Literature Review

 Should we trust educational research and does it matter?

At the start of a new academic year many teachers have experienced arriving for a professional development day only to be confronted with the latest educational initiative or theory. There is often a sense of excitement with new ideas being presented as the solution to all learning and teaching issues in the school, except what happened to the ideas that were so important last year?

Increasingly schools and teachers are coming under significant pressure to improve and adopt the latest educational ideas and improve results. Many of the more senior staff will comment upon the latest idea being another pendulum swing, fad and often adopt a stance of skepticism. Teachers in the past might have been asked to implement ideas such as Brain-Gym, learning styles, creative curriculum, brain-based learning, Bloom’s Taxonomy, Multiple Intelligences, emotional intelligence, Mozart effect in mathematics lessons, whole brain learning, experiential learning, Assessment for Learning etc. The list appears to be almost endless. It would appear that there might be gaps between educational theories, reliability of research, and understanding and application at a practical level, eg. in the classroom to positively influence student learning.

There are many different educational theorists, often from a psychology background who have influenced practices and learning across different educational systems. Most teachers or school leaders will have at the very least heard of Jean Piaget, Lev Semyonovich Vygotsky and Benjamin Bloom.

Another theorist and psychologist is Jerome Bruner. He is generally credited with developing the constructivist theory. “Forty years ago, Jerome Bruner commented that schooling was a vast enterprise conducted without a generally agreed theoretical basis.” This paper will explore the question, “To what extent – if at all – have the intervening years provided experimental evidence and theoretical understandings which enable teachers to better facilitate student learning?” To be able to reach a conclusion three different educational ideas will be explored: learning styles, formative assessment and neuroscience. The question above forms the main objective of this paper.

In order to examine these ideas, reliability of research and impact upon teaching practices will be considered. Finally, a conclusion will be drawn to address the question at hand. Included in the scope of this paper will be a ‘so what’ question, in other words, if there is not a generally agreed theoretical basis then does this really matter?

Learning Styles

 This section will consider the main objective of the paper through the context of learning styles as an educational theory. This is a theory that has already accounted for significant educational research, policy making and changes in practice at a school level.  There are a many different national curricular and curriculum frameworks that reference learning styles. This signals to the practicing teacher that learning styles are important, must be adopted, and of course there will surely be sound educational theory and research to prove adoption will result in an improvement to student learning.

In the English National Curriculum (Department for Education and Employment 1999) it is stated that, ‘Teachers secure pupils’ motivation and concentration by: using teaching approaches appropriate to different learning styles’. From a teacher’s perspective, this appears to be a magical solution that clearly suggests if the teacher matches teaching methods to learning styles then learners motivation and concentration will be enhanced. An example of how matching learning style with teaching results in an improvement in learning is given by Riding (1997 cited Cassidy, Simon 2004, p. 438), ‘For example, imagers are likely to perform better on pictorially-based tasks than on verbal-based tasks.’ This in turn is challenged by Riener, Cedar & Willingham, Daniel (2010, p. 34) when describing what happens when a student completes an assessment outside of their ‘learning style’. ‘When these tendencies are put to the test under controlled conditions, they make no difference- learning is equivalent whether students learn in the preferred mode or not.’

To the contrary John Hattie (2012) who has produced a synthesis of years of educational research to figure out what has the biggest impact upon student learning states that, ‘One of the more fruitless pursuits is labeling students with ‘learning styles’. Within a comprehensive report (Coffield, Frank et al. 2004, p. 12) into the literature on learning styles it is stated that, ‘it has not been established that matching instruction to individual sensory or perceptual strengths and weaknesses is more effective than designing instruction to include, for all learners, content-appropriate forms of presentation and response, which may or may not be multi-sensory.’

Within the 8th edition of the Council of International School Standards (CIS & NEASC. 2010) within Section B Teaching and Learning, Standard B2 indicator B2e reads, ‘The curriculum provides opportunities for students to develop and demonstrate awareness of their own learning styles’. In similar fashion to the English National Curriculum quoted in the previous paragraph, this signals that learning styles is connected to an improvement in learning and students should know their own learning style.

