Learning by Scientific Design: Strong instructional decision-making is rooted in the science of learning
Since our inception, Deans for Impact has advocated for aspiring teachers to explore our best scientific understanding of how humans learn. We explored these principles in The Science of Learning, a publication that summarizes cognitive science research on learning and connects it to practical takeaways for teachers.
We had a hunch that most future teachers don’t get enough opportunities to engage with this research and practice applying it in their own instruction. To investigate, we created an assessment to measure teacher-candidates’ understanding of learning science. Our initial survey — which we summarized last spring — found that many future teachers didn’t grasp the fundamentals. Some cited neuromyths or beliefs that reflected low expectations of students in their reasoning for incorrect answers.
If left unchecked, these varying levels of teacher comprehension can lead to instructional inequities: a teacher who understands how our minds process new information is better equipped to foster learning and a motivating environment than one who believes myths or that only some children are capable of grade-level learning.
To remedy this, we’ve partnered with 10 educator-preparation programs that are committed to redesigning their work to be deeply rooted in learning science. We call this the Learning by Scientific Design Network.
The framework that guides the network is built on the core cognitive science research that we outlined in The Science of Learning. We extracted six key principles that are important for future teachers to understand and practice. Then, we specified what it would look like when teachers put those principles into action. The resulting framework looks like this:
Our first two-year improvement cycle within the LbSD Network will complete this spring, and the early results are thrilling. We’ve seen significant changes in how ed-prep faculty and staff think about the importance of the science of learning and apply it during instruction. And we’ve seen dramatic changes in how teacher-candidates design their instruction and approach their classrooms, prioritizing rigorous thinking and learning over engagement.
Over the next few months, we’ll be diving into these stories, highlighting individual teacher-candidates who have experienced shifts in their thinking and teacher-educators who have reimagined their work. You’ll learn practical takeaways and hear from expert practitioners about the challenges and opportunities of redesigning curriculum to center on instructional decision-making grounded in learning science.
Together, we’ll explore stories that answer the questions at the heart of this work: What does it look like when a teacher utilizes learning science to design instruction and build relationships with students? How does a teacher create an environment where all students receive equal access to learning? What are the implications for educational equity?