chapter  4
48 Pages

Learning in science

ByJon Scaife

The thing that struck me about this exchange was that nobody could agree about learning. Everyone was uncertain about it. This was an odd state of affairs, because lessons are supposed to be for learning. If not, then what is the point of education? It would be odd if some people produced a newspaper but could not agree what was in it. And you would be surprised if a car maker could not tell you the car’s specifications (It’s blue, no it’s green, with a few doors . . . er . . . we’re not sure whether it’s got an engine.)


The trouble with learning is that it isn’t a ‘thing’ in the way that a newspaper or car is. That makes it elusive to observe and even to think about – and perhaps that is why teaching often has a higher profile than learning in education. To illustrate, picture a science class you’ve been in fairly recently. Think of the teaching: what was taught, how well it was taught, who taught it, was it taught scientifically appropriately? Now think of the learning and check the same four questions, substituting learned for taught. Hard? Virtually impossible unless you’re a mind-reader because there’s absolutely no guarantee that what was taught is what was learned. In fact there’s a lot of research evidence that suggests the two are often distant relatives.