Since learning styles are explicitly mentioned within the English National Curriculum and a set of internationally recognized standards through CIS, it might first appear to teachers and policy makers that it is safe to assume that there is sound ‘experimental evidence and theoretical understandings which enable teachers to better facilitate student learning’.

Within the previously mentioned report (Coffield, Frank et al. 2004) into learning styles 71 different models of learning styles were identified and 13 of these categorized as being significant. Having 71 different models indicates that there is not a generally agreed theoretical basis for development. To complicate matters further there are questions over the quality and reliability of the research behind many of these models. Additionally, many of the models such as Myers Briggs are commercially available products, which may add doubt to the purpose of the research provided.

In the learning styles report (Coffield, Frank et al. 2004) it is stated that, ‘Each (learning styles) model was examined for evidence, provided by independent researchers, that the instrument could demonstrate both internal consistency and test- retest reliability and construct and predictive validity. These are the minimum standards for any instrument which is used to redesign pedagogy’. Within the report it is then highlighted that out of the 13 models examined, only three met these criteria.

For schools to be aligned with the CIS indicator mentioned previously or the English National Curriculum then the teacher would be required to know the learning style of individual students. This begs the question of which model and measuring tool to apply when the majority of the instruments do not meet the minimum standards (Coffield, Frank et al. 2004).

When considering implications for pedagogy Coffield, Frank et al. (2004, p. 140) identifies that, ‘First, learning style researchers do not speak with one voice; there is widespread disagreement about the advice that should be offered to teachers, tutors and managers. For instance, should the style of teaching be consonant with the style of learning or not?’ For teachers and school leaders the lack of solid theoretical evidence potentially turns learning styles into a pedagogical minefield.

In an effort to highlight this problem the learning style models from Dunn and Dunn and Gregorc will briefly be examined. Coffield et al. (2004) organized the models into a continuum of learning style families, starting with those on the left being models that have increased emphasis upon the belief that learning styles are fixed. In comparison the families to the right of the continuum have increased emphasis towards the idea that the context in which learning takes place is significant. Also these learning style families focus upon the relationship between an individual and experiences. The right of the continuum (see list below) would include models associated with learning approaches and strategies.

Families of learning styles earning style models (with one being on the left of the continuum through to five which would be on the right):

1)    Constitutionally-based learning styles and preferences

2)    Cognitive structure

3)    Stable personality type

4)    ‘Flexibly stable’ learning preferences

5)    Learning approaches and strategies

It is worthwhile to note that although Gregorc’s learning style model is placed in the ‘Constitutionally-based learning styles and preferences’ family there is not even a mention of ‘behavioural genetics, neuroscience or biochemistry’ (Coffield, Frank et al. 2004, p. 14) to support his ideas. Gregorc is similar in the belief of Dunn and Dunn that if there is no match between instructional methods and learning style/ preferences then there will be a negative impact upon the student. This is aligned with conclusions that might be reached via the English National Curriculum (Department for Education and Employment 1999). Interestingly, Gregorc suggests that neither teachers nor learners should be forced to work/ learn outside of their preferred style as this might have negative consequences. Based upon this theory, a resulting solution to this problem might be to group students by learning styles and then match with an appropriate teacher. According to the research completed by Hattie (2012), when ranking what most positively influences achievement ‘not labelling students’ ranks at 25 out of 150. ‘Matching style of learning’ is ranked at 125 from 150 influences.

Dunn and Dunn consider five (four mentioned below) different strands (examples of considered factors in brackets) that are:

1)    Environmental (sound, temperature, light, room set-up)

2)    Emotional (motivation, responsibility, persistence, need for structure)

3)    Sociological (learning groups, support, working with peers, motivation from parent/teacher)

4)    Physiological elements (modality preferences, food and drink, time of day, mobility)

One encouraging aspect of Dunn and Dunn’s work is that it encourages teachers to consider these different ideas that might impact learning to different degrees. It might be that the learning style model is helpful for a teacher to think in general about learning and teaching but most of the models fail as they make unsubstantiated claims. In the report by Coffield, Frank et al. (2004, p. 24) the authors state, ‘Proponents of the Dunn and Dunn model are convinced that using a scientific model to identify and then ‘match’ students’ individual learning style preferences with appropriate instructions, resources and homework will transform education.’

