What Different Disciplines Can Contribute To Our Learning Science: a #WorkingOutLoud post

This is a #WorkingOutLoud post, sharing a section of the work i’m doing on the ‘Learning Science’ module of the ‘Modern Learning Capability Programme’. In this section, i will share an overview of different scientific disciplines which may form part of ‘Learning Science’, and consider what, and how, they contribute. This is very early stage work, so very full of holes, but i hope you can see the emerging structure.

As we curate our personal discipline of Learning Science, we can consider the different buckets that things sit within.

Some fields of science explore the individual: how we work, how our brains and bodies develop, and the different ways we learn to operate at each stage. Also the ‘software’, exploring consciousness, and everything it means to be a functioning, conscious being.

Some fields explore the physical context of learning: environmental factors, as well as broader cognitive aspects of culture.

Some fields explore the social context: communities, teams, interpersonal dynamics, networks etc.

The Personal Bucket: How We Individually Learn

This may include:

  • Structural understanding of learning: neuroscience, physiology, anatomy, etc which let us understand memory, retrieval, reinforcement, practice, building manual dexterity and fine motor skills, physical prowess, refined skills etc. Also let’s us consider different modalities e.g. video, audio. Let’s us understand building blocks such as repetition, manipulation, practice, as well as differing ability and loss of function.
  • Emergent understanding of learning: consciousness and ideas, intelligence, bias, thinking, creativity, imagination, storytelling etc. Essentially anything that cannot be directly observed, but must be articulated or experienced. Let’s us understand belief, discrimination, motivation, engagement etc

The Context Bucket: The Environment We Learn Within

This may include:

  • Environmental factors: heat, cold, noise, distraction, etc, may help us to understand or plan for utilisation, rehearsal, experience etc
  • Cognitive or Cultural factors: complexity, risk, consequence, opportunity reward, will help us to understand engagement, confusion, adoption, adaptation, subversion, spread and amplification etc

The Community Bucket: The People We Learn With

This may include:

  • Sociological factors: trust, pride, respect, empathy, recognition etc, helps us to understand conformity, control and structures of power, consequence etc
  • Linguistic factors: language, jargon, dialect etc let’s us understand tribes, teams, conformity, efficiency, identity etc
  • Cultural factors: difference, exclusion, permission, curiosity etc which let us understand framing and perception, wilful blindness, change etc

Let’s take a tour through some of the relevant scientific disciplines, and consider what each can contribute to our overall approach.

Structural Sciences: Looking at the Brain and the biological basis of learning

When relating to learning, these sciences are typically described under the broad discipline of Neuroscience, although they can relate to the broader functioning of living organisms too.


A branch of biology that looks at the normal functioning of the human body, and it’s constituent parts.

Why is this of interest to Learning Science?

Our physiology is our spaceship: the vehicle in which our minds navigate the universe. So it gives us both capability and constraint. There are a range of areas or key learning which may be relevant. For example:

  • How strong or dextrous you are will impact your ability to use tools. Tool use and manipulation of objects has a feedback loop to learning.
  • The size, and structure, of various organs (like the brain, stomach, muscles) will impact on their efficiency or capability, which can all impact on physical disciplines, from endurance to cognition (the brain needs energy and security).
  • People get seasick in VR environments because of the way their peripheral vision is processed: understanding this will help us to create useable learning environments.
  • There may be a correlation between movement, and empathy: this will impact effectiveness of learning design, especially between e.g. passive experiences, such as eLearning, or video, interactive ones (scenario based) or VR ones (experience based with movement).
  • Height and success are correlated: and if taller people are more confident and successful, then VR allow us to engage in a ‘body’ that is taller.

Myths of physiology:

Persistent myths include: male vs female structural differences and impacts on ability, which persist in dominant cultural narratives

About julianstodd

Author, Artist, Researcher, and Founder of Sea Salt Learning. My work explores the context of the Social Age and the intersection of formal and social systems.
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4 Responses to What Different Disciplines Can Contribute To Our Learning Science: a #WorkingOutLoud post

  1. Pingback: Learning Science: Neuroscience | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

  2. Pingback: What I’m Thinking About: Domains of Knowledge | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

  3. Pingback: Learning Science: Frames and Context | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

  4. Pingback: The Learning Science Guidebook | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

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