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How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School 11 Next Steps for Research As noted above, an essential purpose of this volume is to expand on the original version of How People Learn by exploring how the findings of research on learning can be incorporated into classroom practice. The research agenda that follows includes both the recommendations in the original volume and a broad range of proposed project areas focused on bridging research and practice. The paths through which research influences practice are depicted in Figure 11.1. To a limited extent, research directly influences classroom practce when teachers and researchers collaborate in design experiments, or when interested teachers incorporate ideas from research into their classroom practice. This appears as the only line directly linking research and practice in Figure 11.1. More typically, ideas from research are filtered through the development of education materials; through pre-service and in-service teacher and administrator education programs; through public policies at the national, state, and school district levels; and through the public’s beliefs about learning and teaching, often gleaned from the popular media and from their own experiences in school. These are the four arenas that mediate the link between research and practice in Figure 11.1 The public includes teachers, whose beliefs may be influenced by popular presentations of research, and parents, whose beliefs about learning and teaching affect classroom practice as well. Several aspects of Figure 11.1 are worth noting. First, the influence of research on the four mediating arenas—education materials, pre-service and in-service teacher and administrator education programs, public policy, and public opinion and the media—has typically been weak for a variety of reasons. Educators generally do not look to research for guidance. The concern of researchers for the validity and robustness of their work, as well as their focus on underlying constructs that explain learning, often differ from the focus of educators on the applicability of htose constructs in real classroom settings with many students, restricted time, and a variety of de-
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How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School FIGURE 11.1 Paths through which research influences practice. mands. Even the language used by researchers is very different from that familiar to teachers. And the full schedules of many teachers leaves them with little time to identify and read relevant research. These factors contribute to the feeling voiced by many teachers that research has largely been irrelevant to their work (Fleming, 1988). Without clear communication of a research-based theory of learning and teaching, the operational theories held by the various stakeholders are not aligned. Teachers, administrators, and parents frequently encounter conflicting ideas about the nature of learning and its implications for effective teaching. Second, with the exception of the relatively small set of cases in which teachers and researchers work together on design experiments, the arrows between research and practice in Figure 11.1 are one-way. This reflects the fact that practitioners typically have few opportunities to shape the research agenda and contribute to an emerging knowledge base of learning and teaching. The task of bridging research and practice requires an agenda
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How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School that allows for a flow of information, ideas, and research questions in both directions. It requires an agenda that consolidates the knowledge base and strengthens the links between that knowledge base and each of the components that together influence practice. The potential benefits of bridging theory and practice are noted by Donald Stokes in his recent work, Pasteur’s Quadrant (1997). Stokes observes that many of the advances in science are intimately connected to the search for solutions to practical problems. Pasteur appears in the book’s title because his work contributed so clearly to scientific understanding while simultaneously focusing on practical problems. Such research is “use-inspired.” As in Pasteur’s case, when executed as part of a systematic and strategic program of inquiry, it can support new understandings at the most fundamental and basic scientific level. A central theme of Stokes’s argument is that the typical linear conceptualization of research as a sequence from basic to applied is an inaccurate characterization of much research, and it is highly limiting for the envisioning of a research agenda. He proposes instead a quadrant in two-dimensional space in which considerations of use and the quest for fundamental understanding define the horizontal and vertical axes respectively. The quadrant allows for the possibility that research can be high in both basic and applied values. From this perspective, one can envision the need for a comprehensive program of use-driven strategic research and development focused on issues of improving classroom learning and teaching. The facts that schools and classrooms are the focus and that enhanced practice and learning are the desired goals render the program of research no less important with respect to advancing the theoretical base for how people learn. Indeed, many of the advances described in this volume are the product of use-inspired research and development focused on solving problems of classroom practice. It is worth noting that a wide array of quantitative and qualitative methods drawn from the behavioral and social sciences are employed in education research. The methods often vary with the nature of the learning and teaching problem studied and the level of detail at which issues are pursued. Given the complexity of educational issues in real-world contexts in which variables are often difficult to control, the types of “use-inspired” research envisioned here will necessarily demand a variety of methods. These will range from controlled designs to case studies, with analytic methods for deriving conclusions and inferences including both quantitative and qualitative procedures of substantial rigor. To build an effective bridge between research and practice, such a multiplicity of methods is not only reasonable, it is essential. No single research method can suffice.