Both the models from Dunn and Dunn and Gregorc are based upon the opinion that learning styles are fixed. However, according to Coffield, Frank et al. (2004, p. 12),‘All arguments for the genetic determination of learning styles are necessarily based on analogy, since no studies of learning styles in identical and non-identical twins have been carried out, and there are no DNA studies in which learning style genes have been identified’.

Through the examination of some of the literature on learning styles and how these theories have been adopted by school systems, it is evident from this particular example that ‘schooling continues to be a vast enterprise conducted without a generally agreed theoretical basis’. Educators must retain a high degree of scepticism before seriously applying any learning style model mentioned.

Formative Assessment  

To further explore the main objective, the section of this paper will examine formative assessment. In comparison with learning styles, the theory of formative assessment has also been researched for a significant number of years. Arguably formative assessment has a generally agreed theoretical basis and has resulted in better student learning. It is far more challenging to find papers that dispute that there is a relationship between formative assessment and improved student learning. Even one of the most critical papers by Bennett (2011, p. 5), says, ‘research suggests that the general practices associated with formative assessment can facilitate learning’

In comparison with learning styles there appears to be a general and shared understanding of formative assessment. As explained by Black et al. (1996) Bloom was the first to discuss formative assessment in a similar term as understood today. Summative and formative assessment does not necessarily determine the type of task but the emphasis is on how the task is used and by whom. Summative assessment usually comes at the end of a period of learning and is used to evaluate achievement or attainment. Sometimes this is known as assessment of learning and is commonly conducted by a teacher or through examination systems. On the other hand, formative assessment is sometimes known as assessment for learning. Formative assessment is focused upon improving learning and may involve the student, peers and the teacher. Even where there are differences in understandings of the meaning of these terms it is a subtle difference. For example Taras (2005, p. 466) argues that, ‘all assessment begins with summative assessment (which is a judgement) and that formative assessment is in fact a summative assessment plus feedback which is used by the learner’. As Black (2003, p. 623) explains, ‘assessment can support learning as well as measure it.’

There are different views towards the research and theoretical understandings that form the foundation of formative assessment for teachers to make practical adjustments to practice. The view supported in this paper is that there is a generally agreed theoretical understanding that underpins the idea of formative assessment. In addition there is also a basis of research that has resulted in changes to practice, development of easily understood materials and further professional inquiry.

It would be unusual to find any article about formative assessment in the most recent 20 years that does not reference the work of Paul Black and Dylan Williams. One of the first steps of their work was to conduct a thorough review of articles from books and journals regarding formative assessment. In comparison with some other research such as the much of the work involved in some of the learning style models mentioned the main goal of the work of Paul Black and Dylan Williams (2008) was to improve student learning.

In 1998 Black and Williams (2008, p. 26) published a significant review of relevant research material. A goal of their work was to, ‘summarize studies that produced quantitative evidence that innovations in formative assessment can lead to improvement in the learning of students.’  Within the review they used work from 250 different sources from different countries including Portugal, the USA and the UK. One significant challenge for teachers and school leaders is to interpret educational research and reviews found in journals and transfer this knowledge into practice that improves learning. Firstly, the day-to-day work of teachers is working with children and planning curriculum. Unfortunately there is very little time, if any for teachers to conduct their own reviews of research. Therefore, in most cases teachers rely upon other stakeholders to make meaning of educational research. However, not all research is conducted to improve learning. This is an important juxtaposition to make as some educational research is conducted to improve learning and some will have other goals.

Black and Williams (2003) concluded from the Askew & Wiliam (1995 cited in Black et al 2003, p. 628) that, ‘it is impossible to satisfy, in the same document, the demands of the academic community for rigour and the demands for accessibility by practitioners.’

