we can use the learning sciences to cleanse ourselves and our schools of bias.

Second, as we think about the competency-based cultures, structures, and pedagogical philosophy (one of which is that teaching should be grounded in the learning sciences), it’s important for us to test out how districts and schools are supporting teachers to use the cognitive learning sciences as well as those that influence engagement and motivation. In other words, what are the structures and reinforcements that make it easy for teachers to use the learning sciences, and are there ways in which districts and schools are creating obstacles that we should address?

To get started, I’ll turn to the Deans for Impact Science of Learning, by far the easiest summary out there. Let’s look at one of the three principles under How Do Students Understand New Ideas?

Cognitive Principle: Cognitive development does not progress through a fixed sequence of age-related stages. The mastery of new concepts happens in fits and starts.

Practical Implications for the Classroom: Content should not be kept from students because it is “developmentally inappropriate.” The term implies there is a biologically inevitable course of development, and that this course is predictable by age. To answer the question “is the student ready?” it’s best to consider “has the student mastered the prerequisites?” (more…)

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