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How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School OVERARCHING THEMES Adopting the perspective of use-inspired, strategic research and development focused on issues of learning and teaching is a powerful way to organize and justify the specific project areas described below. Five overarching themes can serve to guide our understanding of the change that is required to bridge research and practice more effectively. Three of these themes point to the consolidation of knowledge that would help link research and practice: Elaborate the messages in this volume at a level of detail that makes them usable to educators and policy makers. The findings presented in the preceding chapters and their implications need to be substantially elaborated and incorporated into curricula, instructional tools, and assessment tools before their impact will be felt in the classroom. It is not enough to know, for example, that subject-matter information must be tied to related concepts if deep understanding and transfer of learning are the goals. Teachers must recognize which particular concepts are most relevant for the subject matter that they teach. And they need curriculum materials that support the effort to link information with concepts. Similarly, policy makers need to know quite specifically how the principles presented herein relate to state standards. In this sense, the development aspect of the agenda is critical. Communicate the messages in this volume in the manner that is most effective for each of the audiences that influences educational practice. For teachers to teach differently and administrators and policy makers to support a different model of teaching, they need opportunities to learn about the recommended changes and to understand what they are designed to achieve. Research must be done on effective methods of communicating these ideas to teachers, administrators, and policy makers, each of whom have different information needs and different ways of learning. Similarly, teachers, administrators, and policy makers who participated in this study all emphasized that the public’s beliefs regarding education influence how they do their jobs. They recommended research aimed at effectively communicating key ideas from this volume to the public. Use the principles in this volume as a lens through which to evaluate existing education practices and policies. As discussed earlier, many existing school practices and policies are inconsistent with what is known about learning. But havens of exemplary educational practice have also been described. The education landscape is dotted with reform efforts and with institutes and centers that produce new ideas and new teaching
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How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School materials. Educators, administrators, and policy makers are eager for help in sorting through what already exists. They want to know which of these current practices, training programs, and policies are in alignment with the principles in this volume and which are in clear violation. Moreover, educators involved in this study emphasized that new ideas are introduced to schools one after another, and teachers become weary and skeptical that any new reform effort will be better than the last. Zealous efforts to promote the newest idea often overlook existing practices that are successful. An effort to identify such practices will build support from those who have long been engaged in teaching for understanding. Together, these three themes suggest that an effective bridge between research and practice will require a consolidated knowledge base on learning and teaching that builds, or is cumulative, over time. Elaborating on the conceptualization in Figure 11.1, this knowledge base appears at the center of Figure 11.2. Fed by research, it organizes, synthesizes, interprets, and communicates research findings in a manner that allows easy access and effective learning for those in each of the mediating arenas. Attending to the communication and information links between the knowledge base and each of the components of the model simultaneously enhances the prospect for the alignment of research ideas and practice. Two additional themes focus on how research should be conducted to strengthen its link to practice: Conduct research in teams that combine the expertise of researchers and the wisdom of practitioners. Much of the work that is needed to bridge research and practice focuses on the education and professional development of teachers, the curriculum, instruction and assessment tools that support their teaching, and the policies that define the environment in which teaching takes place. These are areas about which practitioners have a great deal of knowledge and experience. Thus it is important to have educators partnered with researchers in undertaking these research projects. Such partnerships allow the perspectives and knowledge of teachers to be tapped, bringing an awareness to the research of the needs and dynamics of a classroom environment. Since such partnerships are novel to many researchers, exemplary cases and guiding principles will need to be developed to make more likely the successful planning and conduct of research team partnerships. Extend the frontier of learning research by expanding the study of classroom practice. As the earlier discussion of the Stokes work suggests, research efforts that begin by observing the learning that takes place
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How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School FIGURE 11.2 Proposed model for strengthening the link between research and practice. in the classroom may advance understanding of the science of learning in important and useful ways. Taken together, these latter two suggestions imply that the links between research and practice should routinely flow in both directions. The insights of researchers help shape the practitioner’s understanding, and the insights of practitioners help shape the research agenda and the insights of researchers. Moreover, the link between each of the arenas and the knowledge base flows in both directions. Efforts to align teaching materials, teacher education, administration, public policy, and public opinion with the knowledge base are part of an ongoing, iterative research effort in which the implementation of new ideas, teaching techniques, or forms of communication are themselves the subject of study. The agenda that follows proposes research and development that can help consolidate the knowledge base and can build the two-way links between the knowledge base and each of the arenas that influences practice. But that knowledge base is also fed by research on learning more generally
