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In Event: Roundtable Session (Monday I)
In Refereed Round-Table Session: Neuroscience and education: Addressing the global learning crisis
One of the most important global challenges we face is to improve the effectiveness of teaching and learning in schools, and so improve the health, well-being and life chances of the world’s children. The evidence suggests, however, that simply knowing about and even applying established good practices – the so-called “what works” approach - may be insufficient as means to ensure children receive the quality teaching required to reach their full potential. Moreover, it has been argued that such an approach can discourage the need for teachers to possess a deeper and more meaningful rationale for what they do, so giving rise to inauthentic practice and a tendency towards “performativity”. Instead, it can be argued that developing a professional and situated scientific understanding of how different approaches may or may not be effective is required. This can support teachers in adopting their own scientific and critical approach to adapting established practices and evaluating their implementation. In this way, the science of learning offers the possibility of making a sustainable contribution to the empowerment of teachers as expert professionals able to focus upon improving their children’s learning. Further, it may help reduce the extent to which teachers adopt a performative perspective on their role.
Here, we report on attempts to introduce the Science of Learning into teacher initial education and professional development in two very different contexts but with broadly similar aims. The first of these is at the School of Education (University of Bristol, UK) and the second is at the Seychelles Institute of Teacher Education (Seychelles). Both instances drew on findings from cognitive neuroscience thought to provide insight into well-evidenced classroom practices. These formed the basis of courses delivered to practicing secondary and primary school teachers, and to trainee secondary school student teachers. Before and after these interventions, participants were asked to undertake tasks designed to provide insight into their ideas around learning, as means to explore how the Science of Learning appeared to impact on these ideas.
Results are discussed in terms of their implications for current and future efforts to develop scientifically inform teacher education and teacher professionals, and in relation to the differences characterizing the two institutional and cultural contexts.