I'm a Scientist – Learning Zone

Project aims:

The Learning Zone aimed to provide an opportunity for teachers to have conversations with scientists about the research on how young people learn.

Teachers could send questions to and have conversations (thought text based live-chats) with neuroscientists and psychologists involved in research on a broad range of topics around the science of learning.

Objectives:

- Launch the Learning Zone on April 13th during BNA2015 (Festival of Neuroscience) and run the activity for 4 weeks.

- Recruit at least 10 neuroscientists and 50 teachers.

- Schedule one live chat per day rotating through lunchtime, post-school, and evening.

- Specialist moderation of the questions and live chats.

- Evaluate the Zone.

Summary of activity:

We created a conversation between teachers and experts on the science of learning. 40 scientists and almost 300 teachers registered to take part. Of these, 35 scientists and 96 teachers engaged with each other. Teachers asked more than 100 questions, scientists wrote over 200 answers, more than 170 comments were submitted and there were 8 hours of live chat.

Evaluation approach:

We collected web metrics, text analysis, and feedback from teachers and scientists collected through interviews and surveys. We will follow up evaluation on teachers, to measure the real impact of the Zone in the classroom.

What went well:

1. Scientists and teachers valued the event. 89% of teachers and 94% of scientists would participate again, and 94% of teachers and 100% of scientists would recommend a colleague taking part in the Learning Zone.

2. Teachers improved their knowledge about the brain and learning. 66% of the teachers who filled in the post-event survey agreed that “their understanding about the brain and/or learning had improved” after taking part.

3. The Learning Zone bridged the gap between scientists research and teachers. 77% of scientists who filled in the post-event survey agreed that they have a better understanding of teachers’ needs after taking part

What was learned:

1. Improving knowledge may not lead to more confidence or enable more informed decision-making. Before taking part 73% of teachers strongly agreed that “Understanding more about the brain & learning will allow you to make more informed decisions about teaching” – yet afterwards only 36% agreed that they could take more informed decisions. 58% and 25% correspondingly for feeling more confident

2. Add themes to the Learning Zone might help focus the debate around certain areas.

Top tips and advice for others

1. Make sure you have a flexible schedule that adapts to your audience. There were 2 live chats per week: Monday 8pm and Wednesday 4pm. This schedule remained constant to create familiarity with the timings, however it meant that teachers and scientists who were available at other times were restricted from taking part in the live chats.

2. Be ready to analyse surprising evaluation results (see first learning point)


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