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How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School and on classroom practice. The proposed agenda includes additional research that would strengthen the understanding of learning in areas that go beyond this volume. Finally, since communication and access to knowledge are key to alignment, a new effort is proposed that would use interactive technologies to facilitate communication of the variety of findings that would emerge from these research and development projects. In many of the proposed areas for research and development, work is already under way. Inclusion in the agenda is not meant to overlook the contributions of research already done or in progress. Rather, the agenda is inclusive in order to suggest that research findings need to be synthesized and integrated into the knowledge base and their implications tested through ongoing, iterative research. RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT OF EDUCATIONAL MATERIALS The goal of the recommended research and development in this area is to build on and elaborate findings in this volume so that they are “applications ready” and more usable to those responsible for developing curriculum, instructional, and assessment materials. The intent is to achieve three interrelated goals: (a) to identify existing educational materials that are aligned with the principles of learning suggested in earlier chapters and to develop and test new materials in areas of need; (b) to advance the knowledge base by significantly extending the work described herein to additional areas of curriculum, instructional techniques, and assessments that are in need of detailed analysis; and (c) to communicate the messages of this volume in a manner appropriate to developers of educational materials and teachers by using a variety of technologies (e.g., texts, electronic databases, interactive web sites). The recommended research is described in this section in seven project areas. Examine Existing Practice 1. Review a sample of current curricula, instructional techniques, and assessments for alignment with principles discussed in this volume. It is recommended that teams of discipline-specific experts, researchers in pedagogy and cognitive science, and teachers review a sample of widely used curricula, as well as curricula that have a reputation for teaching for understanding. The envisioned research would involve two stages; these might be conducted together in a project, or as sequential projects. Stage 1: These curricula and their companion instructional techniques and assessments should be evaluated with careful attention paid to align-
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How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School ment with the principles of learning outlined herein. The review might include consideration of the extent to which the curriculum emphasizes depth over breadth of coverage; the effectiveness of the opportunities provided to grasp key concepts related to the subject matter; the extent to which the curriculum provides opportunities to explore preconceptions about the subject matter; the adequacy of the factual knowledge base provided by the curriculum; the extent to which formative assessment procedures are built into the curriculum; and the extent to which accompanying summative assessment procedures measure understanding and ability to transfer rather than memory of fact. The features that support learning should be highlighted and explained, as should the features that are in conflict. The report from this research should accomplish two goals. First, it should identify examples of curriculum components, instructional techniques, and assessment tools that incorporate the principles of learning. Second, the explication of features that support or conflict with the principles of learning should be provided in sufficient detail and in a format that allows the report to serve as a learning device for those in the education field who choose and use teaching and assessment tools. As such, it could serve as a reference document when new curricula and assessments are being considered. Stage 2: The curricula that are considered promising should be evaluated to determine their effectiveness when used in practice. Curricula that are highly rated on paper may be very difficult for teachers to work with, or in the light of classroom practice may fail to achieve the level of understanding for which they are designed. Measures of student achievement take center stage in this effort. Achievement is indicated not only by a command of factual knowledge, but also by a student’s conceptual understanding of subject matter and the ability to apply those concepts to future learning of new, related material. If existing assessments do not measure conceptual understanding and knowledge transfer, then this stage will require development and testing of such measures. In addition to achievement scores, feedback from teachers and curriculum directors who use the materials would provide additional input for stage 2. Ideally, the review of curricula would take place at several levels: at the level of curriculum units, which may span several weeks of instructional time; at the level of semester-long and year-long sequences of units; and at the level of multiple grades, so that students have chances to progressively deepen their understanding over a number of years. The curricula reviewed should not be limited to those that are print based. As a subset of this effort, a review of curricula that are multimedia should be undertaken. The number of computers in schools is expanding rapidly. For schools to use that equipment to support learning, they must be
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How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School able to identify the computer-based programs that can enhance classroom teaching or class assignments. Research should be done to: Identify technology programs or computer-based curricula that are aligned with the principles of learning for understanding. The programs identified should go beyond those that are add-ons of factual information or that simply provide information in an entertaining fashion. The investigation should explore how the programs can be used as a tool to support knowledge building in the unit being studied, and how they can further enhance the development of understanding of key concepts in the unit. The study should also explore the adequacy of opportunities for learning about the programs and for ongoing support in using the programs in a classroom setting. Evaluate the aligned programs as teaching/learning tools by conducting empirical research on their distinctive contribution to achievement and other desired outcomes. Investigate computer programs that appear to be effective teaching devices but do not clearly align with the principles of learning. These might suggest productive areas for further study. Extend the Knowledge Base by Developing and Testing New Educational Materials 2. In areas in which curriculum development has been weak, design and evaluate new curricula, with companion assessment tools, that teach and measure deep understanding. As an extension of project area 1 above, or in some cases as a substitute, the development and evaluation of new curriculum and assessment materials that reflect the principles of learning outlined herein should be undertaken. Again, the development should be done by teams of disciplinary experts, cognitive scientists, curriculum developers, and expert teachers. Ideally, research in this category will begin with existing curricula and modify them to better reflect key principles of learning. In some cases, however, exemplary curricula for particular kinds of subject matter may not exist, so the teams will need to create them. This research and development might be coordinated with the ongoing efforts of the National Science Foundation to ensure complementary rather than duplicative efforts. The curricula should be designed to support learning for understanding. They will presumably emphasize depth over breadth. The designs should engage students’ initial understanding, promote construction of a foundation of factual knowledge in the context of a general conceptual framework, and encourage the development of metacognitive skills.