Black and Williams followed up their published review with a booklet called Inside the Black Box. The four aims of the booklet (Black and Williams, 2008) were to:

  • Give a brief review of the research evidence
  • Make a case for more attention to be paid to helping practice inside the classroom
  • Draw out implications for practical action
  • Discuss policy and practice

It is evidence from their approach that an improvement to student learning was desired as rather than explaining their work in one way it was made accessible at different levels and to different stakeholders. Their work was not just produced for the academic who might be able to devote much of their time to reading and commenting upon educational research, it was written so that teachers could close the gap between an educational idea and changes in practice. Black and Williams also understood that if they were to achieve a sustainable change to practice then they needed to work closely with teachers. Frequently, teachers hear of educational initiatives and at some point have to decide along with schools and education bodies which to allow through the initiative sieve. When working with teachers they focused upon qualitative rather than quantitative data. Since the original work, there are multiple materials available for teachers and schools that is the outcome of their efforts including practical guides, professional development handbooks and video resources. Because their work had a sound pedagogical focus to improve student learning via formative assessment and teaching practices, the initiative has shown to have longevity and continues to influence the work of teachers.

As Black and Williams made key moves to close the gap between ideas and practice four main areas were identified to focus upon. These were teacher questioning, effective feedback, peer and self-assessment, and the formative use of summative assessments. They also figured out for these four main areas to be addressed then students required to know and understand learning objectives/intentions and what was expected of a piece of work through success criteria. John Hatties (2012) work is supportive of the importance of formative assessment to improve of student’s learning. He ranks providing formative evaluation as the fourth highest influence on achievement from a list of 150.

Although Hattie and Black et al are aligned in their definitions of formative assessment and crucially the high impact upon student learning, Bennett (2011) is critical of the research. Bennett (2011, p. 7) is also of the opinion that some of the clarity of meaning has been lost around formative assessment. For example according to Bennett, ‘advocates of the process view appear to prefer, ‘assessment for learning’, employing ‘assessment of learning’ to denote ‘summative assessment’. From a definitional perspective, however, this substitution is potentially problematic in that it absolves summative assessment from any responsibility for supporting learning.” Bennett is missing the point that summative assessments can be used in a formative way, students can learn from summative assessments. The various literatures from Black et al does not suggest otherwise.  In Bennett’s article he took the stance that there was a lack of data to back-up the claims from Black et al. Bennett is of the view that effect sizes from Black et al are not the ‘quantitative result’. However, when carefully reading the work of Black et al it is evident that they are not claiming to have carried out a meta-analysis. Following a review of existing research their emphasis was towards qualitative data generated whilst working with schools and teachers. This approach is one of the key reasons why the theory of formative assessment has resulted in ‘enabling teachers to better facilitate learning’.

Research into working memory indirectly supports the importance of students knowing and understanding learning intentions. Consistently students with low working memory do not achieve well in schools. In an article by Susan E. Gathercole et al (2006, p. 220) one conclusion draw is that, ‘The most common types of classroom failure involved forgetting instructions, losing place in complex tasks, and struggling in tasks that involved both processing and storage loads.’ The very nature of the processes and explicitness of formative assessment strategies might make a positive difference to the learning of students with low working memory. Indeed it is suggested in the work of Black and Williams (2008) that formative assessment strategies had the greatest influence upon students who were low attaining.

Within Black and Williams, there is an inconsistency whether it comes from a sound theoretical basis. In the 2009 article ‘Developing the theory of formative assessment’ Black and Williams (p. 1) state that their work ‘did not start from any pre-defined theoretical base’. Although in their article titled ‘In praise of educational research-formative assessment’ (2003, p. 634) they shared that in consideration of the formative assessment tools developed, ‘did implement principles of learning that are prominent in the psychology literature. Examples are the constructivist principle that learning action must start from the learner’s existing knowledge.’ Many theorists including Dewey, Piaget and Bruner supported and developed constructivism. In examining the work of Black and Williams it is evident that at the very least, their thinking and approaches were shaped by constructivist theory. The tools and ideas that they developed are practical ways of closing the idea to action gap in consideration of the constructivist theory. For example, students developing their own success criteria for a piece of creative writing would have to reflect upon their previous experiences to consider what a good piece of work might look like.

