What is
Learning Science?

What is
Learning Science?

Learning science is the study of how people acquire knowledge and skills. It utilizes data from a variety of scientific disciplines, including cognitive science, motivational psychology, behavioral economics, neuroscience, and more to get insights into how people learn (and how they do not learn). By analyzing this data, we’re able to more clearly identify student outcomes and create curricula and learning environments with a higher likelihood of positively impacting students.

Learning engineering is where learning science comes to life. It is the application of learning science into specific contexts, including constraints such as regulatory, legal, technology, and time constraints. The goal of learning engineering is to create an effective learning environment that serves the needs of the learner and fits the constraints. Learning science provides the hypotheses and evidence that learning engineering uses to build real-world learning environments that work better for students.

As skillset requirements evolve with how we use technology in the workplace, we need to change what our employees decide and do…faster and faster. To ensure we can make these changes, it is critical that we use learning science to understand how our instructional processes also need to evolve.

Your Experts Are Doers, Not Teachers

Historically, we’ve relied on experts to be teachers. While that’s been done with the best of intentions, it’s ultimately not fair to the learner or the expert we’ve tapped to teach. That’s because over time, experts develop processes and patterns for performing certain tasks that are burned into long-term memory. This makes them incredibly efficient at executing certain (potentially quite complex) processes, but also makes them less likely to be able to verbalize the steps and tasks they’ve mentally automated over time. Techniques drawn from learning science can help your organization identify this non-verbal automated knowledge that experts have, so you can incorporate it into the training for a specific task.

Aligning Feedback and Practice With Desired Learning Outcomes

Another way you can apply learning science into the training of your employees is to better understand the feedback and practice that work best for propelling your employees to the desired learning outcomes. There are decades of research that have not yet been put to practical use that provide us with real opportunities to create learning environments that engage learners in the types of activities proven to drive a specific type of learning outcome.

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Learning Science Should Come Before Technology

That old phrase about putting the cart before the horse rings true in education, and particularly in organizational instruction and training. We’ve become obsessed with buzzwords like adaptive, personalized, and AI, without really understanding how to use these technological advancements to actually improve the employee’s ability to learn.

Learning science, or even learning engineering, is not the same as educational technology. Rather, results from learning science should inform the way we utilize technology in the educational process, so that it lines up with how learning actually occurs. Technology, when used to execute a plan informed by learning science, can be incredibly effective at creating more affordable, reliable, accessible, data-rich, and personalized learning opportunities. Without the consideration of learning science, technology is just a new way to do the same thing (good or bad) we’ve always done.

Learning Science Can Help Meet the Changing Needs of Your Business

Take a look at the required skillset for a position on your staff. Now think back 20, or even 10, years ago. Chances are, quite a bit has changed. In some cases, that position may not have even existed 10 years ago. As business needs have evolved, the skillsets employees need have evolved as well, and they will continue to evolve in the future at an even faster rate.

As a result, the things your employees learned in college 5, 10, or 20 years ago might be largely irrelevant in your modern-day workplace. So your success relies upon understanding what it takes to become proficient in the skillsets that matter for your company (learning science) and develop learning environments that efficiently enable employees to acquire them (learning engineering).

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