Learning science

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Learning science or learning sciences refer to academic domains interested in the phenomenon of learning.

The Cambridge Handbook of the Learning Sciences [1] defines learning sciences' as “an interdisciplinary field that studies teaching and learning.” More precisely in the introduction (p. xi) , Sawyer provides the following extended definition: “Learning sciences is an interdisciplinary field that studies teaching and learning. Learning scientists study learning in a variety of settings, including not only the more formal learning of school classrooms but also the informal learning that takes place at home, on the job, and among peers. The goal of the learning sciences is to better understand the cognitive and social processes that result in the most effective learning, and to use this knowledge to redesign class- rooms and other learning environments so that people learn more deeply and more effectively. The sciences of learning include cognitive science, educational psychology, computer science, anthropology, sociology, information sciences, neurosciences, education, design studies, instructional design, and other fields.”

Many researchers in educational technology claim an affiliation with the learning sciences.

Transformative visions

Keith Sayer (2008:58) [2] identified four key findings from learning sciences research:

  • The importance of learning deeper conceptual understanding, rather than superficial facts and procedures.
  • The importance of learning connected and coherent knowledge, rather than knowledge compartmentalised into distinct subjects and courses.
  • The importance of learning authentic knowledge in its context of use, rather than decontextualised classroom exercises.
  • The importance of learning in collaboration, rather than in isolation.

From these key findings, he concludes that effective learning environments will have the following characteristics:

  • Customised learning. Each child receives a customised learning experience.
  • Availability of diverse knowledge sources. Learners can acquire knowledge whenever they need it from a variety of sources: books, web sites, and experts around the globe.
  • Collaborative group learning. Students learn together as they work collaboratively on authentic, inquiry-oriented projects.
  • Assessment for deeper understanding. Tests should evaluate the students’ deeper conceptual understanding, the extent to which their knowledge is integrated, coherent, and contextualised.


Cited with footnotes

  1. Sawyer, R. K. (Ed.). (2005). The Cambridge handbook of the learning sciences. Cambridge University Press.
  2. Keith Sawyer (2008). Optimising Learning: Implications of Learning Sciences Research, in OECD (ed). Innovating to learn, learning to innovate. OECD,