The Assessment for Learning- Practical Guide (Northern Ireland Curriculum 2010), developed for teachers strengthens the idea that the constructivist theory continues to shape current thinking and that experimental evidence has been developed to practically help teachers improve student learning. The first section of the Practical Guide focuses upon what lies behind the Assessment for Learning initiative. Unsurprisingly the idea explained is constructivism. The guide was produced as an outcome of the action research by teachers across multiple schools, thus reflecting the approach of Black et al to have involved teachers in taking the ideas further by involving them in research. There is further evidence visible when searching for different articles on formative assessment, for example the research paper (De Grez, Luc et al 2012) titled, ‘How effective are self- and peer assessment of oral presentation skills compared with teachers’ assessments?’

Additionally, there are multiple inquiry cycles such as those of Kathy Short and Kath Murdoch that are based upon the theory of constructivism. It could be argued that the theory of constructivism developed in the 20th century has formed the ‘generally agreed basis’ of much of the work of educationalists since Bruner’s stated, “that schooling was a vast enterprise conducted without a generally agreed theoretical basis.” The work of Black and Williams, supported by Hattie’s research (2012) is strong evidence that, “the intervening years provided experimental evidence and theoretical understandings which enable teachers to better facilitate student learning.”

Perhaps education continues to be a “vast enterprise” and Black (2000, p. 416) may signal why in his comment, ‘The overall picture is that researchers seem to function rather like a guerilla force…One reason might be that researchers themselves do not collaborate to formulate coherent programmes aimed at influencing prolicy’. In other words, it might be suggested that for changes to practices there needs to be change in policy, and for changes in policy compelling and convincing arguments need to be given to influence public opinion. Black suggests that this might not be in the interests of researchers. Whilst the work of researchers is clearly important, where it is unconvincing and inconsistent such as with learning styles, it is difficult to imagine how these conditions would lead to an improvement in student learning. Although there are different perspectives towards the implementation of formative assessment there is a sound theoretical basis that has resulted in improved student learning over a sustained period of time.

Bennett (2011, p. 20) states, ‘as researchers we need to be more responsible for efficacy claims and, as educators, less immediately accepting of those who push too self-assuredly for quick adoption.’ On the whole this point is well made, stating that researchers have a degree of responsibility not to make exaggerated or false claims but educators require to be demonstrate critical thinking. However, given the pace of educational research it will be a long time before researchers know the impact of fairly recent initiatives on learning such as the flipped classroom approach or use of digital devices in classrooms. How wise would it be for schools not to reflect societal changes whilst waiting for researchers and policy makers to catch-up?


 “We only use 10% of the power of our brains, think about what you might achieve if you used the other 90%.” This statement continues to be believed by some colleagues in schools and has been used to motivate young people in their learning. This is one example of a neuromyth of which further examples will be mentioned in this section of the paper. Howard Gardner (2008, p. 165) coined the term neuroeducator as, ‘a professional who is grounded in both the theories and research of neurosciences and in the practice of education’. However, neuroscience covers many different aspects including (Tokuhama-Espinosa, Tracey et al 2011):

  • Nervous system
  • Brain
  • Neurons
  • Synapses
  • Neurotransmitters
  • Neural networks
  • Sensory systems
  • Motor control
  • Learning
  • Memory
  • Cognition
  • Arousal mechanisms

For educators to have an understanding of the above with the aim of being able to critically figure out what ‘brain’ programmes and ideas to take forward and what to ignore is a challenge to say the very least. In similar fashion to what has occurred with formative assessment there is a need for researchers to break this information down and work with educators to enable them to apply research to improve student learning.

Neuroscience is an area of great debate in relation to education and unfortunately an area where not all practicing educators have shown themselves in the best light. Perhaps it is the search for the quick solution, the silver bullet that solves the problems of increased pressure of school league tables, demanding parents, the challenge to cope in such diverse classrooms or simply because of the desire to give every child the best opportunity for success. However, schools and some teachers have adopted some initiatives, programmes and ideas that simply do not live up to the promise of what is on the label.