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How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School Companion teacher materials for a curriculum should include a “metaguide” that explains its links to principles of learning, reflects pedagogical content knowledge concerning the curriculum, and promotes flexible use of the curriculum by teachers. The guide should include discussion of expected prior knowledge (including typical preconceptions), expected competencies required of students, and ways to carry out formative assessments as learning proceeds. Potentially excellent curricula can fail because teachers are not given adequate support to use them. Although instructional guides cannot replace teacher training efforts, the meta-guide should be both comprehensive and user-friendly to supplement those efforts. Finally, both formative and summative tests of learning and transfer should be proposed as well. Once developed, field-testing of the curricula should be conducted to amass data on student learning and teacher satisfaction, identifying areas for improvement. Clearly, it is easier to field-test short units rather than longer ones. Ideally, different research groups that are focusing on similar topics across different age groups (e.g., algebra in elementary, middle, and high school) would work to explore the degree to which each of the parts seems to merge into a coherent whole. Once again, careful attention should be paid to the criteria used to evaluate the learning that is supported by the materials and accompanying pedagogy. Achievement should measure understanding of concepts and ability to transfer learning to new, related areas. 3. Conduct research on formative assessment. A separate research effort on formative assessment is recommended. The importance of making students’ thinking visible by providing frequent opportunities for assessment, feedback, and revision, as well as teaching students to engage in self-assessment, is emphasized throughout this volume and in the proposals above. But the knowledge base on how to do this effectively is still weak. To bolster the understanding of formative assessment so that it can more effectively be built into curricula, this research effort should: Formulate design principles for formative assessments that promote the development of coherent, well-organized knowledge. The goal of these assessments is to tap understanding rather than memory for procedures and facts. Experiment with approaches to developing in students and teachers a view of formative assessment and self-assessment as an opportunity for providing useful information that allows for growth, rather than as an outcome measure of success or failure.
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How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School Explore the potential of new technologies that provide the opportunity to incorporate formative assessment into teaching in an efficient and user-friendly fashion. This research effort should consider as well the relationship between formative and summative assessments. If the goal of learning is to achieve deep understanding, then formative assessment should identify problems and progress toward that goal, and summative assessment should measure the level of success at reaching that goal. Clearly they are different stages of the same process and should be closely tied in design and purpose. 4. Develop and evaluate videotaped model lessons for broadly taught, common curriculum units that appear throughout the K–12 education system. Many lessons and units of study are taught almost universally to students in the United States. Examples include the rain cycle in science, the concept of gravity in physics, the Civil War in history, and Macbeth in English. A sample of familiar teaching topics should be chosen to illustrate teaching methods that are compatible with the findings in this volume. The research and development should be undertaken by teams composed of disciplinary experts, pedagogical experts, master teachers, and video specialists. The model lessons or units envisioned by the committee would in all cases: Illustrate a methodology for drawing out and working with student preconceptions and assessing progress toward understanding (results from project area 5 below could contribute to this endeavor). Present the conceptual framework for understanding or organizing the new material. Provide clear opportunities for transfer of knowledge to related areas. When appropriate, they would also. Provide instruction on the use of meta-cognitive skills. Include examples of group processes in the development of understanding, illustrating the nature (and potential advantages) of capitalizing on shared expertise in the classroom. The model units would be prefaced and heavily annotated to guide the viewer’s understanding. Annotations would include both subject content and pedagogical technique. Companion assessment tools should be developed that measure understanding of the core concepts taught in the lessons. Multiple models of teaching the same unit in different school contexts are recommended. These could serve several purposes. First, the goal of the
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How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School studies should focus on the features that hold that community together. Are there key players? Are there structured or informal opportunities for the exchange of ideas? What can be learned from these successes about the opportunities for enhancing teacher access to communities of learning using Internet tools? Did the school attempt to involve parents and other community stakeholders in the change? Some case study research of this type has already been done or is now under way. The effort to extend the knowledge base in this area should be coupled with an effort to synthesize the research results, making them easily accessible to school communities interested in reform. Develop Tools for Effective Communication of the Principles in This Volume to Policy Makers 21. Conduct research on the effective communication of research results to policy makers. Policy makers do not routinely look to research as a source of information and ideas. But there are windows of opportunity for research in policy making. Researchers who study this issue suggest that the windows are more likely to open during crises, when issues are new and policy makers have not yet taken a position, or when issues have been fought to a stalemate. When those opportunities arise, information must be communicated to policy makers in a manner that optimizes the chance that they will learn from research findings. It is recommended that research be conducted to: Assess preconceptions of education policy makers regarding the goals of K–12 education and the strategies for achieving those goals. Are they consistent with the principles of learning in this volume? Identify examples that engage the preconceptions of policy makers (if those preconceptions diverge from research findings on how people learn) and test their effectiveness at changing the initial understanding. Identify methods of communication that are most likely to reach, and teach, policy makers. Compare the effectiveness of alternative approaches, including concisely written materials, personal contact, and briefings or seminars. The product of this research should be both a report of the findings regarding how policy makers learn most effectively and concisely written material that can be used for communicating effectively to policy makers.
