onto the land and comes back to describe what it saw. The fish who listen to the frog imagine each description to be an adaptation of a fish: humans are imagined to have fish bodies but walk upright, etc. The visual image powerfully describes the problem of presenting new information without regard to the learner’s existing conceptions. Examples such as these would allow the popular media to communicate key ideas to the broader public who might not read the report.

The popular version of this volume should itself be a subject of study. A second stage of this project should involve research to assess whether the popular version effectively communicates its messages to a sample of parents.


The research and development agenda proposed thus far is focused largely on how the insights from this volume be incorporated into educational practice. How People Learn reviews a burgeoning literature that, taken collectively, provides the foundation for a science of learning. But more work needs to be done to extend that foundation.

23. Make a commitment to basic research programs in cognition, learning, and teaching. This volume has shown the payoff from investing in research on such topics as the foundational role of learners’ prior knowledge in acquiring new information; plasticity and adaptability of learning; the importance of social and cultural contexts in learning; understanding the conditions of transfer of learning; how the organizational structure of a discipline affects learning; how time, familiarity, and exploration affect fluency in learning; and many other topics. While these areas have produced a substantial body of research findings, the research remains incomplete. The framework has been constructed from the earlier research; details now need to be provided in order to advance the science of learning by refining the principles.

24. Establish new research programs in emerging areas, including technology, neurocognition, and sociocultural factors that mediate learning. Research is needed on the interrelations between learning and learning environments and between teaching and learning. This research should build on current findings in areas such as: how children learn to apply their competencies as they encounter new information; how early competencies relate to later school learning; the conditions and experiences that support knowledge scaffolding; and how representational systems are challenged by new tools of technology, such as visual cognition and other types of symbolic thinking:

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