UnLocke study into child analytical learning moves into new phase

A collaboration involving research staff from Birkbeck’s Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development, looking at how primary school children learn, is looking for schools to participate in the next stage of their research.

The UnLocke project, which was awarded funding of nearly £1 million from the Educational Endowment Foundation and the Wellcome Trust, is investigating learning counterintuitive concepts – concepts which require children to inhibit prior contradictory knowledge to acquire new knowledge successfully.

To do so, the study is seeking 100 primary schools to take part in the next stage of the research – especially schools in London, the northwest, midlands and south-west. The study will see children from Year 3 and Year 5 classes able to utilise UnLocke software for free, with the aim of enabling pupils to learn concepts in maths and science more effectively, while also making a contribution to scientific knowledge themselves at the same time.

The study is based on cutting-edge knowledge in neuroscience, which shows that individuals can learn to suppress impulsive and intuitive mental processes so as to more easily enable the analytical parts of the brain, involved in science and mathematical reasoning, to more effectively learn new concepts in these areas.

The new software will explore whether particular approaches to teaching these subjects through computer-based learning enable children to better ‘unlock’ the analytical part of their brain, through use in maths and science lessons. Teachers will have a chance to learn of the team’s findings, who will report back on what they have discovered when the study has concluded. 

Commenting on the latest stage of the project, Professor Denis Mareschal, Co-Director of the Birkbeck Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development, said:

"This project has the potential to make a real impact on the academic outcomes of children in mathematics and science. This is particularly true of children who are currently experiencing difficulties. However, to succeed this project relies on volunteer schools to take part. After all, we can have the best ideas in the world but without volunteers to test their feasibility and effectiveness, progress cannot be made."

Working under the umbrella of the Centre for Educational Neuroscience, as academics from Birkbeck’s Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development, the study involves researchers from several other institutions, including UCL, the UCL Institute of Education and Learnus, an education think-tank.

Anyone interested in taking part, or  simply interested in more information, should or, they can ring the UnLocke project team on 0207 631 6518.

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