When we think and talk about learning, the metaphors we use matter. The language we employ when we describe how learning works can illuminate the process, allowing us to make accurate judgments and predictions—or it can lead us astray, setting up false expectations and giving us a misleading impression of what’s going on.
For children, acting out words on the page can yield benefits. Especially for beginning readers, physically moving objects or one’s own body can provide a crucial bridge between real-life people, things, and actions, and the printed words meant to represent them. Fluent readers take this correspondence for granted, but many children find it difficult to grasp.
If we know that X does Y when Z, is it possible that A does Y when Z, too? That’s often how innovations get their start, in the lab and elsewhere: by taking a familiar starting point and using it as a launch pad to explore new territory.
Glossy images of diverse student bodies at universities are meant to convey these institutions’ warm embrace of prospective students, employees and supporters. But research suggests that when the images don’t line up with reality, the use of minority member photographs can backfire, generating an effect exactly opposite of the one intended.
Allowing learners to struggle will actually help them learn better, according to research on “productive failure” conducted by Manu Kapur, a researcher at the Learning Sciences Lab at the National Institute of Education of Singapore.
What’s more, researchers are coming to recognize that dreaming is an essential part of understanding, organizing and retaining what we learn—and that dreams may even hold out the possibility of directing our learning as we doze.
Research in the science of learning shows that hands-on building projects help young people conceptualize ideas and understand issues in greater depth. If we want more young people to choose a profession in one of the group of crucial fields known as STEM, we ought to start cultivating these interests and skills early.
Research shows that interests powerfully influence our academic and professional choices. When we're interested in a task, we work harder and persist longer, bringing more of our self-regulatory skills into play.
Listening and observing can be passive activities—in one ear and out the other, as our mothers used to say. Or they can be rich, active, intense experiences that lead to serious learning. The difference lies in our intention: the purpose and awareness with which we approach the occasion. Here's how to make sure your intentions are good.