Failure is a dirty word to most folks, but when it comes to the science of learning, research shows that failure is necessary. A recent study found that students behaved better in school and felt more assertive when they were told upfront that failure is a normal part of learning, bolstering an increasing body of research that implies the same conclusion.


Learning never exhausts the mind. – Leonardo da Vinci

A better understanding of how the brain works, capabilities and boundaries, allows us to constantly improve how we teach others and how productive one can be. From my research on the science of learning, here are eight of the most significant breakthroughs that have been made recently. These would provide valuable insights on how to make the best use of one’s brain without misusing energy.

Eight Key Learning Sciences Discoveries

The brain is a mysterious organ, and humans have for centuries had numerous misconceptions about how it works, expands, and influences our ability to learn. While we have a long way to go in unravelling the mysteries the brain has to offer, scientists have presently made significant breakthroughs that go a long way in clarifying how the brain performs and how we use it to categorise, recall, and assimilate new information.

Here are eight of the biggest and most important of these breakthroughs in the science of learning.

1. More Information Doesn’t Mean More Learning

Whilst the brain is equipped to grab a bulky load of information and sensory input, it reaches a point when it gets overwhelmed, and scientists call this cognitive overload.

2. The Brain Is An Extremely Energetic Organ

The brain’s wiring changes at various ages and it generally grows new neurons. It adapts to new situations, and the rate at which this takes place slows with age. This phenomenon is termed neuroplasticity, and it has key implications in our comprehension of how the brain works and how we can use that comprehension to improve learning results.

3. Emotions Influence the Ability To Learn

Learning situations in which students feel stressed, shamed, or just uncomfortable, actually makes it more problematic for them to comprehend, thereby increasing pessimistic emotions and igniting a vicious cycle that leaves some children reluctant to learn.

Boredom kills students, and their ability to pay attention in order to learn. Repetition is important in learning, but what the brain really desires is novelty. Researchers have found that novelty triggers the dopamine system in the brain to be enhanced, sending the chemicals across the brain.


4. Mistakes Are An Essential Part of Learning

Failure is a dirty word to most folks, but when it comes to the science of learning, research shows that failure is necessary. A recent study found that students behaved better in school and felt more assertive when they were told upfront that failure is a normal part of learning, bolstering an increasing body of research that implies the same conclusion.

5. The Brain Needs Novelty

Boredom kills students, and their ability to pay attention in order to learn. Repetition is important in learning, but what the brain really desires is novelty. Researchers have found that novelty triggers the dopamine system in the brain to be enhanced, sending the chemicals across the brain.

6. Our Brains Operate On the “Use It Or Lose It” Rule

There’s a reason that one forgets and loses skills in a language that we do not speak or use a lot. Even the algebra one used in school that’s hardly utilised on a regular basis thereafter. Information in the brain that isn’t used often vanishes, as neural pathways weaken over time.

7. Learning Is Social

Some people prefer and learn better in closed-off centres like the library, while others need interactions from others to maximise their learning. Research has found that from infancy, people learn better through social cues such as recalling and emulating the actions or words of another person.

8. Learning Is Best When Innate Abilities Are Capitalised On

Besides being able to see and hear patterns, the human mind has some innate abilities (the ease of learning a language, as an example) that when used the right way makes learning any concept, even one that is theoretical, much simpler. Merging these inborn abilities with structured practice, repetition, and training helps make new concepts “stick” and become logical.

Adetola Salau, Carismalife4U@gmail.com, an advocate of STEM education, public speaker, author, and social entrepreneur, is passionate about education reform.