Tips for Teachers: 29. Cognitive Science

May 7, 2024 | Blogs

Tips for Teachers: 29. Cognitive Science

May 7, 2024 | Blogs

‘Cognitive science principles of learning can have a real impact on rates of learning in the classroom. There is value in teachers having a working knowledge of cognitive science principles.’ (EEF, 2021)

In her blog in 2023, Grace Coker asserts that although cognitive science is being used increasingly to inform interventions, practice, and policy in education, there are still many questions to be answered.

In the review Cognitive science approaches in the classroom, the EEF state that it is the application of cognitive science that is more difficult for teachers and leaders than knowing the principles themselves. Considering how cognitive science principles are implemented in the classroom is critical.

The review looks at the different aspects of cognitive science and how they might be applied in the classroom:

  • spaced learning – distributing learning and retrieval opportunities over a longer period of time rather than concentrating them in ‘massed’ practice;
  • interleaving – switching between different types of problem or different ideas within the same lesson or study session;
  • retrieval practice – using a variety of strategies to recall information from memory, for example flash cards, practice tests or quizzing, or mind-mapping;
  • strategies to manage cognitive load – focusing students on key information without overloading them, for example, by breaking down or ‘chunking’ subject content or using worked examples, exemplars, or ‘scaffolds’;
  • working with schemas – comparing, organising and mapping concepts to help learners develop mental models or schema;
  • multi-media, including dual coding – using both verbal and non-verbal information (such as words and pictures) to teach concepts; dual coding forms one part of a wider theory known as the cognitive theory of multimedia learning (CTML); and
  • embodied learning – strategies that engage and make us of movement and the body to support effective learning.

Of course, since the review has been published further research has been completed in many of these aspects and it is important we engage with the research to ensure we are not limiting our knowledge and skills in understanding or application. Possible further reading, includes (but is by no means limited to):

‘We are living through a golden age of cognitive science in education. Our understanding of the research and how it applies improves every year. There is great cause to be optimistic. The challenges ahead are vast, and cognitive science can play an important (if not fundamental) role in this. But we should also acknowledge the other areas, of both research and daily life that play a part in solving the educational equation.(Inner Drive)

    This blog was written by Bretta Townend-Jowitt, Education Consultant and Trainer. 

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