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How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School PUBLIC OPINION AND THE MEDIA Information communicated to the public through the media can influence practice in two ways. First, to the extent that the public is aware of the implications of learning research for classroom practice, teachers, administrators, and policy makers will receive more support for the types of changes that are suggested in this volume. Second, many teachers, administrators, and policy makers themselves are influenced by ideas that reach them through popular media. This volume is not a document that is likely to be widely read by educators and policy makers. Information presented in a more popular format will have far better prospects of reaching this audience. 22. Write a popular version of this volume for parents and the public. Everyone has preconceptions regarding the process of learning and effective methods of education. Those theories are put to work on a daily basis when we model behaviors for children, provide instructions to co-workers, or explain a problem to a friend. These models are likely to be influenced by personal experience. The translations of these experience-based models to the evaluation of classroom teaching can lead to expectations that conflict with the principles of learning drawn from research. A parent who is accustomed to teaching a child through direct instruction, for example, may be baffled by mathematics homework that requires the child to find a method of adding five two-digit numbers, rather than instructing the child to line those numbers in columns and add the columns in turn. The importance of grappling with the problem and searching for a solution method, and the appreciation that such grappling brings to the conventional method of solution, can be lost on the parent. This volume develops many concepts and ideas that could inform parents about models of learning that are research based, thus influencing the criteria that parents use to judge classroom practice. But those ideas are embedded in a report that is not designed specifically to communicate to parents. The writing of a popular version of this volume is therefore recommended. The popular presentation should address common preconceptions held by the public regarding learning. It should couch research findings in multiple examples that are relevant to parents’ observations of children at a variety of ages. And it should help parents who are interested in understanding or evaluating a school formulate questions and make observations. Some particularly effective examples and their implications for teaching should be highlighted in a manner that makes them easy to extract from the text. The children’s book Fish Is Fish by Leo Lionni (1970), mentioned in Chapter 1, can serve as an effective example. In the story, a frog adventures
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How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School onto the land and comes back to describe what it saw. The fish who listen to the frog imagine each description to be an adaptation of a fish: humans are imagined to have fish bodies but walk upright, etc. The visual image powerfully describes the problem of presenting new information without regard to the learner’s existing conceptions. Examples such as these would allow the popular media to communicate key ideas to the broader public who might not read the report. The popular version of this volume should itself be a subject of study. A second stage of this project should involve research to assess whether the popular version effectively communicates its messages to a sample of parents. BEYOND HOW PEOPLE LEARN The research and development agenda proposed thus far is focused largely on how the insights from this volume be incorporated into educational practice. How People Learn reviews a burgeoning literature that, taken collectively, provides the foundation for a science of learning. But more work needs to be done to extend that foundation. 23. Make a commitment to basic research programs in cognition, learning, and teaching. This volume has shown the payoff from investing in research on such topics as the foundational role of learners’ prior knowledge in acquiring new information; plasticity and adaptability of learning; the importance of social and cultural contexts in learning; understanding the conditions of transfer of learning; how the organizational structure of a discipline affects learning; how time, familiarity, and exploration affect fluency in learning; and many other topics. While these areas have produced a substantial body of research findings, the research remains incomplete. The framework has been constructed from the earlier research; details now need to be provided in order to advance the science of learning by refining the principles. 24. Establish new research programs in emerging areas, including technology, neurocognition, and sociocultural factors that mediate learning. Research is needed on the interrelations between learning and learning environments and between teaching and learning. This research should build on current findings in areas such as: how children learn to apply their competencies as they encounter new information; how early competencies relate to later school learning; the conditions and experiences that support knowledge scaffolding; and how representational systems are challenged by new tools of technology, such as visual cognition and other types of symbolic thinking:
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How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School 25. Conduct new assessment research to focus on improving and implementing formative assessments. Research conclusions indicate that teachers need a variety of supports and learning opportunities for making their classrooms assessment centered in ways that support learning. Research questions that remain to be addressed include: How does a teacher use assessment? What skills do teachers need in order to be able to use formative assessments in ways that will improve their teaching? What kinds of supports do teachers need for learning and adopting innovative assessment processes? 