Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Desirable difficulties - new post on BOLD blog

My latest post on the BOLD blog introduces the concept of desirable difficulties in learning. This is the idea that making learning difficult can sometimes lead to better outcomes.

You can read the post here.

There are some handy resources on this topic from the Learning Scientists, and this topic was covered on the Learning Zone.

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Interview on the Centre for Educational Neuroscience website

I recently gave an interview to the Centre for Educational Neuroscience, which I am a member of. You can see a video of me describing my research, followed by a blog Q&A about my thoughts on educational neuroscience, here.

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Learning Zone

The Learning Zone is over! It has been a fascinating six months of conversations between scientists and teachers, and a real pleasure to work with so many people who are enthusiastic about bringing the latest scientific evidence to the classroom.

The resources will remain online, so do check out the topic summaries, questions, answers, and live chat transcripts.

Many thanks to the Learning Zone team, and moderators Su Morris and Kathryn Bates.

Friday, 22 June 2018

Thinking about thinking - New post on BOLD blog

In my latest post for the Blog On Learning and Development (BOLD) I introduce the concept of metacognition, and how it might help students to learn. There is lots of evidence around the effectiveness of metacognition as a tool to improve learning, and the concept is becoming more well known in the education field.

In 2016 I was involved in a play for secondary school students that centred around the idea of metacognition. It is a concept that goes beyond learning for school, with the actors and audience empowered by their new understanding that we can work towards changing our thoughts and behaviours.

Thursday, 21 June 2018

Inhibitory control and counterintuitive science and maths reasoning in adolescence

A paper that I wrote with my PhD supervisors has just been published in the journal PLoS ONE. The paper describes a behavioural study with 90 teenagers, where we investigated the role of inhibitory control in counterintuitive science and maths reasoning.

We found that adolescents who were better at inhibitory control (stopping an automatic response) were also better at counterintuitive science and maths reasoning. This suggests that teenagers are using their inhibitory control in order to suppress the intuitive, incorrect answer when reasoning about counterintuitive concepts. The paper forms part of my research investigating the cognitive and neural bases of science and maths reasoning in adolescents.

The paper is freely accessible here.


Professor Michael Thomas spoke about these new results in his talk at the London Festival Science, and this led to our paper receiving the following media coverage.

"Neuroscientists urge teachers to give pupils time" in Tes.
"Take your time to get things right" in Birkbeck news.
"Pupils should take their time to get things right, research reveals" in UCL Institute of Education news and events.

Monday, 11 June 2018

Screen time for children - new post on BOLD blog

My latest post for the Blog on Learning and Development (BOLD) is about children's screen time. In the post I look at the evidence relating to the effects of screen time during development.

After I wrote this post (but before it was published), an interesting article on the same topic appeared in the Guardian, which I'd also recommend reading.

My other posts on the BOLD blog can be found here.

Saturday, 9 June 2018

Reflections on the EARLI SIG 22 Neuroscience and Education conference

The European Association for Research on Learning and Instruction (EARLI) Special Interest Group (SIG) 22 on Neuroscience and Education conference was held at the Wellcome Trust in London from 4th-6th June 2018.

This was a particularly exciting conference for me, as I am the Junior Coordinator of the SIG, and organised the conference with Lia Commissar from the Wellcome Trust. Lia and I spent a long time thinking about what we wanted the conference to achieve and how best to achieve it.

Back in 2016, Lia ran the pre-conference for the International Mind, Brain and Education Society (IMBES) conference in Toronto. During the pre-conference, Lia collated responses to various discussions that were had throughout the day, and together we wrote a summary of the pre-conference. The summary contains a list of recommendations for funders, researchers, and conference organisers, based on IMBES delegates' discussions. We found the list to be really useful in the organisation of the SIG 22 conference.

One of the recommendations was to take an inclusive approach in acknowledging the varying backgrounds of attendees, which is particularly relevant in our interdisciplinary field. We asked all presenters and delegates to define acronyms and make discussions accessible to everyone. We felt the speakers did a great job of this, although we did get feedback that a good idea for the future would be to define key terms at the beginning of the conference. This is a great idea and I hope that this will feature in future conferences, perhaps with a list of key terms and their definitions within the conference booklet.

Another recommendation we took on board was to use more discussion-based approaches, to allow experts to share their knowledge to consider how best to move the field forward. The third day of the conference was therefore an Open Space event. This format enables anyone present to suggest a topic of discussion. The topics picked by delegates were wide-ranging, and it was encouraging to see so many people talking who may not have done so otherwise. The session I suggested had just one other attendant but it was a teacher-trainer who I likely would not have encountered otherwise, and we had a really useful discussion for how I can move a project I'm working on forward. We had a lot of positive feedback about the Open Space session, with many delegates admitting they were unsure about the idea at first, but found it to be immensely helpful and enjoyable in the end.

I'm absolutely delighted with how the conference went, and feel that there was generally a positive and friendly environment throughout the whole event. I've heard lots of talk of "action points", with delegates leaving with a list of steps to take to move their project or the field forward. We've had good informal feedback so far, and are now awaiting responses to our evaluation questionnaire to see what we can do even better in the future.

Monday, 14 May 2018

Nature and nurture in education - new post on BOLD blog

My latest post for the BOLD blog explains what the term heritability means, and what heritability estimates might mean for education.

This was inspired partly by recent news stories reporting heritability estimates, and partly by discussions on the Learning Zone about heritability.

Heritability seems to be surrounded by misunderstandings, which I feel may be stifling important debates about genes in education. In the post I explain what scientists mean when they use this word, and why the science underpinning it may not be exactly what you think.

I believe that with a better understanding of heritability, sensible debates about what we do with this information can proceed.

Monday, 16 April 2018

Precision education part 2 - new post on BOLD blog

I have written a follow up post to my introduction to precision education. In the second post, I consider in more detail what the benefits of a precision education approach to teaching and learning might be.

Monday, 26 March 2018

Precision education - new post on BOLD blog

My latest post on the BOLD blog is all about precision education. In the post I consider what precision education might hold for the future, and briefly what the benefits might be. Watch this space for the next post which will go into more detail about the potential benefits of this approach to teaching and learning.