Goswami (2006, p. 2) is of the view that, ‘there is a gulf between current science and direct classroom applications.’ This is evident from the section in this paper examining learning styles. Teachers have had, and some still do, the understanding that students should complete a questionnaire that identifies whether a student is a visual, auditory or kinaesthetic learner and then teaching should be adapted accordingly otherwise the individual will not learn as well. As explained previously, there is no sound empirical evidence that this is the case. Alternatively, there is a move towards how learning might be approached through the application of different strategies that might be associated with a style of learning.

Brain-Gym is a commercial resource that is available for purchase and adoption by schools. Information in this resource includes different physical movements that help students to use different parts of the brain (Goswami, Usha 2006). Criticism from the scientific community over false claims made in this particular package has led to (Anonymous) the organization, ‘In an attempt to address the concerns of the scientific community regarding the Brain Gym program, we have refined the language on our website’.

Tokuhama-Espinosa (2011) has identified 24 brain myths including the idea that people are right or left-brain dominant. Goswami (2006, p. 2) agrees that this is indeed a myth and shares that courses exist where teachers, ‘are advised to ensure that their classroom practice is automatically ‘left- and right-brain balanced’ to avoid a mismatch between learner preference and learning experience’. It is misleading to communicate with students that they are right or left-brain dominant. However, what is not clear from the literature is whether inaccurate models or information actually cause regression in a child’s learning or whether it is simply has no effect.

Goswami (2006), Tokuhama-Espinosa (2011) and Wolfe (2010) all acknowledge that brain myths have at the very least caused confusion in the education sector. There is also a sense of agreement that there is a gap between neuroscience and classroom practices. The lack of literature that explains experiential evidence makes it difficult for teachers to improve practice based upon the increased research in the field of neuroscience. This begs the question of what choice teachers should make. Wait for the research to catch-up with accurate and practical guidance available, or continue to try different ideas without truly knowing the impact. Goswami (2006) does not directly answer this question although Wolfe (2010, p. v) does. Wolfe is of the opinion that, ‘it would be foolish to wait until all the research is in and we have absolute certainty before beginning our study of the brain and discussing the possible implications and applications of research findings.

Much of the research already confirms what experienced educators have long known and used in their classrooms.’ To a certain degree Wolfe’s view makes sense, after all if we wait for the research to catch-up then once it does teachers will just be starting the experimental stage rather than be at the point where they can already feedback on the effectiveness of particular strategies. Nevertheless, why focus upon neuroscience when educators have a synthesis of a large body research from Hattie (2012) that point to the most positive influences on student achievement? Within the top 5, self reported grades/ student expectations, Piagetian programs, response to intervention, teacher credibility and providing formative evaluation there is no mention of neuroscience and or associated programmes as a result of research in this field. Gardner (2008) considers that teachers might pay less interest to neuroscience because of the lack of successful impact upon student learning.

It is evident from the literature that a gap exists between research in neuroscience and the experimental evidence needed for teachers to improve student learning. Gardner et al. (2004), shares that, ‘the dilemmas are sharpened and stakes become higher as research blurs between education, on the one hand, and medicine or neuroscience on the other.’ Wolfe (2010) is an independent consultant who was a school teacher. She has also conducted training for Gregorc’s Mind Styles, a learning style model criticised in this paper. She does not pretend to be a neuroscientist but appears to provide an easily read guide on translating research into classroom practice. However, is this merely another example of the ‘middle-man’ trying to interpret complex research?

In recent years a new field of mind, brain and education has emerged from influential researchers such as Kurt Fischer, a member of the Harvard Graduate School of Education faculty. The Masters and Doctorate programmes described on the Harvard Graduate School of Education website aim to, ‘connect cognition, neuroscience, and educational practice, especially involving learning, teaching, and cognitive and emotional development.’ Although in its infancy, this field appears to be aiming to close the gap between, research, agreed theory and improvements in student learning. In the United States some graduates of the programme are working with school districts to act as ‘translators’ of mind, brain and education research. Tracey Tokuhama-Espinosa, author of Mind, Brain and Education Science has a teaching background and research in the field discussed.

