It’s time to embed learning research into policy, according to a new report published by iNACOL, which recently renamed itself the Aurora Institute.
Pulling from neuroscience, psychology and brain science, learning scientists have found, for example, that learners have to actively engage in constructing new knowledge and skills, best accomplished through a dynamic interplay of emotion, motivation and cognition. Once something’s learned, students need to be able to move that information from their working memory to their long-term memory, a process helped along by the teacher, who makes connections from what’s newly learned to prior knowledge and uses appealing examples that demonstrate the usefulness for solving real-life problems.
However, current education practices often interfere with applying learning research in the classroom.
Written by iNACOL/Aurora Policy Director Natalie Truong, the report offers a rundown on nine valuable resources from current learning science research. It links the findings on learning science to the need for district and state leaders to develop policies that support structures to put learning science into action.
For example, Truong wrote, that when state accountability systems have a singular focus on reading and math, they miss out on other factors in student success. Additionally, while learning sciences highlight the value of continuous check-ins and formative assessments to gauge student learning, too many state education systems emphasize end-of-year summative assessments, which provide a limited scope of student achievement.
Another big obstacle is the use of age-based cohorts, which advance in lockstep throughout students’ K-12 careers. That structure ignores the need to meet students where they are in their learning or to teach students in their zone of proximal development, including their emotional, psychological and cognitive processes. In other words, Truong explained, the traditional age-based approach “continues to perpetuate despite growing evidence that age alone tells us very little about what a child can do or the support needed to develop more fully.”
The report offers 10 recommendations for synchronizing K-12 education policy with the science of learning and development.