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Over the past 10 years, the Science of Learning Centers program has funded research at six centers: The Center of Excellence for Learning in Education, Science and Technology (CELEST), Center for Learning in Informal and Formal Environments (LIFE), Pittsburgh Science of Learning Center for Robust Learning (PSLC)Spatial Intelligence and Learning Center (SILC)Temporal Dynamics of Learning Center (TLC), and Visual Language and Visual Learning Center (VL2).

This week, scholars from those centers met in Arlington to discuss their latest findings, lessons learned, new directions, and the transformative science that has taken place over the past decade. One of the major accomplishments of the centers has been to train the next generation of leaders in the science of learning, who are using what we now know as a foundation to answer new questions, create new experiments, and take the science forward.

Here are 10 takeaways from their meeting:

1. Technology is expanding our ability to understand and analyze learning in ways that were never before possible, from being able to look at brain activity over time windows on the order of 10 milliseconds to being able to non-invasively peer into the brain of a 5-month-old infant or “see” how memories can be held in a brain in waves to prevent two memories from competing with each other.
2. Humans are social and we learn better when learning environments take advantage of our social natures.

3. The very presence of another human being improves our learning. This is even true in online learning when a learner is told they are interacting with a real human, versus a computer program. Social robots have the potential to be more effective teachers than screens.
4. Spatial thinking underlies capabilities in STEM and these skills are malleable all the way into adulthood. We now have tools that could greatly improve math and STEM learning by “spatializing the curriculum.”
5. The benefits of bilingualism (including learning sign-language) reach beyond language skills to include cognitive flexibility.
6. Sound is not a requirement for language learning, visual language learning is very robust.
7. Timing is a crucial variable in learning and can be optimized for classroom learning.
8. Self-stereotyping around gender and race identities is important to one’s ability to learn.
9. Classroom methods and instructional principles have the potential to improve learning, but the individual methods that will work in the real world depend on the specific learning goals.
10. By adding the Arts to STEM: STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) there is the potential to broaden the appeal of STEM fields. We are also starting to learn about areas where the arts (especially music) can increase learning or improve the learning environment.