26. Explore the foundations for science learning. Research is recommended that would explore such questions as the following: How can the field “scale up” successful demonstrations of research-based curricula so that they can be implemented in many diverse settings under the guidance of many different kinds of teachers? Which factors influence the conversion of research knowledge into effective instructional methods in real settings? Do strategies that work for science education also work to improve instruction in other subject areas? How can preschool children be assisted in developing representational structures so that there are bridges, rather than gaps, between early and later school learning? How can collaborative learning environments be organized in ways that counteract societal stereotypes and tap diversity as a positive resource for learning? Which kinds of assessments can effectively measure new kinds of science learning? How do the features of a constructivist curriculum interact with other social factors in classrooms? What is the impact of new technologies on school performance? 27. Enhance the methodologies of the learning sciences. The research areas relevant to the science of learning are demonstratively broad, including cognitive development, cognitive science, developmental psychology, neuroscience, anthropology, social psychology, sociology, cross-cultural research, research on learning in subject areas such as science, mathematics, history, and research on effective teaching, pedagogy, and the design of learning environments. New technologies for assessing learning in ways that track the growth of learning, not just cumulative of facts, are needed. Developing effective research methodologies is particularly important for research from this diverse array of disciplines. Advancement of learning research methodologies is critical for such diverse and complex data.
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How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School Government agencies and research foundations should develop initiatives and mechanisms of support specifically aimed at strengthening the methodological underpinnings of the learning sciences. Such mechanisms should include cross-field collaborations, internships, visiting scholar programs, training junior scholars in interdisciplinary approaches, and other procedures to foster collaborations for learning and developing new methodologies that can lead to more rigorous investigations in the science of learning. Research aimed at developing and standardizing new measures and methods is also needed. Studies should be conducted and validated with diverse populations. New statistical techniques should be developed for analyzing the complex systems of learning. New qualitative measurement techniques are also needed, as is new research that is focused on ways to integrate qualitative and quantitative methods across the learning sciences. 28. Foster collaborations in the science of learning. This volume emphasizes the breadth of knowledge areas that affect learners and the significant advances that have been the direct result of collaborative research efforts across disciplines. That kind of collaboration is critical to further development of the learning sciences. It is recommended that government agencies and research foundations explicitly support a wide variety of interdisciplinary collaborations in the learning sciences. Such work should include teachers. The field of learning research needs to become more integrated in focus and draw together relevant fields for interdisciplinary collaborations. To this end, mechanisms are needed to prepare a new generation of learning scientists by supporting interdisciplinary training for students and scientists to work together. It is important to expand the research scope so that basic researchers and educational researchers can work together on basic and applied issues and to facilitate ways for teachers and researchers to work together. While fields such as neuroscience and cognitive science have made important advances through their joint efforts, researchers had to learn the methodologies and techniques of each discipline before new research studies could be conducted. Efforts are needed to direct training programs in order to foster such interdisciplinary learning. National databases to encourage collaboration are also recommended to capitalize on the new developments in information systems, research scientists of varying disciplines should be linked together, and teachers should be included in these virtual dialogues. In addition to electronic linkages, scientists should begin to share databases with one another and to work with national databases that they can access electronically. Databases that link physics researchers with classroom physics educators, for example, have the potential to bring the two sectors closer to the
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How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School core issues of the field. Basic researchers often have poor understanding of why learners fail to grasp basic concepts of the field; teachers often fail to see relationships of core concepts that, if better understood from the standpoint of theory, could facilitate their teaching. National databases can foster interdisciplinary collaboration and uses of cross-disciplinary data; promote broader exploration of testable questions across datasets; increase the quality of data by maintaining accurate and uniform records; and promote cost-effectiveness through the sharing of research data. Furthermore, national databases that are built from representative samples of the changing school population have the potential of broadening the scope and power of research findings. 29. Investigate successful and creative educational practice. There are well-known cases of exceptional teaching by educators who, often without the help of educational researchers, have created innovative and successful classrooms, programs, curricula, and teaching techniques. It is recommended that case study research be conducted to investigate the principles of learning that underlie successful educational experiments. The conceptual framework provided by this volume can be employed as a lens through which that practice can be viewed, and such case studies could challenge and inform the science of learning. The research would have several potential benefits. It would ground in sound theory innovations that often exist in isolation, that often cannot be evaluated well by traditional methods, and that cannot be explained well to others. This research could contribute an understanding of why the innovations work, perhaps leading to improvements in them. Moreover, it may stimulate researchers to pursue new theoretical questions regarding cognition. In innovative classrooms, students may engage in forms and levels of learning that are not anticipated by current cognitive theory. From studying such classrooms and the learning that takes place in them, researchers may modify their conceptions about learning. 30. Investigate the potential benefits of collaborative learning in the classroom and the design challenges that it imposes. Outside the classroom, much learning and problem solving takes place as individuals engage with each other, inquire of those with skills and expertise, and use resources and tools that are available in the surrounding environment. The benefits of this “distributed cognition” are tapped inside the classroom when students work collaboratively on problems or projects, learning from each others’ insights, and clarifying their own thinking through articulation and argument (Vye et al., 1998). Some research indicates that group problem solving is superior to individual problem solving (e.g., Evans, 1989; Newstead and Evans, 1995), and that developmental changes in cognition can be gen-
