The Science of How We Learn

I have been fascinated for a long time with the growing body of scientific knowledge about how we learn, mainly because I believe that in the coming years this knowledge has to fundamentally shape the way that we ‘do’ education. In recent years I’ve come across some fascinating books on the subject, so I was really pleased to see the attached article;

Time Magazine – Ideas Article on Science of Learning

The fundamentals of what neurology has established over the last few years about the process of how learning really works have to move beyond narrow interest specialist books and conferences in to the public domain. When the public realize the implications of this new awareness they will begin to demand changes in education practices and processes which have remained largely unchanged for decades. It would be lovely to believe that the education profession would come forward to make the changes without such prompting, but sadly the historical precedent on that is not good.

For example, the evidence that neither ability to learn or ‘intelligence’ are innate (as though at birth we all took part in a lottery to see how much ‘smarts’ each of us would be entitled to) is potentially massively liberating, but also comes with great responsibility for educators. To acknowledge that HOW we learn shapes both what we know and what we’re capable of means that attention to how learning happens for children (and therefore how teaching is done) is the critical skill area for teachers (not their own ‘cleverness’ in knowing so much!)

Also, incidentally, I understand that amongst the findings of such research are conclusions such as;

  1. That whole story about us using 10% of our brain power only was a piece of inspired nonsense – we use different parts when engaged in different mental processes, singly and in combinations, but there are few parts if any left completely unitilised,
  2. The quality of mind functioning is not linked to how much or which parts we use, so much as the optimizing of networks of connections so that different parts function together optimally – those connections come about as a result of activity – therefore, the more you use it, the more potential it has,
  3. The ideas about left and right brain division of labour were greatly over-simplistic and the actual position is a great deal more complex,
  4. There is no logical reason to justify loss of mind functioning or effectiveness in older age, provided that the network is kept active.

This Time Ideas article is the first of a series of weekly ones for those who want to know more. Also, over Diwali break I hope to have time to add here in the blog a bibliography of some of the best books I’ve read of late on the science of learning.

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One Response

  1. Interesting read. I too work in the area of creating learning programs based on brain-based and cognitive learning. It is indeed heartening to see that educationists are optimising use of klnowledge and learning methods to create improved programs for kids. Would also like to share a link that may interest you and parents/teachers of teenagers as they form a significant segment of school students:

    http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2011/10/teenage-brains/dobbs-text

    Appreciate and look forward to such exchange of ideas.

    Neena Sood

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