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In a study published in late 2019 entitled “Learning by Design: Early insights from a network transforming teacher preparation,” Deans for Impact, found that future teachers currently in teacher preparation programs have a very shallow understanding of basic principles of learning science and that they struggle to make instructional decisions that are compatible with those principles.  On average, teacher candidates correctly answered just 49% of a set of questions on basic principles.  On one question, just 6% of teachers answered correctly.

The main findings of the study:

  1. In general, future teachers are unfamiliar with basic principles of learning science – and they struggle to connect these principles to practice.
  2. Encouragingly, future teachers recognize the critical role that background knowledge plays in learning.
  3. Future teachers struggle to identify effective forms of practice – and they appear to conflate student engagement with learning.
  4. For the most part, teacher-candidates hold beliefs about teaching and learning that align to principles of learning science – but there are clear areas for improvement.
  5. Teacher-candidate understanding of learning science does not vary based on key categories we might expect. (For example, having taken a learning science course was not correlated with more accurate responses.)
  6. Teacher-educators in the LbSD Network do better at identifying learning-science principles in practice than just the principles in the abstract.

These are sobering results and suggest how far the profession still has to go to become truly science-based.  The results reinforce the findings of The Road Less Traveled (NCATE, now the Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Preparation) and dissertation results presented in one our Neuroscience and Education webinars on What Teachers Don’t Know about Neuroscience.

We would also note that these results focused on the teacher preparation programs who were already working with Deans for Impact and therefore have explicitly prioritized training teachers with current learning science.  It is very possible that overall teacher programs are even less successful in helping teachers master the principles and application of learning science.


Read the Study Report



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