Paradigms from the Science of Learning: An Emerging Revolution in Education
In the last few centuries, scientific break-throughs in the physical sciences delivered the industrial revolutions. It is now the turn of the human sciences, which are at the point of generating social revolutions. This paper posits that our scientific understanding of human learning has matured to a point that it provides clear guidelines on how to revolutionise education. The paper identifies and explores five key paradigms that are starting to revolutionise education: (1) Neuroplasticity, Cognitive Load Theory and Chunking are three critical discoveries that, blended together, describe how learning takes place; (2) the Theory of Flow shows how to make learning enjoyable; (3) there are two distinct modes of thinking; (4) cognition is integral with sensory/motor, emotional and social operations; and (5) neurobiological circuitry matures in a predictable pattern of sensitive periods. The paper then explores three implications of this revolution for education. Firstly, infancy and toddlerhood are critical periods of and for learning. Secondly, the science of learning can be systematically taught in schools, to ensure that all citizens become independent/ autonomous learners, capable of life-long learning. Universal higher education within affordable public expenditure is in our grasp. And thirdly, universities have the crucial responsibility of transforming themselves to best enable this social revolution in the wider society. This paper analyses evolving concepts to predict and propose a future – an ambitious task. Before concluding, the paper critically reflects on its analysis - its limitations and risks.
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