Learning Sciences

Sawyer, R. K. (2006). Chapter 1 introduction: The new science of learning. In R. K. Sawyer (Ed.). The Cambridge Handbook of the Learning Sciences (p. 1-16). New York: Cambridge University Press.

Sawyer’s introductory chapter on learning sciences describes the influence of an interdisciplinary approach to studying the teaching and learning process. He defines Instructionism, a traditional approach to learning, with commonsense assumptions that were never scientifically tested and highlights the need to understand how the knowledge construction process works, known as Constructivism, for learners to grasp deeper meaning in their studies. Sawyer further defines the sciences of learning to include cognitive science, sociology, anthropology, educational psychology, neuroscience, computer science as well as a few other fields. Using key components of the learning science disciplines, classrooms can be reshaped into more effective learning environments by incorporating technology and offering social components to better support learner needs and increased student achievement. Overall, Chapter 1 of the Cambridge Handbook highlights just how complex it is to design effective classroom learning.

Sawyer sufficiently connects all of the key concepts together in this introductory chapter. The big ideas of instructionism, constructivism, authentic learning, complex representation, reflection and revisitation, socio-cultural approach and the powerful role that technology can play in transforming learning is paramount. Sawyer clearly outlines the processes involved in learning which include acquiring expertise, working with prior knowledge and promoting better learning through scaffolding and collaboration. There is great value in employing design science practices to analyze a learning environment, identify the innovations that are working and to separate out those classroom components that need improvement. The end of the first chapter was summed up quite nicely by Sawyer questioning whether education is an art or a science.

I am fascinated by the framework of learning sciences. Not too often in the field of K-12 education, has time been spent pondering better ways to design classroom environments and facilitate high-quality learning. Usually time, money and minimal resources hinder any transformative classroom revamping. With iGeneration students entering schools and the new skills demanded from the global workforce, school systems are finally feeling pressed to reconsider what type of students they need to graduate in order to be prepared for college and career readiness. In my current position as a Next-Gen Strategist launching¬†Next-Gen Classrooms, I have the privilege of working closely with a relatively large group of teachers that have decided to reshape their thinking, instructional delivery methods, technology integration and physical classroom space. This article speaks to exactly how we’ve begun to transform about a quarter of our classrooms by employing new instructional strategies, offering students authentic learning projects, getting students to think across the curriculum domains, utilizing technology to facilitate scaffolding, collaboration, reflection and much more. I feel it is an exciting time to work in the field of education and to research new ways to transform the teaching and learning process.

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