Educator Learning to Enact the Science of Learning and Development

Learning Policy Institute

January 24, 2022

Research advances in neuroscience and the developmental and learning sciences have provided us with important insights about how people learn and develop. The knowledge we now have points to important transformations in teaching practice, which in turn require transformations in educator development in order to support all educators in developing the knowledge, skills, and dispositions associated with developing the whole child. This report synthesizes research on how to support educators in developing those capacities both in preservice and in-service contexts. It addresses both the “what” of teacher and leader preparation—the content educators need to learn about children and how to support their development and learning—and the “how”—the strategies for educator learning that can produce deep understanding; useful skills; and the capacity to reflect, learn, and continue to improve.

Syntheses of advances from the science, linked to educational research, have identified implications for practice of the science of learning and development and a set of design principles for schools for putting the science of learning and development into action. These syntheses point to the following principles as a foundation for educators’ knowledge base:

- The brain and development are malleable across the entire life span in response to relationships, experiences, and contexts.
- Variability in human development is the norm, not the exception.
- Human relationships catalyze healthy development and learning.
- Learning is social, emotional, and cognitive.
- People actively construct knowledge based on their experiences in social and cultural contexts.
- Adversity affects learning—and the way schools respond matters.

Developing the kinds of skills currently required in a fast-changing knowledge-based society requires a different kind of teaching and learning from prior eras of education when learning was conceptualized as the acquisition of facts and teaching as the transmission of information to be taken in and used “as is.” This means students need opportunities to set goals and assess their own work and that of their peers so that they become increasingly self-aware, confident, and independent learners. To become productive citizens within and beyond the school, students also need positive mindsets about self and school, along with social awareness and responsibility.

The ability of schools to help achieve these outcomes requires environments, structures, and practices attuned to students’ learning and developmental needs. These include:
- positive developmental relationships;
- environments filled with safety and belonging;
- rich learning experiences that support deep knowledge development;
- development of social, emotional, and cognitive skills, habits, and mindsets; and
- integrated support systems.