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Research School Network: The magnificent 77: studies that every teacher needs to know Book review of ​‘The Science of Learning’ by Bradley Busch and Edward Watson


The magnificent 77: studies that every teacher needs to know

Book review of ​‘The Science of Learning’ by Bradley Busch and Edward Watson

Why is it that some students learn more efficiently and effectively than others?

How can teachers make use of related evidence in their classrooms?

Over the past two years, as part of their work at Inner Drive and in research for their recently published book The Science of Learning: 77 Studies that Every Teacher needs to Know, Bradley Busch and Edward Watson have been digging deep into the world of educational and cognitive psychology to help them answer these questions.

After scouring a wealth of research papers, they believe it is clear to see that how our students are taught something directly impacts on how likely they are to remember it at a later date. However, one of the criticisms of research is that it is filled with scientific sounding jargon and does not easily cross-over to the day-to-day running of a classroom.

The Book

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Importantly, the book does not set out to provide answers. Our work as a Research School sees us frequently referencing that evidence provides best bets, at best’ and crucially should be used to supplement experience rather than supplant it. The individual studies included in this book provide starting points for reflection, thinking, questioning and asking more – presented together as they are, they provide a helpful, insightful digest of the The Science of Learning’.

The authors effectively bridge the gap between academic research and classroom practice, translating original research papers in to digestible and accessible summaries. Each study is presented on a double page and broken down in to chunks:

  • The study – providing a brief overview of the how and what’
  • The main findings – clear, distinct headlines identifying key findings
  • Related research – flagging related/​complimentary/​additional studies from within the book and wider sources
  • Classroom implications – distilling key findings in to considerations, judgements and potential next steps utilising the specific evidence

Seven topics

The compilation draws on evidence itself; each study attributed to one of seven key topics which are presented in a way as to model interleaving as the authors describe in their introduction:

‘The book isn’t written like most other books. As well as writing about the findings of the science of learning, the way we have designed this book reflects them. So for example, we have mixed up the order of topics …. combined pictures and words …. asked key questions at the start of most of them.’

The book utilises seven colour coded topics which will be of interest to teachers, teaching assistants, leaders, parents and pupils/​students:

  • Memory: Strategies that improve how much students remember things
  • Mindset, Motivation and Resilience: How to improve persistence, effort and attitude
  • Self-regulation and Metacognition: Helping students to think clearly, helpfully and consistently
  • Student behaviours: The key student habits and p[processes that make a meaningful difference
  • Teacher Attitudes, Expectations and Behaviours: Important classroom practices that affect student learning
  • Parents: the fundamental choices, decisions and behaviours that parents make and how they impact their children’s learning
  • Thinking Biases: The faulty thinking habits and quirks that get in the way of learning taking place

Each topic contains classic’ papers (eg. #1 Dunlosky et al, 2013; #23 Roediger and Karpicke, 2016; #9 Rosenthal and Jacobson, 1968) as well as others less well-known, but just as valuable within decision making. The individual summaries provide a great starting point for reflection and next steps – getting into the book is quick, easy and open to varied strategies.

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3 ways to engage with the evidence

Getting stuck in to the evidence is made simpler through the structure of the book. It lends itself to a number of ways in’. Three for starters are:

  • Skim and dip – enjoy browsing the range of studies to get a sense of the scope of the book
  • Select and link - read through the related studies of one topic, simply hunting them out through the colour coded contents page or directly on the pages given the colour coded layout
  • Select and dive – choose a specific paper via the contents or the references at the end, read the entry and then delve deeper via the original referenced paper

This highly practical guide provides a very useful resource for busy people seeking evidence-based strategies to implement in schools, classrooms and the home. Distilling the wealth of research as they have, Busch and Watson have provided a valuable starting point for next steps.

Next steps

Interested in finding out more? Seven simple ways to take action:

  • Click and browse -check out a selection of the studies online at Inner Drive
  • Follow Inner Drive @Inner_Drive – stay up to date with their informative, free resources
  • Get sight of the book – borrow or buy a copy*!
  • Enjoy a first read – whichever way you choose to engage (above), dip in and enjoy!
  • Support your own professional learning – enhance your own knowledge and consider how you can use evidence within your classroom, within decision making and improving outcomes for all
  • Support others’ professional learning – share it with colleagues (to inform conversations, coaching, training relating to school improvement) as well as friends and family (especially those with exams on the horizon)
  • Seek out further evidence – follow us @UnityResSch and subscribe to our monthly newsletter here for more signposting to evidence, resources and opportunities within the Research Schools Network

*The Science of Learning: 77 Studies that Every Teacher Needs to Know by Bradley Busch and Edward Watson is published by Routledge and costs £18.99 however a 20% discount and free delivery is available until 31/7/19 from the Routledge website – simply enter code A017 at checkout.

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