The Science of Learning: A New Resource for Educators

What do we know about how students learn, and what does that knowledge mean for how we teach?

That’s what The Science of Learning, a new publication from Deans for Impact, seeks to answer. The Science of Learning summarizes the existing research from cognitive science related to how students learn, and connects this research to its practical implications for teaching and learning. Building off many efforts that came before it and reflecting the general consensus of the scientific community, The Science of Learning is intended to serve as a resource to teacher-educators, new teachers, and anyone in the education profession who is interested our best scientific understanding of how learning takes place.

The Science of Learning identifies six key questions about learning that should be relevant to nearly every educator:

1. How do students understand new ideas?
2. How do students learn and retain new information?
3. How do students solve problems?
4. How does learning transfer to new situations?
5. What motivates students to learn?
6. What are some common misconceptions about how 
students think and learn?

Deans for Impact believes that, as part of their preparation, every teacher-candidate should grapple with – and be able to answer – the questions in The Science of Learning. Their answers should be informed and guided by the existing scientific consensus around basic cognitive principles. And all educators, including new teachers, should be able to connect these principles to their practical implications for the classroom (or wherever teaching and learning are taking place). This aim has been endorsed by a broad group of stakeholders who believe that it is vitally important for all educators, including teacher-candidates, to grapple with cognitive-science principles and understand their translation to practice.

The Science of Learning was developed by member deans of Deans for Impact in close collaboration with Dan Willingham, a cognitive scientist at the University of Virginia, and Paul Bruno, a former middle school science teacher. We are greatly indebted to the reviewers who provided thoughtful feedback and comments on early drafts, including cognitive scientists, teacher-educators, practicing teachers, and many others.

The Science of Learning does not include everything that new teachers should know or be able to do, but we believe it is part of an important – and evidence-based – core of what educators should know about learning. Because our scientific understanding is ever evolving, we expect to periodically revise The Science of Learning to reflect new insights into cognition and learning. Further, we hope that teachers, teacher-educators, and others will provide additional research and evidence related to translation of these scientific principles to practice.

If you would like to be listed as a supporter, have feedback on The Science of Learning, or want to share plans to incorporate The Science of Learning into your program, please email

To read more, visit the Deans for Impact article.