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How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School erated from peer argumentation (Goldman, 1994; Habermas, 1990; Kuhn, 1991; Moshman, 1995a, 1995b; Salmon and Zeitz, 1995; Youniss and Damon, 1992) and peer interaction (Dimant and Bearison, 1991; Kobayashi, 1994). For these reasons, the community-centered classroom described in Chapter 1, in which students learn from each other, can have substantial benefits. But working in groups can have drawbacks for learning as well, particularly in the early grades. Societal stereotypes or classroom reputations can determine who takes the lead, and whose ideas are respected or dismissed. Differences in temperament can produce consistent leaders and followers. Group products can advance each member’s understanding of a problem, or they can mask a lack of understanding by some. It is recommended that research be conducted by teams of cognitive scientists, developmental psychologists, curriculum developers, and teachers to investigate the potential benefits of collaborative learning in the classroom and the problems that must be addressed to make it beneficial for all students. The research should explore and field-test alternative design strategies. The results should be presented both as scholarly research, and as a discussion addressed to teachers who are interested in collaborative learning in the classroom. 31. Investigate the interaction between cognitive competence and motivational factors. Much of the research on learning has been conducted outside the classroom. Inside the classroom, issues of cognitive competence are intertwined with issues of motivation to perform. The challenges of learning for today’s world require disciplined study and problem solving from the earliest grades. To meet the challenges, learners must be motivated to pay attention, complete assignments, and engage in thinking. Although cognitive psychologists have long posited a relationship between learning and motivation, they have paid little attention to the latter, despite its vital interest to teachers. Research has been done on motivation, but there is no commonly accepted unifying theory, nor a systematic application of what is known to educational practice (National Research Council, 1999b). It is recommended that research be conducted to elucidate how student interests, identities, self-knowledge, self-regulation, and emotion interact with cognitive competence. This research should combine the efforts of social and developmental psychologists with those of cognitive psychologists. A variety of approaches should be considered, including case studies of small numbers of individual children and the study of the classroom practice of teachers with reputations for promoting achievement among average students, as well as those at high risk for failure.
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How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School 32. Investigate the relationship between the organization and representation of knowledge and the purpose of learning that knowledge. Research in cognitive science suggests that knowledge is organized differently depending on the uses that need to be made of it. In other words, the structure of knowledge and memory and the conditions under which it is retrieved for application evolves to fit the uses to which it is put. Similarly, what counts as understanding will also be defined in terms of means, rather than as an end in itself. Just as there is no perfect map, but only maps that are useful for particular kinds of tasks and answering particular kinds of questions, there is no perfect state of understanding, but only knowledge organizations that are more or less useful for particular kinds of tasks and questions. For example, relatively superficial knowledge of the concept of gold may be sufficient to differentiate a gold-colored watch from a silver-colored watch. But it would not be sufficient to differentiate a genuine gold watch from one made of other gold-colored metals or alloys, or fool’s gold from the real thing. This empirical insight has profound implications for the organization of education, teacher education, and curriculum development. Research to deepen understanding of the kinds of knowledge organizations that will best support particular kinds of activities is recommended. For example, the kinds of biology needed to know how to take care of plants (e.g., knowing when, where, and how to plant them in different climates and soil conditions) differs from the knowledge necessary to genetically engineer them. These kinds of issues become particularly important when considering the nature of the content knowledge that teachers need in order to teach various disciplines. For example, the most useful knowledge for a middle school mathematics teacher may not come from taking a higher-level course in a traditional mathematics sequence, particularly if that course was designed for the uses of that knowledge by mathematics and engineering students in problems suited to the work activities of those disciplines. Instead, it may come from a course that integrates mathematics with particular kinds of inquiry involving design and other tasks. These considerations are also important for curriculum. Research investigations could yield better understanding for guiding curriculum design so that the knowledge that learners develop from their experiences in courses will be better retrieved in anticipated contexts of use for that knowledge. For example, too little is known about the kinds of activities in which an educated person—but not a future scientist—will be expected to use the scientific knowledge that they may acquire in science courses. Research on these considerations is important to pursue.
