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Learning Theory



Journal of Research in Science Teaching (2009). Developing a Learning Progression for Scientific Modeling:  Making Scientific Modeling Accessible and Meaningful for Learners.

This MoDeLS project, funded by the National Science Foundation's Instructional Materials Development program, is working to develop a theoretically-grounded and empirically-supported learning progression for late elementary and early middle school students with regard to their modeling practices and metamodeling knowledge.

Columbia University (2012). Systematic Transformation for Inquiry Learning Environments (STILE) for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

This exploratory project is to enhance the ability of teachers to provide high quality STEM education for all students by developing research-based materials that enable teachers to facilitate students' progress toward statistical understanding. The exploratory project has two phases. The first phase will focus on modeling student learning of difficult statistical concepts by constructing and developing a set of student learning progressions. Informed by the first phase, the second phase will focus on developing, implementing, supporting, and pilot testing instructional materials for teachers aimed at increasing knowledge and effective practice of statistical concepts. Formative and summative assessments will be used to evaluate (a) the materials, (b) the participant activities and experiences with the materials, and (c) the implementation process.

Both Common Core State Standards for Mathematics and National Council of Teachers of Mathematics standards clearly recommend the emphasis of statistics education in K-12 schools. In recent years, researchers have started to explore issues related to statistics education in Grades K-8, but little work has been done at the high school level. This exploratory project addresses a critical need in mathematics education and fills an important gap in teacher education related to high school statistics.

TERC (2009). Talk Science: Scalable, Web-based Professional Learning to Improve Science Achievement.

A funded by the NSF and lead by TERC, this project is designed to enhance and study the development of elementary science teachers’ skills in managing productive classroom talk in inquiry-based physical science studies of matter. The project hypothesizes that aligning professional learning with conceptually-driven curricula and emphasizing the development of scientific discourse changes classroom culture and increases student learning. The project developed a new Web-based resources, Talk Science PD, to help elementary teachers facilitate scientific discourse.

Heidi Schweingruber (2007). Key Ideas in Taking Science to School: Learning and Teaching Science in Grades K-8.

Drawing insight from the 2007 National Research Council report Taking Science to School, Schweingruber presents a framework for improving science teaching and learning by enhancing the system of science learning. A well-functioning system would incorporate rigorous curriculum, standards, and aligned assessments; strong teachers and leaders with deep knowledge of science; effective teacher professional development; and significant alignment between instructional practices and student learning outcomes. Carnegie IAS Commission on Math and Science Education Commissioned Reports

National Academies Press (2007). Taking Science to School: Learning and Teaching Science in Grades K-8.

What is science for a child? How do children learn about science and how to do science? Drawing on a vast array of work from neuroscience to classroom observation, Taking Science to School provides a comprehensive picture of what we know about teaching and learning science from kindergarten through eighth grade. By looking at a broad range of questions, this book provides a basic foundation for guiding science teaching and supporting students in their learning. The book also provides a detailed examination of how we know what we know about children's learning of science about the role of research and evidence. This book will be an essential resource for everyone involved in K-8 science education teachers, principals, boards of education, teacher education providers and accreditors, education researchers, federal education agencies, and state and federal policy makers. 

Kenneth Wesson (2002). Memory and the Brain: How Teaching Leads to Learning

Prior to addressing a conference for educators and administrators in sub-Saharan Africa a year ago, the absolutely profound beauty of non-Western thinking had never been quite so obvious to me. In several regions of Southern Africa, a single word exists for both "teaching" and "learning." In the Western mindset, we have separated the two, as if they were distinct functions unto themselves.

National Academies Press (2001). Inquiry and the National Science Education Standards: A Guide for Teaching and Learning.

The National Science Standards released by the National Research Council in 1995 provide valuable insights into the way that teachers might sustain the curiosity of students and help them develop the sets of abilities associated with scientific inquiry. This guide builds on the discussion of inquiry in the National Science Education Standards to demonstrate how those responsible for science education can provide young people with the opportunities they need to develop their scientific understanding and ability to inquire. To access the publication see link above.

National Academies Press (2000). How People Learn: Bridging Research and Practice: Expanded Version.

The revolution in the study of the mind that has occurred in the last three or four decades has important implications for education. A new theory of learning is coming into focus that leads to very different approaches to the design of curriculum, teaching, and assessment than those often found in schools today. This report addresses the question of how to bring the insights of research on human learning into the practice of teaching. To access the publication see link above. 

Lucinda Wilson and Hadley Wilson Horch (2002). Implications of brain Research for Teaching Young Adolescents.

Research in the field of neuroscience has exploded in the past decade. During that time, educators have become fascinated with the implications of connecting knowledge of how the brain works with teaching and learning in the classroom. Conclusions as to how the brain works are based either on basic research conducted on rodents or the use of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) on patients who have some anomaly. While these methods are very different from educational research, educators can benefit by what neuroscience is discovering about the functioning of the brain. Two areas of current interest for middle level educators are brain maturation during the adolescent years and possible gender differences in how adolescents learn.


When learning is active, the learner is seeking something in answer to a question, information to solve a problem, or a way to do a job. Learning can’t be swallowed whole. To retain what has been taught, students must chew on it.

Mel Silberman



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