How do young children develop agency, literacy, and numeracy

A new resource from Deans for Impact summarises current cognitive-science research related to how young children – from birth to age eight – develop skills across three domains: agency, literacy and numeracy.

It aims to give guidance to anyone working in education who is interested in understanding the science of how young children develop control of their own behaviour and intentions, how they learn to read and write, and how they develop the ability to think mathematically.

For each domain, the report identifies key questions about learning and provides a short list of the principles from learning science that inform the answers to these questions. The resource then connects these principles to a set of practical implications for specific teaching strategies. The original research is clearly referenced for anyone wishing to find out more.

Source: The science of early learning: How do young children develop agency, literacy, and numeracy? (2019), Deans for Impact.

What does the research say about learning styles?

A recent blogpost on the Deans for Impact website looks at the research evidence behind learning styles.

Dr Dylan Wiliam from UCL IoE writes that within education, the idea that students will learn more if they receive instruction that specifically matches their learning is of particular interest. However, a 2008 review of learning styles found that “If classification of students’ learning styles has practical utility, it remains to be demonstrated.” Of three robust studies, one gave partial support, while two clearly contradicted it.

Dr Wiliam argues that the whole premise of learning-styles research – that the purpose of instructional design is to make learning easy – may be incorrect. “If students do not have to work hard to make sense of what they are learning, then they are less likely to remember it in six weeks’ time.”

Teachers need to know about learning styles to avoid the trap of teaching in the style they believe works best for them. “As long as teachers are varying their teaching style, then it is likely that all students will get some experience of being in their comfort zone and some experience of being pushed beyond it.”

Source: Learning styles: what does the research say? (2016), Deans for Impact.

The science of learning

A new resource from Deans for Impact aims to give guidance to anyone working in education who is interested in understanding the science of how learning takes place and what that means for how we teach. The intention is that the publication will evolve over time, and as well as being periodically revised by the authors, they also hope that teachers and others will provide additional evidence that they can include.

This first version summarises existing research from cognitive science around six key questions:
  1. How do pupils understand new ideas?
  2. How do pupils learn and retain new information?
  3. How do pupils solve problems?
  4. How does learning transfer to new situations?
  5. What motivates pupils to learn?
  6. What are some common misconceptions about how pupils think and learn?

The findings for each question are then divided into “cognitive principles” and “practical implications for the classroom.” In both cases, the original research is clearly referenced for anyone wishing to find out more.

Source: The Science of Learning (2015), Deans for Impact.