It might be that the field of Mind, Brain and Education holds a significant key to providing what teachers need to improve practice. This view is supported by Ansari et al (2011, p. 37) when the authors, ‘argue that an infrastructure needs to be created, principally through interdisciplinary training, funding and research programs that allow for bidirectional collaborations between cognitive neuroscientists, educators and educational researchers to grow.’


To a certain extent ‘have the intervening years (since Bruner commented) provided experimental evidence and theoretical understandings which enable teachers to better facilitate student learning?” In consideration of the question the areas of learning styles, formative assessment and neuroscience were examined.

Although there has been a significant amount written in relation to learning styles it is evident that the motivation behind the creation of some of the models has not been to improve student learning. Some of the research has been produced with the aim of providing evidence to support a particular model, rather than as mentioned previously, improve learning. Additionally, there is a wide range of different ideas and definitions connected with learning styles that makes this area particularly difficult for teachers to navigate.

The area of formative assessment and in the example of assessment for learning is encouraging for educators as it is supported by sound theoretical understandings, with the aim of improving learning. Much of the work in this area has been a collaboration between teachers and researchers and ongoing action research by educationalists. The research has led to practical guidance and tools for teachers and most importantly, an improvement in student learning. Black (2005, p. 135) makes a valid point when he says, ‘There is a new field here, which will continue to be rich in possibilities for fruitful interactions between research and practice, to the benefit of both.’ Black understands that it is the outcome of interdisciplinary work and thought of researchers and educationalists that is needed when taking education theories forward.

Black’s conclusion is echoed in the approach towards the field of mind, brain and education. Research in the area of brain is an area that so far has failed to live up to expectations and has resulted in research being misinterpreted and or misused. The right-brain left-brain phenomena and brain gym are two of many examples to support this particular point. However, the approach of programmes related to the field of Mind, Brain and Education provides a source of great optimism. In similar fashion to the successful work in formative assessment the approach is to connect researchers and practitioners and in this case go even further by merging some of the ideas from education, psychology and neuroscience. The focus of the research is to study, ‘how humans learn best in order to develop more effective teaching methods’ (Tokuhama-Espinosa, Tracey 2011).

Effective education initiatives such as formative assessment can be tracked back to theorists such as Piaget and Bruner. Since Bruner “commented that schooling was a vast enterprise conducted without a generally agreed theoretical basis”, ideas from education theorists have been rethought, remodeled and have led to improvements in practice. In the future it will be fascinating to discover the outcomes of Mind, Brain and Education and how well the field achieves their aims.


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RAYNER, STEPHEN & RIDING, RICHARD., 1997.  Towards a Categorisation of Cognitive Styles and Learning Styles. Educational Psychology: An International Journal of Experimental Educational Psychology, 17(1-2), pp. 5-27.

RIENER, CEDAR & WILLINGHAM, DANIEL., 2010. The Myth of Learning Styles, Change. Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 42(5), pp. 32-35.

SADLER-SMITH, E., 1996.  Learning Styles’ and Instructional Design
Innovations in Education & Training International, 33(4), pp. 185-193.

TARAS, M., 2005. ASSESSMENT – SUMMATIVE AND FORMATIVE – SOME THEORETICAL REFLECTIONS. British Journal of Educational Studies, 53(4), pp. 466-478.

TOKUHAMA-ESPINOSA, T. and AND WILLIS, J., 2011. Mind, Brain, and Education Science: A Comprehensive Guide to the New Brain-based Teaching. . 1 edn. New York: W.W. Norton.

WOLFE, P., 2010. Brain matters: translating research into classroom practice. 2nd edn. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

2 responses to “Literature Review

  1. Rick Armstrong

    Great job Simon in bringing together so many threads into one story, also written in a very appealing way!
    Rick Armstrong

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