Scientists and educators discuss research

In April and May 2015, the Wellcome Trust and I'm a Scientist, Get me out of here teamed up to put together an online forum for teachers to ask questions of researchers

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The Science of Learning zone featured five scientists per week, each of whom had expertise in an area of educationally-relevant research. While I'm a Scientist, Get me out of here typically allows school pupils to ask questions of researchers, this time it allowed teachers to ask questions of researchers. Although the site has stopped taking questions, I wanted to highlight some of the interesting discussions that were had, and to flag the site for any educators who may not have seen it yet.

As an educational neuroscientist, I was particularly interested in this great question which asked what teachers should know about neuroscience. The response from Crawford Winlove began by acknowledging neuromyths within the context of education: these are myths about the learning brain that can in some cases hinder education. One popular neuromyth is that we only use 10% of our brain - this is not true! Another is that some people are left brain learners and others are right brain learners. Again, there is no evidence for this. Victoria Knowland and Michael Thomas compiled a series of short literature reviews, asking whether various theories about learning based on neuroscience were neuromyths or neuro-hits. This is a fantastic resource, and features 12 topics. Winlove's answer continues with some recommendations for action based on the literature, as well as some useful facts that educators might benefit from knowing.

A question that attracted a lot of discussion asked what the evidence was for mindsets in learning. This is a particularly hot topic in education at the moment, and is the idea that some people have a fixed mindset (believing that ability is fixed), while others have a growth mindset (believing that it is possible to work harder to become better at something). Crucially, there are claims that a growth mindset can be encouraged to enhance performance. The discussion described some of the evidence behind the claims, and includes some links to advice for how to foster a growth mindset.

For me, one of the most interesting questions was about physics education, and when children are ready to learn physics. My research is about the cognitive and neural bases of science and maths reasoning, so I enjoyed reading the answers (some of which came from my supervisors!). Responses talk about when the brain is ready for learning this material (referring to neuroplasticity), but also about cognitive challenges in learning physics (such as incorrect intuitions), and strategies for improving understanding (such as collaborative group work).

I really recommend browsing the site for further discussions about evidence-based education. There is a search function in case there's something you're particularly interested in, and lots of the responses include links to helpful resources. Hopefully there will be another zone in the future, allowing further discussions between educators and scientists. Of course if there are any questions that teachers have now, they can use the Q&A function on this website!

Dr Annie Brookman-Byrne

Science writer and editor, The Psychologist and BOLD

Before becoming a science writer and editor I used behavioural, neuroimaging, and classroom methods to examine the cognitive and neural bases of science and maths reasoning.


Go to the profile of Warren Raye
over 5 years ago
Hi Annie, Great post! Do you know if "I'm a Scientist, Get me out of here!" is an annual event? Or is it no longer active? Maybe it's a concept/event that could be facilitated through this Community ...
Go to the profile of Dr Annie Brookman-Byrne
over 5 years ago
Hi Warren, It's not a yearly event but I think there may be some plans in the pipeline for another event at some point in the future. I'll keep you posted if I hear any news. The concept is similar to the Q&A here, I guess it's a question of ensuring teachers find this if they're interested. Anything that facilitates discussion between educators and researchers is great in my opinion!