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How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School COMMUNICATON OF RESEARCH KNOWLEDGE When one considers the complexity of the ways in which research influences practice (as depicted in Figure 11.1), the heterogeneous audiences for research and their very different needs become apparent. As noted earlier, the ways in which the principles of learning depicted in this volume will be incorporated into practice raise unique problems for pre-service and inservice education, for educational materials, for policy, and for the public (including the media). The pathways by which research knowledge travels, and the transformations it must undertake for each of these audiences, raise striking challenges for communications design. To be effective, such communications cannot serve merely as disseminations of research knowledge. Translating and elaborating that knowledge for each audience has been a theme throughout the agenda. In this final section, we propose an effort to make these translations widely accessible. 33. Design and evaluate ways to easily access the cumulative knowledge base. There is a strong need for adaptive communications about the science of learning that can evolve to fit the distinctive needs of the various education audiences for knowledge derived from research. For such conversations to occur between the research communities and these diverse constituencies, experimentation with Internet-based communications forums is needed. The Internet is becoming a social place for the formation and ongoing activities of distributed communities, not only a digital library for browsing and downloading information. Current electronic communities with tens of thousands of members share information and convene around a broad range of topics. High-quality resources on the science of learning will be needed to spur on-line discussions among the communities they are designed to serve, and to invite suggestions about how communications concerning the science of learning can better fit the needs of those who will use their results (Pea, 1999). Today one may find a great range of web sites that are devoted to education. But far fewer are devoted to research advances, much less their alignment with educational materials, practices, or policies that are depicted in the web sites. The development and continuous improvement of a national communications forum for research knowledge on learning and teaching are recommended. This new media communications forum would be accessible through the Internet and would provide illustrative cases and usable information about both the research depicted in this volume and new findings that will continue to emerge in ongoing research. It would provide opportunities for different contributors who are stakeholders in education to post messages and rate the usefulness of documents and materials. Experimentation is
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How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School needed in establishing “virtual places” online where diverse groups could convene to reflect on how these research advances could be incorporated to improve the practices of education and learning. Such a “learning improvement portal” would provide a vital national resource, guiding research-informed improvements of education. CONCLUSION The research efforts proposed herein represent a serious effort to combine the strengths of the research community with the insights gained from the wisdom and challenges of classroom practice. Our suggestions for research do not assume that basic research should first be conducted in isolation and then handed down to practitioners. Instead, we propose that researchers and practitioners work together to identify important problems of inquiry and define the kinds of research and communication strategies that would be most helpful to both groups. Because of our emphasis on bridging research and practice, many of the efforts proposed here are nontraditional. They combine research and development, rather than undertaking the two separately. It is our view that such combined efforts are most likely to focus the attention of researchers on problems that are central to education, and they are more likely to ensure rigor and consistency with the principles of learning in the programs and products that are developed. Moreover, many of the efforts combine research and communication. Often, the two are considered separate domains. But the goal of communication is learning, and this volume provides guidance for effective communication. For each audience, preconceived understandings must be identified and addressed in the effort to communicate. And examples that situate ideas in experiences relevant for that audience are crucial. Combining expertise for the proposed projects will be challenging. There are still relatively few arenas in which researchers work as partners with teachers, administrators, and communications developers (who might film model lessons, develop web sites, produce brochures, etc.). But to be effective, systematic efforts to reform education will require that more of these partnerships be forged. Research and development grants that reward existing partnerships and encourage new ones to be formed could provide a much-needed impetus. And finally, the agenda proposed is expansive. Many of the recommended projects are time-intensive, multiyear efforts. The nation’s decentralized education system is vast. To use the lens of How People Learn to evaluate the various facets of that system is in itself a daunting task. We propose in addition the development and testing of new classroom teaching tools, techniques of teacher and administrator training, further research on
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How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School human learning, and applications of technology that could provide dynamic mechanisms for bringing advances in how people learn and how people teach into continual cycles of coordination and improvement. We believe the integration of these efforts holds the potential to bring research and practice together in the interest of improved education.
Representative terms from entire chapter: