Using Research to Keep Our Focus on Learning

  • Posted on: 30 December 2013
  • By: Tina McCoy

Over twenty years ago, while a graduate student at St. Louis University, I was enrolled in a neurology class. During a lunchtime conversation a coworker of mine, also a special education teacher, asked, "Why are you taking that?" I answered that it was required for a Master's in Special Education. His question struck me as both typical and odd. On the one hand, most educators are not required to learn neurology, so his inquiry was understandable.  On the other hand, all learning takes place in the brain. Shouldn't every master teacher have an understanding of how the brain works? How was it that those who seek to 'teach' should have little to no knowledge of neurology?  There was something disconcerting about the conversation.

Whether or not you have had a class in neurology is not important. However, in order to be effective as an educator, you must strive to continually increase your understanding of human learning through whatever means possible. How humans learn should always remain a central issue to educators everywhere. There is applicable research on learning that is available for educators to read and use, but of course most have little time to research and read these materials.  That's why I was so excited to hear of the new book, "Visible Learning and the Science of How We Learn" which was published only a few months ago. The book is by renowned researchers (in education and psychology) John Hattie and Gregory Yates.  Being familiar with John Hattie's work already, I preordered this book as soon as I heard of it. Now that I have begun reading it, I can tell you already that it is an incredible book that is both user-friendly and stimulating. 

"Visible Learning and the Science of How We Learn" is divided up into 31 chapters, which are interrelated but can also stand alone.  I'll be reading the book and blogging after each chapter. If you want to stay abreast of what the research says about learning, read the book along with me or (if you don't feel you have the time to read it yourself) simply look for my blogs to get a sense of key concepts from the book.  I won't be 'restating' what is in the book, but I will write on topics that jump out at me, especially as they related to leadership, special education, higher education or systems change.   

Learning is our primary mission and our passion.  'Keep it real' by staying current on the research of human learning, even if your time is very limited.  You owe it to yourself and your constituents to do so!