Figure 2. ‘Forest plot’ illustrating the teachers’ findings and the overall effect Effect size r

-1.00 -0.50

Attention (novelty) – Y4 Maths Attention (peer learning/social interaction) – Y2-4 Maths Metacognition (thinkalouds) – Y5-6 Maths Attention (peer learning/social interaction with worksheet) – Y2 Maths Rehearsal vs retrieval (LCWC  vs testing) –Y4 English Rehearsal and retrieval (LCWC  combined with testing) –Y4 English Retrieval (testing) –Y4 Maths Retrieval (app testing) – Y3 Maths Retrieval (app testing) – Y2 Maths Retrieval (front loaded) –Y5 English Retrieval (even distribution) –Y2 English Retrieval (even distribution) –Y5 English Retrieval (app testing) – Y2-4 Maths Retrieval (testing) – Y4 Maths Retrieval (quizzes) –Y8 English Retrieval (flashcards) –Y9 Science Retrieval (even distribution) –EYFS †† English Retrieval and interleaving (testing + interleaving) –Y4 Maths Retrieval (front loaded) –EYFS †† English Retrieval (front loaded) –Y2 English Retrieval (even distribution) –Y3 English Retrieval (testing) –Y10 Science Retrieval (multiple choice) –Y4 Maths Retrieval (front loaded) –Y3 English Retrieval (multiple choice) –Y5 Maths Retrieval & attention (testing + novelty) – Y4 Maths Retrieval (multiple choice) –Y4 English Spaced learning (10-minute spaces) –Y5 History Spaced learning (10-minute spaces) –Y4 History Spaced learning (10-minute spaces) –Y2 Geography Spaced learning (10-minute spaces) –Y6 History Interleaving (chanting) – Y4 Maths Spaced learning (10-minute spaces) –Y3 History Spaced learning (10-minute spaces) –Y1 Geography Combined effect size

Look, Cover, Write, Check   Early Years Foundation Stage

Classrooms are not laboratories – neither are hospital wards. Drawing on processes used by their cousins in medicine and healthcare, teachers can begin to translate evidence from the biology of learning into classroom practice. With continued effort, education may well be able to use neuroscience in the same way medicine uses biology, enhancing our profession’s voice and agency. An article in the US journal Mind, Brain and Education will be available soon.

Dr Richard Churches is from the Education Development Trust. Find out how to design an RCT and apply the research evidence from neuroscience in his books, Teacher-Led Research and Neuroscience for Teachers (co-authored with Eleanor Dommett and Ian Devonshire). To contact him to discuss support and training, email rchurches@

0.00 0.50 1.00 [d]

0.90** 0.32 0.26** 0.22** 1.19** 0.32** 1.15*** 0.87* 0.75* 0.65** 0.59* 0.58* 0.58* 0.45** 0.37** 0.32 0.32 0.23 0.16 0.10 0.04 0.01

-0.06 -0.10 -0.18 -0.30 -0.82* 0.85** 0.61 0.43 0.28 0.20 0.12 0.04

0.30**** *p < .05, **p < .01,***p < .001,****p < .0001


By Professor Andrew Tolmie

Educational neuroscience attempts to coordinate evidence from behavioural and neuroimaging studies. The aim is to obtain a more complete understanding of learning that can then be used to specify the pedagogical approaches and educational systems that will support these most effectively. The translational nature of this objective poses challenges because of its requirement for collaboration between researchers and educational practitioners. However, educational neuroscience


Random Control Trials (RCTs) are the ‘gold standard’ research approach in many sciences. They have a control group (or condition) that an intervention is compared to. In education, the control will usually be existing best practice – as in surgery, where you might compare a new operation to a current one. There would be no point not treating people or not teaching children at all. Participants are allocated randomly to the conditions, helping to remove researcher bias. Finally, you need to have some form of relevant measurement that the conditions are tested (or ‘trialled’) against.

research in literacy, number development and science learning illustrates the potential of the field to explain both typical and atypical learning in a coherent fashion, and to identify novel pedagogical strategies that fully address individual variation in capability. There is also a growing body of research on socio-emotional development from infancy through adolescence, and how this is impacted by the organisation and refinement of neural structures. This indicates that forms of social education have a potential importance in curricula which is presently largely unrecognised. Across these different areas, the best work rests on a combination of behavioural and neuroscience methodologies. At present, effective interventions are based largely on behavioural work, much of it drawing on teacher expertise in its inception. However, by combining this with

neuroscience, we are beginning to be able to explain better why these work. In time, it is likely that wholly novel interventions will begin to emerge.

Professor Andrew Tolmie is deputy director of the Centre for Educational Neuroscience, a research institute combining the expertise of academics at Birkbeck, University of London; University College London and the UCL Institute of Education.


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