The Real Definition of Learning Science
Google “education research,” and you’ll find that you have a lot of reading ahead of you. The nineteen million or so articles on the topic suggest that it’s a topic of considerable significance.
No wonder. We’ve been teaching and learning for thousands of years, and one of the most fascinating aspects of the process for advancing human knowledge is how to best deliver instruction. How can teachers instruct their students and help them internalize new learning?
As it turns out, everything in learning comes down to science: cognitive neuroscience and cognitive psychology.
The human brain
Cognitive neuroscience focuses on brain activity. The overall physical structure and each region of the brain affect thinking and the way learners go about their tasks. The areas don’t function in isolation; they work together to build, prune, and strengthen neural pathways. Neuroscientists who study this brain activity may find themselves exploring neuroimages and cognitive genomics. Scientists may also explore physiological psychology when studying how the brain processes information.
Western thought has traditionally separated how the mind and body work, suggesting that the two can be separated from each other. Consciousness and being are not separate. Cognitive neuroscience brings mind and body together as one.
Thought and behavior
Humans are complex beings. Our mental processes and behaviors make up our personalities; we are the product or our thoughts, feelings, and actions.
How we make memories, solve problems and even learn language is part of cognitive psychology. Cognitive psychology takes into consideration how the mind and specific behaviors affect learning. It concerns itself on the journey, not the beginning or the destination itself.
Cognitive psychology is what happens between initial thought and action taken. It is the process of learning, especially what makes that process most effective.
Why edtech must take learning science into consideration
It’s impossible to separate the elements of learning science from each other. Neuroscience and psychology are interwoven aspects of cognition; neither exists without the other. Both are integral to the learning process, and together, they make up the exciting field of learning science.
What we know about learning and how people learn is changing education. Learning science takes into consideration structure and function, and it considers which instructional strategies are most effective and when they should be used.
Edtech solutions cannot last in today’s world without contemplating learning science and implementing its most important take-a-ways for instruction:
- Encoding: how the brain creates memories
- Retrieval practice: how consciousness access stored memories
- Total physical recall: integrating movement and thought
- Grouping: putting like memories and experiences together
- Repetition over time: learners need ample practice – days and weeks, not two or three quick attempts.
- Integrated learning: interdisciplinary study allows the brain to make more connections
Designing effective edtech requires engineering learning experiences for optimal impact. Solutions that take into consideration how learning tasks engage the brain and create an imprinted memory. That means knowing when to incorporate additional practice for learners or how to reward the brain’s effort with the digital version of a trophy.
Learning science isn’t new. We’ve amassed a considerable amount of research on how the brain works and the methods that produce the best learning. Learning sciences has brought all of it together in a single filed of study. Educators and edtech companies alike would be foolish to ignore the implications.